How to Pick the Perfect Hammer

A hammer is one of the most basic tools in any contractor’s toolbox. Whether you use it for everyday nail pounding, occasional tacking, or heavy-duty demolition, a good hammer is indispensable. In fact, hammers are such a common toll that many contractors don’t stop to think about them very often. But hammers are actually complex tools with loads of options. You may have heard some of your subcontractors or other contractors discussing their favorite tools. It’s no different with hammers. There are tons of options out there, and figuring out how to pick the perfect hammer requires a little knowledge about just what’s available.

Start With the Handle

What better place to start a review of hammers than with the handle? The handle is the point on the hammer where your hand meets the tool, and having the right handle for your job can be a big deal. Ergonomics is a major concern in construction work if you plan to have working joints past middle age. The handle is arguably the most critical factor in the ergonomics of your hammer. In general, there are three categories of hammer handles out there: steel, fiberglass, and wood.

Steel Handles

Steel handles are far and away the strongest handles out there. There is pretty much no way to damage a solid or welded piece of steel on the job. However, steel handles are also the heaviest of the bunch. Because so much of the weight is in the handle, away from the head of the hammer, you’re not getting any extra striking power form that weight.

Another disadvantage of steel-handled hammers is that they are the worst offenders for transmitting vibrations back to the user’s hand. If you’re going to be pounding lots of nails, using a steel hammer can cause severe damage to your joints with all that vibration.

However, these days most heavy-duty nailing jobs are done with nail guns. If you’re going to use your hammer only occasionally, steel is ok. And if you plan to use it for demolition, steel is a great way to go to get the extra durability you need. That durability also attracts specialists like masons, who need the extra strength when dealing with tough materials like brick and stone.

Fiberglass Handles

Fiberglass has a couple of advantages over wood and steel. First, a good fiberglass handle is better for your joints, transmitting less strong vibrations than a steel handle. They still transmit more vibrations than a wood handle, but their price point is what sets them apart. A good fiberglass handle hammer will set you back less than a wood or steel handled hammer of equivalent quality.

For trades that use hammers only occasionally, like plumbers or mechanical technicians, a fiberglass-handled hammer is a good tool that doesn’t require a large investment. They are also great hammers to use when you need a whole bunch for a construction team and there is a good chance of losing some.

Fiberglass handles have another quality that makes them perfect for electricians. Fiberglass is nonconductive. This means that they are safe for electricians to use around hot wires without fear of hitting the wrong spot and getting shocked.

Wood Handles

A wood handle is the most traditional, and still a favorite of many construction workers. For carpenters, framers, and siding installers, a wood handle is ideal because of its ability to muffle vibrations. If you’re going to be pounding a lot of nails, it would be unwise to use anything else.

Wood handles are also relatively light, especially compared to steel. So if you are going to have a hammer hanging from your tool belt all day, wood is a great choice.

Finally, while wood is not as inherently durable as steel, a wood handle can be replaced if it becomes too damaged to use. In addition, wood can be carved and custom fitted for a contractor with a particular preference. However, if you’re mostly doing demo work, wood is not the right choice. The beating a demo hammer has to take would damage a wood handle pretty quickly.

Handle Length

Another aspect of your hammer handle you want to consider is its length. Typically, handles are available from 14 to 18 inches. The length of your handle is primarily up to personal preference, but there are some tips to think about. For siding installers who spend a lot of time going up and down ladders, a shorter handle is less likely to get caught up on the rungs. Similarly, plumber and electricians who often have to crawl around small spaces may find a shorter handle gives them more maneuverability in tight spots.


Grips on hammers are a bit of a toss-up. On the one hand, a nice soft grip is easy on the hands. On the other hand, the soft rubber of a comfortable grip can wear out before any other part of the hammer. So if you are going to use your hammer only occasionally, go ahead and indulge in a grip that feels good. But if you are a heavy-duty hammer user, think twice before opting for the extra comfort.

One specialized grip is not exactly a grip at all. Some hammers are built with a little extra rubber on the bottom of the handle. This is great for trim carpenters who work around finished wood. The rubber prevents damage or dents when the base of the hammer accidentally bumps a finished surface as you squat or sit.

Hammer Heads

Most people think of the head of your hammer as the part that does all the work. But that is only partially accurate. Yes, the head of the hammer is what strikes the nail (or anything else in demo work), but that’s only half the story. Remember, Force = Mass x Acceleration, so how fast you swing the hammer is just as important as how heavy it is.

The main feature you want to strive for in any hammer is balance. The hammer (with its head) should be aiding your swing. And don’t forget the backward swing. It is important to have a good, firm blow when you swing the hammer forward. But if you aren’t just as comfortable pulling the hammer back, you will be slowed down at best and possibly even straining your muscles.

How you will use your hammer is a significant factor in the weight of the head you will need. If you mostly hammer above or at your head height, lighter is better. If you will mostly be swinging the hammer downward, a heavier head is okay.

Another factor to consider is how often you will be using your hammer and how strong you are. We all like to think of ourselves as strong, but being realistic about the right weight of your hammer head is important. Remember, the swing speed is just as important as the weight.

Needo is Like the Perfect Hammer in Your Toolbelt

A hammer is a tool that every contractor needs. Without it, your toolbox would be incomplete. The same is true of Needo. You may have been working without it until now, but once you try it, you will wonder how you did without it. Needo is a tool that lets you manage your workers, vendors, materials, and every aspect of your contracting business. It will take you from good to great and make your life easier and simpler at the same time. To find out how Needo can help you, contact us!

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