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  • 16 Models Considered
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    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.


    Shopping Guide for Best Jackhammers

    A jackhammer isn't a tool you'll find in everyone's garage, but if you need to break rock, demolish concrete, or tear up asphalt, there's simply nothing better. These powerful tools are surprisingly affordable and readily available for purchase. So if you've been thinking of hiring a contractor, you might want to reconsider.

    Choosing the best jackhammer for your needs can be confusing, however. Different manufacturers advertise various features often measured in cryptic, code-like numbers. It's tough to know what’s important and why. Do you need all the bells and whistles of a top brand, or would a cheap jackhammer do the job?

    BestReviews is here to help with an unbiased look at all of the choices. We don't accept manufacturer samples for testing because providing honest, uncompromised reviews is paramount.

    Read on to learn more about our testing and selection process. When you’re ready to buy, check out our top picks in the matrix above.

    A jackhammer isn't just about breaking stuff up. With a tamper attachment, it can actually be used to firm up loose surfaces and fill trenches or holes.

    Jackhammer Power

    A jackhammer has a relatively simple job: it turns energy into impact. To do this work, there are three main types of jackhammers.

    Hydraulic and pneumatic jackhammers are pro tools, usually only available through trade suppliers. For the remainder of this jackhammer review, we're going to concentrate on electric models. In our view, they are the only sensible option for the homeowner/DIY user.

    Types

    Hydraulic Jackhammers

    These jackhammers use a pump and piston to create drive with high oil pressure. Because oil doesn't compress, it's a very efficient way of transferring energy. However, the equipment is very specialized. Hydraulic hoses aren't particularly flexible, so managing them is awkward. Typically, you'll see hydraulic jackhammers used by highway workers.

    Clean and check your jackhammer regularly. Simple oil leaks can quickly become major breakdowns. Check electrical cables or air hoses for wear. Never use if damaged.

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    Types

    Pneumatic Jackhammers

    These tools use air pressure to drive an internal hammer mechanism. A compressor is required to create that pressure. The pressure is fed by a hose to the jackhammer itself. In general, these are lighter and more manageable than hydraulic units. But the hoses are still quite stiff, and a substantial compressor is needed to deliver sufficient power.

    Types

    Electric Jackhammers

    Electric jackhammers use gearing to convert the rotary power of an electric motor into an up-and-down hammer action. The only connection they need is an electric cable, so these jackhammers are much more manageable.

    FOR YOUR SAFETY

    Never work with a jackhammer while facing windows or glass doors. Consider erecting appropriate shielding to protect them from flying debris.

    Jackhammer Specifications

    Jackhammers often look very similar to one another, making it important to check specifications carefully. Three things you need to consider when choosing a jackhammer are weight, impact rate, and impact force.

    Considerations

    Impact Rate

    The impact rate is the number of hammer strikes the tool delivers. Some manufacturers give the figure as BPM – beats (or blows) per minute. Others use impacts per minute (IPM). Figures range from 1,300 to 1,900.

    Some makers choose not to give a figure. The actual impact force is undoubtedly more important in terms of the jackhammer's ability to break through material, but we still like to know the impact rate; it's the combination of the two that gives the best clue to overall performance.

    A joule is a unit of energy. One joule equals 0.737 ft. lbs.

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    Considerations

    Weight

    Historically, the power of jackhammers were rated by weight – a 30-pound tool would be chosen for breaking three-inch-thick concrete, a 60-pound tool for breaking six-inch-thick concrete, and so on.

    Though modern electric jackhammers no longer follow this standard, a heavier tool is still going to provide more force. On the other hand, you can use a lighter, less-forceful tool for longer. If you have small, dense areas, a heavy tool is more effective. If you have large, thin areas, a lighter tool is better.

    The majority of electric jackhammers are in the 35- to 50-pound range.

    Using a jackhammer is hard work. Take regular breaks.

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    Considerations

    Impact Force

    The impact force is the actual amount of energy transmitted with each blow. With jackhammers, impact force has traditionally been rated in joules. However, because that's an infrequently used unit of measurement, many manufacturers quote foot pounds (ft. lbs.) instead.

    Impact force is an area where inexpensive jackhammers sometimes deliver figures as high as the pricier ones. Ranges vary from 45 to 60 joules, or 33 to 44 ft. lbs.

    While bigger impact forces result in more demolishing power, those impacts are felt through the handles. As a result, powerful impacts can make the jackhammer more difficult to control.

    EXPERT TIP

    Make sure you're using the correct jackhammer point, chisel, or spade for the job. It makes life easier and safer.


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    Other Considerations

    • The power of the electric motor might seem like an important aspect, but most of these tools are over 11 amps, which is plenty. If all other things are equal, then a stronger motor is arguably more durable.

    • Jackhammers tend to get pretty rough treatment. Metal casings give more protection than plastic ones.

    • A long cord is useful. If you need an extension cord, make sure it's of sufficient diameter to transmit the required voltage safely.

    • Although you should try to work with the jackhammer in a nearly vertical position, that's not always possible. An auxiliary (side) handle is a big benefit when working at an angle.

    • The standard size for jackhammer bits is 1 1/8 inches. A non-standard size could restrict your choice when you're looking for replacements.

    • Some high-quality jackhammers have a soft start, which helps you maintain control and accuracy. Jackhammers that don't have this feature tend to jump about (also called “walking”), which can make it difficult if you're trying to hit a precise area.

    • Anti-vibration systems are another considerable advantage, as they insulate the user from much of the residual force of impact. This can dramatically reduce fatigue.

    • A case is often included with a jackhammer purchase, which is handy for transportation of the tool. Some cases only hold the jackhammer itself, meaning bits have to be carried separately. Plastic cases aren't always as rugged as they need to be.

    • Some jackhammers come with gloves, goggles, and other extras. They’re small things, maybe, but definitely worth having.

    FOR YOUR SAFETY

    Do you know what's below the surface? Water pipes? Electrical conduit? Drains? If you're not sure, check before you dig.

    Jackhammer Prices

    Jackhammer prices vary enormously, and sometimes it can be difficult to see what you're getting for your money. In general, you pay a premium for superior build quality and more user-friendly features.

    Inexpensive jackhammers aren't bad tools; they just lack the refinements of the costlier models. You can get a high-quality jackhammer for around $200. When you consider what it costs to hire a contractor or rent a tool, paying a couple hundred dollars for an entry-level jackhammer isn't a major investment. One modest job, and it could pay for itself.

    If you're going to use a jackhammer on a regular basis, or if you've got large areas to work on, high-end tools are much better at insulating the user from the constant pounding. The best electric jackhammers cost between $1,000 and $1,500.

    Pneumatic models are probably only a consideration for professionals, as are hydraulic breakers. Both are expensive and only available from specialist suppliers.

    CAUTION

    What you're doing may be fascinating to inquisitive young minds, but children should be kept away from your work area.

    Tips

    • Always wear eye protection, ear defenders, sturdy gloves, and strong (preferably steel-toed) work boots when using a jackhammer.

    • The basic pointed tool supplied with your jackhammer is called a "moil point.” It's easy to position accurately and is a good general-purpose breaker. It's particularly effective with coarse concrete or rock.

    • If the material you want to remove is softer (asphalt, for example), the moil point will often just punch a hole through the surface rather than actually breaking it. In this case, choose a chisel. Various sizes are available. Chisels can also be used to create an initial "guideline" on concrete.

    • Four-inch or five-inch-wide spades can also be used for asphalt and for hardpan or clay. They should not be used on concrete, because the steel is too soft and is easily damaged.

    • In all cases, use the appropriate tool to break up the surface, keeping the jackhammer as upright as possible. It's natural to use a kind of “digging” motion as material becomes loose, but you should avoid excessive leverage. If the surface is not sufficiently broken, you could bend the tool and cause damage to the internal mechanism.

    If you’re working with a jackhammer and feel tired, stop. It’s better to come back tomorrow than have an accident today.

    FAQ

    Q. What’s the difference between paving breakers, demolition hammers, and jackhammers?

    A. It can be confusing, because different manufacturers sometimes use different names for the same tool. A breaker is just another name for a jackhammer. A demolition hammer can describe an upright tool we generally call a jackhammer, or it might be used for one of the smaller, lighter, SDS hammer drills. They can be used for light demolition or for drilling holes.

    Q. I already have a compressor. Should I buy a pneumatic jackhammer?

    A. There are a couple of considerations here. First, does your compressor generate sufficient air pressure to power a pneumatic jackhammer? Most DIY/home compressors do not. Second, a pneumatic jackhammer/pavement breaker is an expensive tool. Even second-hand, they cost several hundred dollars. If you have modest requirements, a brand new electric jackhammer can be yours for considerably less.

    Q. Are jackhammers complicated to maintain?

    A. No. The most important aspect is proper lubrication. Components are subject to considerable force, so proper oiling is vital for a long working life. It's always recommended to follow the manufacturer's instructions, but in this case, not doing so could severely affect the tool's operation. Other than that, clean and store your jackhammer in a dry environment to prevent corrosion.

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