By Erik Elwell
Working in concrete and masonry can be fun?at least in theory. Knocking down a brick or block wall, drilling anchor holes in concrete, and even hogging off ceramic tile can be an adrenaline-rich, physical diversion from the office and clients. But anyone who's spent much time drilling or chipping with a big old chipping or rotary hammer knows that any novelty wears off in a hurry?it's dirty, hard work, and the faster it's over, the better.
Chipping hammers can rattle your teeth and underpowered rotary hammers waste time. And anyone who's bought two tools for chipping or drilling knows that there never was any novelty?this equipment ain't cheap. Besides, if you end up with underpowered, undersized tools you'll get exhausting vibration while productivity drops like a stone. I know because I've been there. There's not a single project my company does that won't require drilling or chipping these materials.
Whether it's chipping a high spot in a slab, drilling a thousand anchor holes, peeling tile, punching through a masonry wall, or chipping through a foundation, the tools we rely on have to be tough; 3,500-psi re-bar-embedded concrete or super-hardened 100-year-old concrete doesn't give in easily. They also have to be mobile enough to move into position when drilling horizontally or even overhead. Since most rotary hammers don't chip and since most chipping guns don't drill?and we need both functions?we use combination hammers. They save time, money, and even space in the gang box.
We tested seven combination rotary/chipping hammers weighing 13 pounds to 18 pounds and rated to drill a 1-1/2-inch hole in solid concrete. We looked at straight-down drilling and chipping power, maneuverability, switch design and placement, and features that make operating these tools easier. We tested the Bosch 11241EVS, DeWalt D25600K, Hilti TE 76-ATC, Hitachi DH40MB, the Makita HR4000C, Metabo BHE6045S, and Milwaukee 5315-21 by drilling in concrete as well as chipping in concrete, masonry, and ceramic tile.
Power and Speed
If a rotary hammer lacks power it'll sit in the gang box or it won't last on my jobs, so my crew and I checked power first. We equipped each tool with a new 1-1/4-inch drill bit and drilled holes 2 inches deep into concrete blocks and granite.
For straight-down (vertical) drilling, the Hilti TE 76-ATC edged out the rest of the group. At 17.4 pounds, it's a heavyweight and its mass helps. The heavier the tool, the more it counteracts the percussion inside the tool, making it almost comfortable use. We really like this because straight-down drilling is the lion's share of our work. The 18.3-pound Metabo also performed well. It has a little less power than the Hilti and a little more vibration, but it chews up concrete in a hurry.
The rest of the field (weighing from 13.6 pounds to 14.2 pounds) all performed nicely, too. They lack some of the pure power of the heavier Metabo and Hilti tools, making them slower drillers, but are still well up to the task. The DeWalt comes in next. It's a light tool, but surprisingly powerful and quick. The pack finished out with Hitachi, Bosch, Milwaukee, and Makita.