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What Are Chipping Hammers?

By Eric Tallberg
Updated May 17, 2024
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Chipping hammers are durable, lightweight, hand-held power tools used to chip away or break up concrete. They are sturdy, highly maneuverable and can be powered either electrically, pneumatically or hydraulically.

Each power source has benefits and drawbacks. For example, pneumatic chipping hammers are used in conditions when excess moisture is present; hydraulic hammers are commonly used for heavier, more complex jobs.

Chipping hammers use bits or chisels and vibration to, among other things, rapidly and cleanly chip away unwanted concrete. Most commonly thought of as concrete demolition tools, these hammers, when utilized properly and with the correct bits or chisels installed, are useful, in breaking up ceramic tile and removing grout.

The effectiveness of chipping hammers is usually determined by their weight. Heavier models, those weighing over 25 pounds (about 11 kg), are ordinarily capable of nearly 3000 blows per minute (BPM), while the lightest models deliver only some 900 to 950 BPM. Most commercial-grade hammers weigh between 9 and 30 pounds (about 4 to 13.6 kg). There are, however, some models that weigh less than six pounds (2.72 kg), resemble electric drills or air wrenches and are designed for the do-it-yourselfer. The compactness of today’s powered hammer allows it to be used where a wet saw would be ineffective or too bulky and a sledge hammer would cause significant excess damage. The lighter weight and portability of the chipping hammer also allows it to be comfortably used to chip vertical and overhead surfaces.

The safe and effective use of the tools requires that the operator (1) read and follow all operating instructions pertaining to the particular hammer that will be used; (2) wear the correct safety equipment, including heavy gloves, long sleeves, long pants and, most especially, safety glasses or goggles; (3) grease the bit before operation; (4) install the proper bit or chisel according to the job requirements, and (5) clean the tool after the job is complete.

Control of the hand-held chipping hammer is accomplished by grasping the rear, pistol-grip handle of the hammer with one hand and the barrel or shaft with the other. In this way, vibration is controlled and maneuverability is maintained. Some heavier hammers now come equipped with a detachable second handle which can be screwed into the shaft for easier control of the tool. Many manufacturers now offer such optional equipment as rotating, shock absorbing grips to cut down on vibration, and heat shields to protect the operator from excess friction heat caused when the hammer heats up during use.

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Discussion Comments
By anon282597 — On Jul 30, 2012

I'll bet these are very loud and dangerous. However, the flip side is they will destroy all they meet. I found one, and it must weigh 20 or 30 pounds. No bits, but it looks mean just by itself.

By truman12 — On Jun 08, 2011

@chivebasil - They are essentially the same thing but only larger models of chipping hammers qualify as jackhammers. Chipping hammers come in smaller sizes that don't really qualify as jackhammers.

By chivebasil — On Jun 07, 2011

Is a chipping hammer the same as a jackhammer?

By nextcorrea — On Jun 05, 2011

Once when I was a kid my dad decided to rip up our concrete driveway. Of course the responsibility for busting the whole thing up and hauling of the concrete fell on me.

My dad was convinced that it would be an easy process because he had a chipping hammer that was supposed to blast the concrete to pieces. What he didn't tell me was that it was a very old very small model that struggled to bust up even the smallest sections.

It took me three days of steady work to get that whole thing torn up. I've always hated chipping hammers since then. If I never touch another one it will be too soon.

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