Impact Driver vs Hammer Drill: Which is Better for Concrete Drilling


More often than not we find ourselves struggling to identify the right tool for the job. Drilling is not an exception as it poses a challenge if we do not select the right tool.

In this article, we will tell you more about an impact driver and a hammer drill.

What is an Impact Driver?

An impact driver is a handheld drilling tool that works under the mechanism that pushes a small anvil against the rotary hammer which produces the torque needed to push the screw into the surface. It has a compression spring, a weight, and a T-shaped anvil. The difference in speeds of the rotating motor and the spring allows the anvil to rotate faster to exert more pressure on the slower rotating weight which pushes against the bit and fastener at an angle. This generates a force on the wrench around the screw. An impact driver runs on a cordless battery unit. The higher the voltage rating, the longer the battery life.

The uses of an impact driver depend on the scope of work. Some of its uses include;

  • It is used to fasten long screws and large fasteners when working with wood.
  • They are tailored to efficiently drive long deck screws/carriage bolts into wooden posts.

What is a Hammer Drill?

A hammer drill is a handheld drilling tool. It comes in handy when working with hard materials. It has a cam-action where a pair of toothed gears interact with each other mechanically to produce a hammer-like motion while rotating the drill bit. The forward and backward movement of the whole chuck and bit is responsible for producing the hammering action. It is equipped with a specially designed clutch that spins the drill bit while punching it in and out along the bit axis simultaneously.

A hammer drill is used to drill holes into concrete and brick. It has a hammer clutch which when deactivated makes it a drilling tool for wood or metal. For optimal results when drilling, it is recommended to use a hammer drill as it offers the much-needed precision and accuracy. A hammer drill can be used as a screw driver in some instances.

Difference Between a Hammer drill and an Impact Driver

Let us distinguish the Hammer drill from an impact driver.

On one hand, an impact driver delivers a high non-reactionary weight making it compact and lightweight. It uses impact-rated bits which are shorter than the usual drill bits. Its bits are more durable and can withstand the high stress of the hammer blows when impact sets in. It is suited for driving fasteners but can be used for drilling impact-rated holes.

Impact drivers do not have adjustable clutches thus smaller fasteners tend to break when they are over torqued. The impact mechanism is activated once it comes across a high torque. When the impact mechanism is not in action, the impact driver can be compared to a cordless screwdriver. Its quick-release clamp accepts a variety of bits. Other attachments can be fixed into the hex bit adapter. Old models were more brute force and hardline. Modern ones Are much more flexible with variable speed.

On the other hand, a hammer drill produces a hammering action that produces thousands of blows per minute, popularly known as BPM, which breaks concrete or brick easily. This makes it faster than a regular drill. It has a clutch that can be adjusted so that there is no over-torque to the screws, therefore, reducing damage to bits.

If one is drilling into concrete, a hammer drill is the best option as it has a self-centering three-jaw chuck that can accept a wide variety of bit styles and sizes. The hammering capability adds to the weight of the hammer drill. A hammer drill will exert more force into the bit as it hammers the surface being drilled.

Masonry bits used in hammer drills have a larger diameter than that of its shaft. which looks like the ones used in drilling wood. They share the same base material, high-speed steel but the difference sets in at the tip. Masonry bits have a wider tip and are made in such a way that they chip away at the surface while rotating. The spiral flutes channel the waste out of the way smoothly.

Can Impact Driver Drill Concrete?

Can an impact driver drill concrete? Yes, but within certain conditions. An impact drill comes in handy when drilling holes of ¼ inch or less through concrete. They have a significant amount of torque but they are not meant to be used as a regular drill.

Here is why; their hammering action acts laterally, therefore, it will not generate the right hammering action to drill through concrete holes greater than ¼ inch. For a hard density material like concrete, an impact drill is neither efficient nor practical. It takes a lot of time and effort to use an impact drill to drill holes through concrete. If there is no other drilling tool available, one will need a special hex shank masonry bit to drill concrete.

In conclusion, an impact driver is not a drill in any sense of the world as it will not deliver the desired results and it will burn you out. It is not recommended to use an impact drill to drill concrete unless they are a handful of small holes to drill.

The much-needed hammering action when drilling concrete cannot be achieved using an impact driver. As the name suggests, an impact driver serves best in “driving” screws and fasteners. One should opt for a hammer drill as it delivers the desired results efficiently better than an impact drill. The use of an impact drill should be limited to drilling small holes, driving screws and fasteners.

Is a hammer drill better than an impact driver for drilling concrete?

I’ll tell you what, a hammer drill is way better than an impact driver. As the name depicts a hammer drill provides the right amount of torque that is produced by its hammering action. It pulsates the part being drilled easily with minimal effort making it an efficient tool for concrete drilling.

More often than not we normally underestimate concrete but, given that concrete is a very unrelenting material that requires brute force, proper technique, and the right tool will get the job done. An impact drill is only effective for drilling small holes that do not need much action. But for heavy-duty work, a hammer drill outperforms an impact drive as it combines a chiseling action and the drilling action in the same tool. How good is that! If I were to choose, I would definitely go for the tool that gives the best results always.

Is there any better tool to drill concrete?

Yes, there is! Rotary hammers deliver better results when drilling concrete than an impact driver and a hammer drill combined. It has a rotary part that spins the hammer in uniform circular motion generating a powerful torque. It is a drill that you would want to use if you want to drill through holes larger than ½ inch. A rotary hammer has a shock-absorbing effect that is very strong. It is way much heavier and bulkier than a hammer drill but very user-friendly.

Which drill bits should we use?

The choice of bits to use is a key step to achieving the desired results in any task. One should always take their ample time in order to select the ultimate drilling bit.

Drill bits can be categorized into two; by medium on which they will be used and by material. We usually find bits labeled for use on wood masonry or metal. After selecting the medium and material, the next step is to select the size that suits the demands of the job. Pilot hole charts that come with the bits come in handy when selecting the size.

  • Masonry bits- gently sloping tip.
  • Metal drill bits-wide angled tip labeled High-Speed Steel.
  • Wood bits-small pointed tip.

Quick Safety Tips for Beginner

Safety always comes first when working with power tools.

  1. Always wear safety gear such as goggles and safety shields.
  2. Carefully read and follow the manufacturers’ instructions when selecting a bit attachment.
  3. Select tools according to their purpose.
  4. Ensure the bit attachments are properly tightened in the chunk.
  5. Keep the drill air vents clear for ventilation.
  6. Sharpen the drill bits prior to using them.
  7. Any cords and wires should be secured away from the working space.
  8. Disconnect the power supply before changing or adjusting bits.
  9. Tighten the chunk always.
  10. Always secure the workpiece to prevent movement

Take Away

In summary, selecting the right tool for the task at hand is the wisest choice we can ever make. When a variety of tools are available at our disposal, analyzing and selecting the right tool will make a difference in our diverse experiences working with these tools. Always choose wisely!


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Jason D. Turner

Hi there! My name is Jason, a keen enthusiast in power tools and their mechanisms and the sole mastermind behind the Noisy Tools. Working in a multi-national construction firm in Brooklyn for over a decade, I have developed a fair flair for different construction devices, gadgets, and their diverse operational aspects. By the dint of this platform, I have researched and reviewed various tools with utmost details of even the most trivial matters that will provide valuable insights for any prospective user.

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