There are two common tools that offer similar functionality as a power drill but with more power for more difficult circumstances: the hammer drill and the impact driver. However, with two choices, which one should people be using? The answer depends on the situation, with each tool being more appropriate for certain tasks. This is not a situation where a hammer drill vs impact driver competition ends in a clear winner.
What Is a Hammer Drill?
How It Works
A hammer drill is a power drill with an additional feature. As the drill bit turns, a hammer mechanism delivers a force to drive the bit into the material, essentially combining the actions of a hammer and a drill or screwdriver. The feel is similar to a small jackhammer. This can be especially effective for tasks that require drilling into hard materials, such as brick and concrete. On the minus side, like a jackhammer, this can be very loud. Some hammer drills offer the option of turning off the hammer function or drill mechanism, transforming them into a typical power drill or electric hammer.
How It Works
In terms of appearance, a hammer drill appears to be a large power drill with an additional handgrip on the side. This two-handed grip helps the drill remain straight as the hammering mechanism activates. The two-handed grip is also important because a hammer drill is a heavy tool. This is helpful when drilling downwards into concrete as the weight helps counter the hammer mechanism; but it can be tiring if used repeatedly horizontally. Still, drilling into concrete is a task where a hammer drill would win a hammer drill vs impact driver competition.
One other feature of a hammer drill is the adjustable clutch. While a hammer drill may have the power to penetrate concrete, the adjustable clutch allows it to decrease power for use on small screws or other smaller tasks. Hammer drills may also offer adjustable speed setting, providing more control for delicate tasks. This prevents the hammer drill from breaking a screw or other object.
In short, a hammer drill is a powerful, heavy power drill with an electric hammer mechanism. It even uses the same 3-jaw chuck as a power drill, allowing it to use the same drill and screwdriver bits. Still, this power can be reduced for tasks requiring more finesse.
What Is an Impact Driver?
An impact driver looks very similar to a typical power drill and is a light, compact tool. But it adds an important function. For tasks requiring low torque, there may be no noticeable difference between the two. However, during tasks requiring more torque, one can easily notice the change.
How It Works
An impact driver applies additional force by rapidly producing quick impacts, much like a hammer drill. However, these impacts are directed in a rotary manner rather than linearly like a hammer drill.
This is especially important when driving in screws. A power drill or electric screwdriver will apply a continuous torque onto a screw. If the screw slips or gets stuck, it is easy to strip the head of the screw. For an impact driver, the force is a rapid set of rotational hits. This is a much more effective way to drive in a screw and prevents stripping. Inserting a long screw into a stud behind drywall would be a task where an impact driver would win a hammer drill vs impact driver competition.
However, due to its mechanism, an impact driver does not use the typical 3-jaw chuck like a power drill. Instead, it used a hexagonal bit. This means that special impact driver drill and screwdriver bits must be used. Of course, these special bits are specially designed to handle the forces of an impact driver, so one should use them no matter what.
Also, the impact driver mechanism activates automatically when the tool senses significant resistance. While this is perfect for screwing in fasteners, this could be problematic for other tasks. One such task is working on finished wood. The sudden repetitive impact could kick in unexpectedly, damaging or cracking the wood.
In short, an impact driver inserts screws better than a power drill due to its impact mechanism. However, special bits are required due to this mechanism, which may require users to purchase new sets of tools.
Comparing and Contrasting the Hammer Drill vs Impact Driver
So, given these two tools, which is better for you? As stated earlier, it really depends on the task. The winner of hammer drill vs impact driver is not always the same.
Advantages of a Hammer Drill
A hammer drill will have several advantages over other tools. First, a hammer drill usually uses the same 3-jaw chuck as a typical power drill. This allows it to use standard drill and screwdriver bits. People with sets of drill and screwdriver bits will appreciate not having to purchase a whole new set of bits.
Secondly, as stated above, a hammer drill is especially useful for drilling into concrete or other hard materials. Most power drills and even impact drivers do not have the ability to perform this task.
Finally, many hammer drills have an adjustable clutch. This allows them decrease their power for lighter tasks such as smaller screws and fasteners, preventing them from breaking a screw. Impact drivers generally do not offer this function.
Hammer drill manufacturers understand that they are basically super-strong power drills and adjust accordingly. They fit them with adjustable clutches to decrease power but also use a standard chuck so users can keep their old bits. Unfortunately, they can only do so much about the sound or the weight of the tool.
Advantages of an Impact Driver
An impact driver will have several advantages over a hammer drill. First, it smaller and lighter. This may seem like a trivial point, but after hours of work, it will feel much different. Being a smaller, lighter tool also reduces the weight of one’s tool belt or toolbox. After all the lifting required in do-it-yourself work, every little bit helps.
Secondly, as stated above, the rotary impact mechanism is ideal for inserting long screws and similar fasteners. While a hammer drill may be better at drilling holes into studs and drywall, an impact driver will be better at inserting screws into these materials. The impact mechanism creates a large amount of torque to insert screws while preventing stripping of screw heads.
Finally, there is another benefit to the rotary impact mechanism. When a power drill encounters resistance, that force is transmitted back to the hand holding the power drill, creating what is called reactionary torque. Impact drivers, using rapid rotary impulses, generate non-reactionary torque. This means that the force is not transmitted back to the person holding the tool. Just like with the weight of the tool, a small amount of reactionary torque may not be a problem, but after a few hours, every reduction of weight and force is a godsend.
So, in the contest of hammer drill vs impact driver, which one is victorious? Which one should you be using?
The answer really comes down to your needs. If you need a tool to drill through concrete, then a hammer drill is the right tool for you. If fact, if you find yourself needing to drill through a large variety of materials, you should use a hammer drill. However, if you need to screw long fasteners into drywall and studs, then an impact driver will suit your needs far better than a hammer drill. Impact drivers really are the best tool for inserting screws. Since it varies by task, there really is not clear-cut winner in this competition.
Some sources suggest purchasing an impact driver first. Most people do not regularly drill into concrete or hard objects and are more likely to use screws, especially long screws. Tasks such as assembling wood furniture or attaching objects to walls generally require screws. Still, your needs may be different.
In fact, hammer drills, power drills, and impact drivers are all considered complementary parts to a tool collection. Hammer drills, being a heavy tool, are suited for heavy drilling tasks, like going through concrete and stone. However, because of their weight and loud sound, their use should probably be limited. Impact drivers are ideal for inserting screws, but they require special bits. Also, the powerful torque of an impact driver may not be ideal for working on finished wood, as the jump in power could crack the wood.
Finally, a simple power drill still has its place. Lightweight and with many inexpensive bits available, the power drill is usually the most useful for simple tasks around the house. Still, for difficult tasks, especially where more power is needed, a hammer drill or impact driver will be the proper tool to use. It just depends on the task.