Can a hammer drill be used as a screwdriver?

In a world where multi-functionality is becoming more and more popular, it is essential to know which tools can perform said multiple functions and which tools have solely singular uses. If you have wondered if you can also use a hammer drill as a screwdriver, read on to find out.

Most hammer drills do have a drive function, making it possible to drive in screws. They are designed to hammer into the material that you are drilling, and primarily used to drill into brick or concrete.  If the hammer drill does not have a drive function, attempting to drive a screw is not recommended, as it may be hazardous to your safety.

Hammer drills are notoriously expensive because of the power needed to penetrate concrete or brick. If, however, you are in the market for a drill that can do it all, or if you want to know more about hammer drills, read on.

Do I need a hammer drill?

Before we discuss the different types of hammer drills and which one fits your needs best, it is maybe a better idea to determine if you need a hammer drill at all. Hammer drills are specialized tools used for drilling into hard substances such as concrete, brick, metal, and ceramic tiles. They are also used in demolition. If you are looking for a tool to drive screws, an impact driver might be a better choice. Depending on which materials you would like to drill, you might be happy with using an impact drill or combi drills. Both are efficient when drilling woods, plastics, some softer metals, and even brick with the right bits.

Types of Hammer drills

There are a few types of hammer drills out there for different levels of work. Although all are designed to drill into concrete or stone, some are better suited for construction and industrial use. These models are usually more expensive but much more powerful. Below we will discuss the different types, so you may discern which fits your needs best.

  1. Standard hammer drills have a hammer function that is activated when toggled and power flows through the tool. The drill’s drive chuck moves back and forth, creating a hammering pulsating motion when drilling the material. This pulsating motion is applied axially to help break through concrete, stone, or brick. Standard hammer drills are usually more powerful than normal drills and even impact drills due to the amount of force required to penetrate mineral substances.
  2. Rotary hammer drills or Slotted Drive System drills operate much the same way as standard hammer drills, except only the bit moves back and forth in a pulsating manner instead of the whole chuck. This makes rotary hammer drills more effective and powerful. Combined with slotted drive system bits, you can penetrate concrete, brick, or tiles without breaking them. This makes rotary hammer drills sought after by construction workers and hardcore DIYers. Some models come with a three-setting drilling switch to choose between hammering, drilling, and chiseling, making it the ultimate construction power tool.
  3. D-handle drills are hammer drills with the trigger or power switch at the back of the drill. They are powerful enough to generate constant speed and torque, making them ideal for drilling through dense materials. This also enables them to be used for the mixing of paint and other applications. The design lends itself to a more stable and accurate drilling experience. Using a D-handle hammer drill to drive screws in is not recommended, as you are more likely to strip the screw or even break the head off due to the speed and power delivered by this tool.
  4. Pneumatic hammer drills are the industrial big daddies of hammer drills. These are the tools that you use if you need a lot of power to be implemented at the touch of a button. The power comes from the compressor, which is connected via a thick hose that carries ten times the average air pressure. This massive air pressure is forced into the drill motor and can generate up to two thousand blows per minute or BPM for an entry model. SDS pneumatic hammer drills can reach up to three thousand blows per minute, making them perfect for concrete or masonry. Pneumatic hammer drills are not to be used for screw driving in any shape or form.

Corded, Cordless, or Pneumatic?

Like most power tools, hammer drills come in corded, cordless, and pneumatic varieties, with each having its pros and cons. All of them work, but not all of them might fit your intended use. For instance, if you want to drive in screws, a pneumatic hammer drill, as we established, is not the way to go. However, if you are looking for a tool that will go through concrete like butter, few tools work better than pneumatic variants. Detailed below is some information to consider before choosing between cordless, corded, and pneumatic.

  1. Corded hammer drills are widely regarded as the way to go when endurance and power are your main priorities. Because it uses electricity, corded hammer drills can work for longer and are more powerful than cordless drills on average. Although some cordless varieties can measure up to corded hammer drills’ power, they lack endurance and longevity. Corded standard hammer drills are also lighter compared to cordless drills, as they do not need a battery pack, which weighs the cordless varieties down. Corded hammer drills can be used as screw drivers when switched to drive mode on the selector switch.
  2. Cordless hammer drills, on the other hand, are more popular due to their versatility and mobility. The power of cordless drills is determined by the amounts of volts stored in the battery packs. This can range from 6 volts to 24 volts. The amount of time that you can use a cordless hammer drill is determined by the MAH, milliamperes per hour, or AH ampere per hour, contained by your battery pack. The higher the number the bigger the charge the battery can hold. Cordless hammer drills are better suited for work in enclosed spaces and limit trip accidents due to the absence of the cord. The smaller models can be used to drive screws.
  3. Pneumatic hammer drills, as we discussed earlier, only function with compressors. When power and speed are required over versatility, pneumatic hammer drills shine. They come in different ranges, with the basic models working like regular hammer drills to specialized models that can function underwater. Most people would recommend against using pneumatic hammer drills to drive screws because the power and speed can be detrimental to both the user and the screws.

Alternative hammer drill options

By now, you should more or less know which of the many variations of hammer drills will suit your needs best. However, if you are still unsure, look at some of the alternative suggestions below that will satisfy even the most hardcore DIYer.

  1. Combi drills are first on the list because of their multi-functionality and relative inexpensiveness. With the right drill bit, you should be able to drill into brick and even concrete. Combine this with a cordless model, and you have an extremely versatile power tool that you can take with you anywhere. Combi drills are also perfect for driving screws as you can manually adjust your speed and power settings. If you opt for a cordless impact drill, make sure to look for models that have 3AH and 24V batteries, as this will provide the best power for the longest amounts of time.
  2. Power drills are a close second because they can be used to drive screws in a pinch, and with the right bits, they can drill into masonry. Most modern power drills have selector switches that allow you to choose between the actions like hammer, drill, and drive. Power can is controlled by either the power switch, which acts like a throttle, or an adjustable ring switch, which allows you to choose from different power levels. Lower levels are ideal for driving in screws or drilling concrete or metal.
  3. Impact drivers are drill-like tools that are designed drive in screws and fasten bolts. Impact drivers are also used to drill wood, but hexagonal driver bits are needed. Impact drivers are uniquely suited for screw driving because they employ a hammering action when they encounter resistance. This helps drive screws into harder, denser wood. Impact drivers can be used for thin layers of concrete, but this is not recommended.

Final Thoughts

Depending on your needs, there is a myriad of choices regarding hammer drills and screwdrivers. For a comprehensive solution, a combi drill or modern power drill will be your best bet. However, should you require a dedicated hammer drill that can also drive in screws, be sure to look for a model that has a mode and power selector switch.

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