Not all jackhammers are created equal. And it’s not as simple as comparing manufacturers and sizes. But most of us haven’t given the tool much thought—we think of a jackhammer as that bulky and loud thing pummeling the sidewalk we’re walking on, throwing dust into the air that we wave away as we pass by. Yet jackhammers aren’t all big and cumbersome, in fact, some can be used for smaller jobs and can even be purchased or rented by the average Joe.

Move Over, Sledgehammer

If you’ve ever had to break concrete as a homeowner, then you know the pain of wielding a sledgehammer. The first two blows are easy but then it goes downhill from there. At the end of the day, your shoulders ache, your neck is stiff, you’re soaked in sweat, and you even have blisters through your work gloves.

But you knew going into the job that the sledgehammer was your safest bet. After all, it’s not like you can use a jackhammer, right? It’s a tool relegated to a construction crew. It’s too complicated and unwieldy for the kind of work you have. And that’s mostly true—the big, loud jackhammer you’re picturing in your head is known as a pneumatic jackhammer.

The Pneumatic Jackhammer

Pneumatic jackhammers run off the power of air. It’s a clever tool that makes quick work of hammering and breaking concrete. What would take you a day (or more!) to accomplish with a sledgehammer would only take you a few hours with a pneumatic jackhammer. But there’s a reason you’re not dragging a pneumatic jackhammer out of your garden shed—they’re simply not practical for the everyman.

You see, pneumatic jackhammers rely on highly pressurized air for power. This requires the use of a large air compressor. If you’ve ever heard the constant, deafening thump of an air compressor at a construction site then you know how unwieldy they can be. Not only that—air compressors of this size are so heavy they’re most commonly towed from behind a truck. Pneumatic jackhammers are great tools of the construction trade, but aren’t appropriate for normal use. Even if you found one for sale (you won’t see them on the shelves at Home Depot), they’re incredibly expensive.

The Gas Jackhammer

On the other hand, there is also such a thing as a gas jackhammer. They’re unique in that they house a combustion motor, which powers the internal mechanics that move the reciprocating hammer tip. They usually come in two sizes: 70lb hammers and 90lb hammers. Back in the day, if you were to mentioned the concept of a gas-powered jackhammer, you’d often be met with an eye roll. It’s true—gas jackhammers of the past were clunky and underpowered.

However, these days, much has been improved with gas powered jackhammers. Not only are the gas jackhammers of today packing a considerable punch, they’re just as tough as their pneumatic cousins. They’ll keep pace with pneumatic hammers and do it with less noise and vibration!

Most of all, gas jackhammers don’t require an air compressor. Hammering rock and concrete is noisy enough. There’s no need to increase the decibel level further with the continuous sound of a compressor working at peak power.

What’s Best for the Average Person?

The best jackhammer for you is the one that works within your constraints, be they budgetary or spatial. Most of us have a limited amount of both. So, are we stuck with a sledgehammer? Not at all—anywhere you can bring a sledgehammer you can bring a gas powered jackhammer. There are no hoses or cords to carry or connect to. It’s truly portable and will always be at the ready.

At the end of the day, if you’re able to get your hands on a pneumatic jackhammer, and you have the room and the specific set up to run it in a practical manner, then by all means—go crazy! But for 99% of us, that’s simply not possible. But don’t fret, these days, gas jackhammer are just as good and they’re extremely portable. Check out our comparison sheets for the 70lb and 90lb Jackhammers if you want a quick cheat sheet between the two. 

Gas Powered Jackhammers Are the Perfect Balance of Affordability & Portability

How many times are you tasked with breaking up rock and concrete? If you’re like most of us, it’s a rare occasion. And as much as you love power tools, you doubt you can convince yourself that owning a jackhammer is a sound idea. Luckily, most equipment rental yards stock gas powered jackhammers, allowing you to rent one for as long as you need.

And the ultra-portability of the gas variety of jackhammer lets you load it into the back of your truck and get going so you can finish that job you’ve been dreading. You’ve finally found the gumption to start the project—so it’s important to get moving as quickly as possible. With a gas powered jackhammer, it’s not only possible, it’s pretty easy.