Next to a screwdriver, your hammer is likely the most reached-for item in your toolbox. There are many different types of hammers, each with slightly different uses. Carl Lewis, qualified joiner and owner of DIY website The DIY Fix, says, "A hammer is one of the most important tools you own. Choosing the right hammer for the job is important."
He continues, "The most common everyday hammer is a claw hammer. Due to the rounded head and claws on the back, they are perfect for both hammering and removing nails. General-purpose claw hammers usually weigh between 16 and 20 ounces. Framing hammers, also called 'rip hammers,' can weigh up to 30 ounces. These are great for large construction jobs and roofing, where you might need to hammer in nails as large as 4 inches. If you are doing delicate work with small nails and tacks, a tack hammer is an essential tool. This dainty hammer won't damage the surface when working with small nails."
We evaluated hammers based on durability, construction, vibration control, and comfort. Our top pick, the Estwing E3-16C 16-Ounce Claw Hammer, has excellent balance, effective vibration control, and a versatile weight of 16 ounces, making it ideal for most DIY tasks or home repairs.
Here are the best hammers available now.
Best Overall: Estwing E3-16C 16-Ounce Claw Hammer
Shock reduction grip
Solid, forged steel
Few complaints of receiving a hammer with scratched handle
A well-made hammer feels good in your hands, and there's a reason Estwing has been a favorite manufacturer of hammers for decades; they know how to build a hammer just right. The E3-16C is a curved claw, 16-ounce hammer forged from one piece of polished solid steel. The handle is wrapped in a cushion of nonslip-grip material that minimizes vibration and helps you hold on even if your hands get sweaty. And it's perfectly balanced for a smooth, easy swing that drives your nail home without excessive effort.
At 16 ounces—note that hammer weights are measured only by the weight of the steel head, not by the weight of the entire tool—the hammer is heavy enough for a reasonably powerful swing but not so heavy that it's likely to tire you out. It has a smooth face, which is less likely to mar surfaces should you miss the nail. The curved claws are just right for pulling nails back out of walls or wood. The hammer even has a rust-resistant coating to keep it in prime condition for years of use around your home, garage, or worksite.
This is an ideal all-purpose hammer for just about any handyperson or DIYer, as well as people who like to have a collection of quality tools on hand whenever they're needed.
Price at time of publish: $25
Best Budget: Irwin 16-Ounce Fiberglass General Purpose Hammer
Anti-vibration, ergonomic handle
Some complaints of denting when using the hammer for heavy-duty use
If you don't expect to use your hammer for professional or heavy-duty DIY jobs, then there's no reason to spend money on a professional-level tool. Not when you can buy this sturdy 16-ounce framing hammer with a steel head, fiberglass handle, and very slightly curved rip claw for pulling apart nailed boards. Unlike many framing hammers, this one has a smooth face, which is slightly more forgiving, should you mis-swing and hit the wall instead of the nail.
The handle is ergonomically shaped for a comfortable, secure grip, even when you're wielding the tool for long periods. Plus, it's designed to absorb shock that otherwise could lead to pain and fatigue. While this hammer isn't as mighty as pricier options, it is more than adequate for most typical around-the-house tasks, and it is a worthwhile addition to your tool box.
Price at time of publish: $10
Best Framing: Stanley 16-Ounce FatMax Xtreme AntiVibe Rip Claw Nailing Hammer
Large strike face
Handful of complaints that the head was imbalanced
Framing hammers, or rip hammers, have a straight claw, rather than the more common curved claw. This makes them useful not only for driving nails, but also for light demolition or "ripping" nailed lengths of wood apart. Stanley's FatMax Anti-Vibe Rip Claw Hammer is a powerful tool for driving nails into hard or thick woods with its 16-ounce, all-steel construction. Even better, it does it in a way that is meant to protect the user, thanks to its design that absorbs most of the strike force into the handle rather than into your hands and wrists.
But that's not the only benefit of this hammer; it also has a face that's significantly larger than most other similar hammers, meaning you are far less likely to have a swing-and-miss, and thus less likely to strike your thumb instead of the nail, or damage the wall with a misplaced blow. And since it's made from a single length of forged steel, it's a tool that should last you for many decades of dependable use.
Price at time of publish: $27
Best Mallet: TEKTON Double-Faced Soft Mallet
Rubber face and plastic face
Hollow steel rubberized handle
Small head size
The toughest hammer isn't always the best for some projects. If you are looking for a versatile hammer to use for more delicate projects, the Tekton Double-Faced Soft Mallet will get the job done. The dual soft faces—one side is black rubber, and the other is red plastic—are better for hitting surfaces you don't want to damage as you apply a lot of force to each strike. This is perfect for protecting fragile surfaces or completed finishes while you hammer.
The tubular steel handle of the hammer is designed to shift the balance of the weight toward the head, increasing the power of each blow. The soft, rubber grip will also keep the hammer comfortably planted in your hands while you swing and strike. A chrome finish helps prevent rust and corrosion.
Price at time of publish: $11
Best Heavy-Duty: Craftsman CMHT51399 20-Ounce General Purpose Hammer
Not specifically designed to reduce vibration
For most general projects, a 12-to-16-ounce hammer is sufficient. But for heavier tasks, such as driving large nails into hard wood, framing, or construction, you'll want a heavier hammer with an equally heavier strike force. That's when you'll appreciate this 20-ounce general-purpose hammer from Craftsman, which has a very slightly curved rip claw, a smooth face, and a fiberglass handle with a rubberized molded grip for extra stability.
The joint where the fiberglass handle and steel head meet is reinforced to provide even more durability and strength to this well-balanced hammer. It's very reasonably priced, too. Whether you use it for carpentry, construction, or hanging a mirror, this is a tool that will serve you well for many years.
Price at time of publish: $18
Best Stubby: IIT 32380 12-Ounce Stubby Hammer
Perfect for use in close quarters
Not for heavy-duty use
Somewhat awkward for large hands
The IIT 12-Ounce Stubby Hammer is meant for light-duty projects. The lightweight, ergonomic handle is covered in a soft rubber comfort grip that will work for both right- and left-handed individuals, and its stubby size makes this tool ideal for working in confined quarters or carrying out around-the-house repairs and simple carpentry tasks.
When it comes to weight, the Stubby is just right; at 12 ounces, it isn't too heavy, nor is it too light. The steel head is strong enough to survive repeated abuse for long projects, while the weight is convenient for the times you need a little extra force in your swing. At an overall 8 inches in length—the typical hammer has a 10-to-12-inch handle, plus the length of the head—it is also a perfect size for carrying around on your tool belt when not in use.
Price at time of publish: $12
Best Lightweight: Olympia Tools 8-Ounce Wood Claw Hammer
Great for light tasks
Head not magnetized
If pounding in nails to hang pictures is just about the most action your hammer ever sees, there’s no need for a heavy tool made for more rigorous tasks. Instead, a lightweight hammer, such as the Olympia Tools 8-Ounce Claw Wood Hammer, gets the job done very effectively, but with less wear-and-tear on your hands and wrists and less potential damage to your walls should you misjudge your swing.
The hammer has a solid wood handle that absorbs some of the strike impact, is very durable, and just plain looks good. The business end of the tool is drop-forged alloyed steel with a curved claw opposite the face for use in pulling nails back out of walls or other surfaces. At under a pound in total weight and measuring just 11.5 inches in length, the hammer won’t take up much room in your toolbox, nor will it weigh you down.
Price at time of publish: $10
Best for Metal: Estwing Tinner's Hammer
Solid, quality construction
While tinner's hammers are mostly intended for shaping sheet metal and other metalwork, they can also be used for driving nails through tough wood or metal. The Estwing T3-18 will give you 18 ounces to play with when you want extra force and durability behind your swing. Forged from one piece of steel, this is a hammer that will last for decades.
Despite the size and weight, this hammer comes with shock-reduction grip to minimize the amount of shock and vibration your wrists absorb after a strike. This type of design tries to keep the shock in the hammer, so your bones and ligaments don't take the brunt of the force. The hammer is properly weighted between the head and claw for superior balance.
Price at time of publish: $37
Best Club: Estwing Sure Strike 3-Pound Drilling Hammer MRF3LB
Forged steel head
Rubberized grip on handle
Some people may find it too heavy
You’ll feel like Thor when you give the Estwing Sure Strike Drilling Hammer a swing. Drilling hammers, also called "club hammers," are one step below sledgehammers in terms of power and weight. This is a tool you’ll count on for the toughest tasks, such as driving chisels into brick, pounding nails into the hardest woods, light demolition, or driving stakes into the wood, ground, or other hard surfaces.
The double-faced hammer has a hardened, tempered steel head and an 11-inch heavy-duty fiberglass handle with a ribbed, easy-grip jacket that keeps the tool securely in your grasp, even during the most powerful swing. Its weight is 3 pounds, which is heavy but not overly so for most people. It’s a great choice for anyone who needs a hammer for tough jobs around the house or yard.
Price at time of publish: $18
Best Tack: Stanley 54-304 5-Ounce Tack Hammer
As the name suggests, a tack hammer is often used to drive small upholstery tacks into furniture. But that's certainly not the only use for this 5-ounce hammer. It's well suited to driving small nails for any type of project, including hanging lightweight artwork, holiday lights, and similar tasks. Like all tack hammers, the head is very small, and like most tack hammers, it's magnetized to make holding small tacks or nails in place while you work easier. A small straight claw can be used to remove nails or hold extra nails until you need them. The handle is white hickory, which is strong and also helps to reduce vibration.
Not every DIYer needs to have a tack hammer on hand, but it's certainly a useful tool for many delicate projects where a larger hammer would be too big or too powerful. If you like to keep a complete set of tools at the ready, this is a worthwhile addition to your collection.
Price at time of publish: $20
Hammering for more than a few blows can really take a toll on your hands. That’s why our top choice of hammers is the Estwing E3-16C 16-Ounce Claw Hammer, which is designed to greatly minimize vibration and impact. But if you need a heavyweight hammer to tackle demolition or to drive nails, chisels, or stakes into the hardest surfaces, reach instead for the Estwing Sure Strike Drilling Hammer, which gives you 3 pounds of swing power.
What to Look for in a Hammer
There are three basic materials used for hammer handles, including wood, fiberglass, and steel.
Wood is the classic hammer handle and is still preferred by many. It’s fairly lightweight, doesn’t transmit a lot of vibration to your hand and wrist, and with enough use, wooden handles tend to “form” a little bit to your hand over time. Still, wooden handles are the likeliest to break, and they can be slippery. They’ll also rot or warp if left out in rough conditions or exposed to moisture. However, you can generally replace a wooden hammer handle if it breaks.
Fiberglass handles are not as light as wood but weigh less than steel. Fiberglass is also good at reducing vibration from hammer blows; this can be a major issue if you are using your hammer for a lengthy work session. Because fiberglass doesn’t conduct electricity, these hammers are a good choice if you’ll be working in an area with live wires. Fiberglass also won't rot or warp over time. On the downside, you won’t be able to replace the handle should it break. Typically, fiberglass handles have a rubber or composite grip to prevent the tool from slipping out of your hand.
Steel hammer handles are the heaviest and the strongest, making them a favorite for demolition work. Steel transmits a great deal of vibration, however, which means you could end up with sore wrists and arms by the end of your work session. Steel hammers are generally one piece of forged metal from handle to head, unlike fiberglass and wooden hammers, giving them excellent durability. Typically, these hammers have a rubber or composite grip to help reduce some of the vibrations and make it easier to keep a hold of the tool when your hands get sweaty.
There are different hammers out there, each with a specific purpose, although there can be overlaps among them. Here are some of the most common types of hammers:
- Claw: This is the most common type of hammer. The head has a slightly curved, forked claw that’s useful for pulling nails out of wood and other materials. Most have a smooth face that won’t mar the wall as you drive the nail home. Smooth-faced claw hammers are sometimes called "finishing hammers."
- Framing: Also called "rip claw hammers," framing hammers are very similar to claw hammers, but the claw is straight rather than curved. Often, framing hammers have a slightly textured face that helps hold nails in place as they are struck.
- Ball Peen: The head of this hammer has a flat face on one side and a round, somewhat ball-shaped face on the other. There is no claw. Ball peen hammers are mostly used for metalwork.
- Club: Also called "drilling hammers," these short tools with two flat faces are basically smaller sledgehammers. Club hammers are great for light demolition, as well as driving chisels and wedges.
- Rubber Mallet: Shaped much like a club hammer, but with a rubber head instead of metal, mallets are not used to drive nails but to add some force when driving stakes or chisels, building furniture, working with upholstery, or similar tasks where you need more power than your hands provide alone, yet you don’t want to damage the surface upon which you are working.
- Tinner's: These hammers have a square face and a sharp claw without a fork. They are mostly used for metalwork, including hammering sheet metal and automotive repairs.
- Tack: Also called pin hammers, these light hammers have very small faces and are used for driving upholstery tacks and other small nails.
Weight and Length
A hammer that weighs too much will tire you out. However, go too light, and you sacrifice strike power. Note that a hammer’s weight refers to just the steel head, not the entire tool.
You’ll find claw hammers weighing as little as 8 ounces and monsters weighing as much as 32 ounces, but for the average DIYer, a tool that’s between 16 and 20 ounces is best. Go toward the bottom of that range if you’ll mostly use the hammer for hanging pictures and similar light tasks, and toward the upper end of the range if you’ll be doing framing or similar construction activities.
Longer isn’t always better. While a longer hammer lets you build up more momentum for a more powerful blow, such a tool weighs more than its shorter counterparts and is generally not necessary for the average DIYer.
As a general rule, choose a claw hammer that’s between 12 and 16 inches in length for typical around-the-house repairs and tasks.
How do you use a hammer?
Using a hammer is relatively easy. Start by gripping the handle in one hand and quickly inspecting it for any damage, like rust or a loose hammer head. If the hammer seems safe, use your other hand to hold a nail in position at the base of the nail, as far from the intended place of impact as possible, and then bring the hammer head down onto the head of the nail to drive it into the wood.
Hammers also have a "peen," or claw, at the back of the head that can be used to pull nails out. Just slide the head of the nail into the crevice between the two sides of the claw, and then apply force toward the face of the hammer to pry the nail out of the wood.
Keep in mind that hammers can have many different uses, and this is just the most basic application of using one.
How do you nail baseboards with a hammer?
If possible, it's advised to use a nail gun to secure baseboards, but if you don't have a nail gun available, then a hammer will work. There are specialized hammers known as "trim" and "finish" hammers designed for this job.
Line up the nail with the stud and strike the head of the nail with the hammer. Continue to drive the nail through the baseboard and into the wall stud until the head of the nail is flush with the surface of the baseboard. If the nail is sticking out, it looks bad, makes it difficult to fill and paint, and can also pose a safety hazard to people walking past.
What is the difference between a claw hammer and a rip hammer?
"Claw hammer" is the official name given to a standard hammer. This style features a solid striking face at the front of the head and a curved claw at the back of the head to help extract nails. Claw hammers are the most commonly used hammers by DIYers.
Rip hammers, more properly called framing hammers, have a fairly straight claw, which can be used to rip apart nailed boards. Rip hammers are often heavier than claw hammers, but they come in a wide range of weights and sizes.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Michelle Ullman, the tool expert for The Spruce. She has extensive experience writing about all things related to the home and carrying out various DIY projects, including landscaping, painting, flooring, wallpapering, furniture makeovers, and simple repairs. She also received input from Carl Lewis, qualified joiner and owner of DIY website thediyfix.com.
Timothy Dale, a seasoned home improvement expert specializing in several topics, including plumbing, construction, and product recommendations, provided additional research.