Tool Test: Rotary Hammers
A seasoned remodeler looks for the perfect concrete drill.
Synopsis: A rotary hammer is the right tool for drilling concrete and masonry. It’s also great for chipping tile and breaking up concrete. Knowing which model to buy is difficult because you can’t test them in the store. Longtime remodeler Mark Clement makes choosing the right rotary hammer easy. He and three other professional remodelers tested seven 1-in. rotary hammers head-to-head. They compared the performance and features of tools from Bosch, DeWalt, Hitachi, Hilti, Makita, Metabo, and Milwaukee. A comprehensive sidebar discusses the differences between SDS-plus, SDS-max, and spline-style rotary hammers.
As a home-improvement contractor, I use my 1-in. rotary hammer all the time. For starters, it’s the perfect tool to drill holes for fastening all kinds of things to concrete and masonry — everything from bottom plates and 2x nailers to storage shelves and hose reels. I also use it for chain-drilling a ring of small holes when I need to make a really big hole, such as one for running a 4-in. duct through a stone or block wall for a dryer or bathroom vent.
Rotary hammers are also great for chipping. In fact, a rotary hammer equipped with a 1-in. chisel is the ideal setup for separating tile from a mud-bed or wood subfloor. It’s also great for widening an existing hole in concrete, such as for a basement sump pit. and it is beyond handy for digging holes. I regularly use mine for breaking up and prying out stones for deck footings, and for breaking concrete and digging when I’m working on underslab plumbing.
I recently tested seven rotary hammers head-to-head. I chose the SDS-plus 1-in. size because for a remodeler, it’s a perfect fit for most tasks. although too small for major demolition, these tools will drill small-diameter holes and chip…