What is the typical head weight (or weight range) for a general-purpose sledge hammer?

Background: I've been shopping around online and have seen everything from a small 2 lb hammer to weights up to 20 lbs. Shopping online, I haven't had the opportunity to pick one up and get a feel for the weight.

I get that the weight largely depends on the application (and the person). So assume I am a homeowner intending to use it for light to mid duty home improvement work (breaking up a concrete walkway, cinder block walls, occasionally splitting some firewood with a wedge, etc.)

Note: Right now I'm considering an 8 lbs hammer and a 12 lbs one. Is 12 lbs overkill? They're the same price, so it really comes down to the weight.


Normal "full length" sledge is 8 lbs, normal "hand sledge" (short handle) is 4.

Excess weight may have two downsides - one is more wear and tear on you the operator, and the other is that you may get lower velocity on your hits - and since energy is mass times velocity squared, a hammer weighing 12 lbs still needs to make at least 81% of the velocity of the 8 lb hammer to get the same "hit" - so you have to swing 50% more weight only 20% slower.

Barring unusual circumstances, I'd suggest you stick with 8 lbs. It got standard because it works for most things.

....also, go find (and perhaps even patronize) a brick-and-mortar hardware store...while you still can.

  • 1
    +1. I STRONGLY recommend getting out to a hardware store, or warehouse store, and handling a few sledges. You want something massive enough that its weight dropping does most of the work, light enough that you can lift it as many times as necessary without exhausting yourself. 8 lbs is most common for good reasons. (Song reference: "Nine Pound Hammer") – keshlam Nov 30 '14 at 5:16
  • 8 lb is nice for things like 4" concrete. – Wayfaring Stranger Feb 9 '16 at 2:38
  • In sledgehammer type situations I'm undecided if it is energy or momentum which is more important. The energy argument seems right until I use something heavier and the mass/inertia just seems to take care of the job. – DaveInCaz Aug 26 '16 at 17:43

I know this question is old but I felt I could add some details to it. I used every thing from the one handed sledge hammer, '4 pounder', to the heavier 20 lb sledge hammer. Ecnerwal is right, for general 'household use' you'd really ever need an 8 lb. 20 lb in my experience is really only for commercial/industrial use. Having said that, and not knowing what your house/property looks like, if you find you are having to take a bunch of wacks using the 8 lb or ten lb hammers, you might find going up in weight to be useful. The downside to increase weight,

  • lack of accuracy
  • Greater chance of exhaustion and injury

If you are a stronger person, someone who does manual labor a lot, and you find that you are breaking stone/concrete or driving post in to permafrost ground, in an area where accuracy is not important, then you might want to increase the weight to get done quicker. I use(d) a 20 lb to break asphalt for patching work, and found a 20 lb in conjunction with a mattock worked great. However, as with all things dealing with work, the adage "work smarter not harder" is applicable. Use the tools that work the best for the job at hand and choose the tool that will best get the job done quickly and effectively.

Also I find that using sledge hammers with a fiber glass handle to be better in general then wooden handles. Your hands will thank you if you ever miss a post with the head and instead hit the handle on the post.

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