What is a Jackhammer

The construction and demolition sites require a wide variety of tools. Amongst the most notable of these tools is a jackhammer.

A jackhammer is a demolition device used by professionals to break up various hard and rigid materials. The materials are normally broken up so that new materials can be poured into place.

In this guide below, we will get you up to speed with everything you should know about a jackhammer, including how it works, its uses, and its different types. So, without further ado, let’s get straight into it!

What is a Jackhammer Used for?

What is a Jackhammer

A jackhammer relies upon the hammering action to dismantle hard materials, like asphalt, concrete, and rock. Of course, you can also cut even harder materials or softer materials, like wood, but the cutting process for those materials would not be as effective.

The mechanism of the hammer device depends on the size and design of the tool. It operates either by hydraulics, electro-mechanical force, or compressed air.

There are also smaller variants of a jackhammer that perform more or less a similar function. These include a demolition hammer, rotary hammer drill, and combination drill.

Here are some of the standard applications of a jackhammer:

  • Used in mining operations as well as the construction of tunnels, since it can break apart rocks quite efficiently as compared to normal digging tools.
  • Used in road repair work. For instance, a pneumatic jackhammer breaks apart old concrete or asphalt on a road, so that new material can be put into place.
  • Used for demolition work as it can break apart rocky strata on a large scale.

How Does a Jackhammer Work?


The working principle of a jackhammer is simple; it involves the application of a percussive force repeatedly on the material that needs to be broken up. Depending upon the power source of the jackhammer, the way this force is applied can differ.

If we take a closer look into the working of a jackhammer, it has a bit (usually a large chisel) attached to the end of the device, which moves it backward and forwards to produce a percussive impact. With repeated impact, the concerned material breaks up into smaller pieces for you to remove.

It is worth mentioning that the strength of a person has a huge role to play in the proper functioning of a jackhammer. Also, the use of the jackhammer is limited when you need to break up vertical surfaces, like a wall; that is where rig-mounted jackhammers are particularly useful.

Jack Hammer Types

Jack Hammer Types

As briefly mentioned above, a jackhammer can be categorized into two types, namely handheld and rig-mounted jackhammers. The rig-mounted jackhammers are larger and more powerful than their handheld part and are typically used when the latter becomes impractical.

The handheld and rig-mounted jackhammers can be categorized into three types: electric, pneumatic (uses compressed air), and hydraulic.

Electric Jackhammer

The electric jackhammers fall under the category of handheld jackhammers. These are powered by an electric motor that causes the crank to rotate, thereby moving the chisel part of the jackhammer. An electric jackhammer contains two pistons – one drive and one free flight version.

This tool operates with the crank moving the piston, backward and forward, within the same cylinder though this piston never comes into contact with the free-flight piston. Instead, what happens is that the compressed air, coming from the drive piston, drives the flight piston to hit the striker, causing it to contract the bit.

Due to their small size, compact design, and versatility, electric jackhammers are easily handled and used for demolition work inside a structure. However, they can take relatively longer to break the hard materials apart.

Pneumatic Jackhammer

A pneumatic jackhammer, also called a pneumatic drill or hammer, is much larger than an electric jackhammer. It is powered by compressed air, which comes from an air compressor, which is in turn powered by a diesel-fueled engine.

The older variants of a pneumatic jackhammer utilized a reciprocating compressor that engaged a centrifugal clutch, meaning that the tool was either at its full speed or idle while powered up. On the contrary, the modern variants of a pneumatic jackhammer are powered up by a rotary compressor. As a result, these variants are much larger, powerful, and longer-lasting than their older counterparts.

Hydraulic Jackhammer

Hydraulic jackhammers are quite large; hence, they are generally rig-mounted. As a result, they can be used against both horizontal and vertical surfaces. However, the hydraulic system they contain is more efficient and smaller than pneumatic systems.

A hydraulic jackhammer uses a hydraulic breaker attached to a hydraulic motor, placed inside a sealed hammer system. The sealed hammer system results in a separation, which is mandatory for safety concerns since if there is a direct connection, the impact of the hammer may damage the pump system. So instead, a hydraulic hose is used to provide the fluid for the hammering process.

The engine of the vehicle, carrying the hammer, is the power source, which is usually gas or diesel.

Safety Considerations

A jackhammer is a powerful device that can pose certain dangers to your well-being if not carefully used. As a result, it has been associated with various syndromes in the past. That is just the reason why on demolition and construction sites, there are rules setting out how long a person can use a handheld jackhammer.

  • First off, a jackhammer produces high-frequency noise, when functioning. So, to prevent hearing loss, earplugs must be equipped.
  • With the prolonged use of a jackhammer, you risk affecting the mobility of your fingers – a syndrome called Raynaud Syndrome.
  • With the prolonged use of a jackhammer, comes the risk of nerve damage in the fingers and hands. The integrity of the blood vessels can also be affected. In severe cases, fingers may have to be amputated.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Does a Jackhammer Weigh?

Jackhammers vary in their weights. For instance, an electric-powered jackhammer can weigh around 40 pounds, while pneumatic jackhammers can weigh more than 75 pounds.

What Does Jackhammering Do to Your Body?

Like any handheld tool that vibrates, a jackhammer exposes your body to shaking and pulsing, which can affect the blood circulation in your hands and fingers. This, in turn, results in dangers mentioned in this guide.

Why are Jackhammers So Loud?

The loud noise generated by jackhammers comes from the internal parts rather than the drill bit striking the pavement. For instance, in a pneumatic jackhammer, a piston hits a striker plate around 1800 times a minute.

How Long Can You Use a Jackhammer?

Ideally, a jackhammer should not be used for more than 40 minutes by a single user.


So, there you have it – a thorough guiding, explaining each and every aspect of a jackhammer.

To recapitulate, a jackhammer is a demolition device that can either be hand-held or rig-mounted. It can be either electric, pneumatic, or hydraulic and is used mainly during mining, tunnels construction, and road repair work.

Liam Weissman

Hello and welcome to PowerToolGenius! My name is Liam and for the last 9 years, I have worked extensively with various power tools and accessories. I have tested hundreds of different brands and models and understand the industry extensively and have been working with tools my entire life!

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