SDS Plus vs. SDS Max (Here Are The Differences)

sds plus vs sds max

In the world of construction, whether concrete, brick, or steel, the SDS rotary hammer drill is one of the highest-caliber drills on the market.  Because of the design, however, the drill requires unique drill bits to accomplish the job.

For the average homeowner, the SDS Plus is the most commonly-used drill on the market, as it’s designed for lighter, everyday work. The SDS Max is the heavy-duty big brother, built for bigger construction jobs.

The difference between SDS Plus and SDS Max is that the former has a 10mm bit, while the ladder has a 18mm bit. SDS Max can have a diameter as large as 2” and are typically used for chipping guns and rotary hammers for larger projects. SDS Plus offers better precision, while SDS Max has better overall raw power.

What is the SDS?

The SDS is a drill designed for construction loads, from the simple drilling of holes all the way to tackling demolition jobs.

Like most machines in the modern era, the base model of the drill spawned evolutions in the forms of the SDS Plus and the SDS Max.

The two drills have their own unique bits specifically designed for different projects, from everyday work around the house to heavy-duty masonry.

Three Modes

Most of the SDS Plus drills have three possible modes of operations. A handful of the SDS Max drills have the same capability, but there are fewer options.

Drill-Only

As the mode title suggests, the drill will only function to rotate and put a hole in something.

Rotary Hammer

This drilling mode causes the bit to rotate while also pulsing like a hammer to punch the hole. The bit rotation removes excess debris as it drills.

Chip-Only

If your goal is to break up concrete by cutting into it, this is your mode.

Which Mode Do I Need?

The 3-Mode SDS Plus will maximize your potential uses and be the best option around the house. The drill-only and rotary hammer likely be used more often, but having the chipping mode is a good option for light demolition work.

Anything more, though, and you might consider the SDS Max.

Could I Use Another Tool Instead?

If you’re planning to use the drill only for creating small holes, you might be able to get by with just a basic hammer drill. This is a cheaper alternative, but for anything more you’ll need to upgrade.

If you don’t have a hammer drill handy and still want to drill into something like brick, it is possible to do with tungsten carbide drill bits.

Main Differences

In order to truly break down which drill would work better for your situation, let’s go into the details that separate the two.

Bit Size

The SDS Plus is interchangeable with the regular SDS, so it’s easier to find parts and it’s definitely a “plus” if you already have the original.

The SDS Plus and SDS both use a 10mm bit, while the SDS Max is 18mm. While this means that the Max is not compatible with prior models, it is more capable of serious masonry and construction.

Diameter

The diameter of the drill bit affects the size of the hole and what it can penetrate.

The SDS Plus maxes out at around a 1” diameter, while the SDS Max bit can be as large as 2”, a full inch larger. Of course, with that size difference comes the added weight of the SDS Max, but the payoff is worth it if you need it for large-scale demolition masonry.

Precision

If you’re working above something that you don’t want to damage with falling objects or need to be more accurate with your work, the SDS Plus is the better option.

While the SDS Max will get most jobs done faster, anyone who does masonry knows that faster is not always better quality. The rotary speed and weight of the drill make it less effective for that situation.

Of course, if you just need to demolish something, the SDS Max is your better choice and brings me to the next point.

Power

What the SDS Max lacks in precision, it makes up for in raw power. With a heavier frame and larger bit sizes, the Max is built for heavy-duty operations, punching through concrete and brick with ease.

The SDS Max is the closest a drill can get to the power of a jackhammer. The SDS Plus, on the other hand, might not be able to put a dent in the same block of concrete or take double the amount of time to accomplish the same job.

Again, the difference between the two drills really comes down to what you need the tool for.

Price

One huge difference between the two drills is the cost, as the SDS Max is almost double the price of an SDS Plus drill. Even the bits themselves are more expensive.

The average cost of an SDS Plus is $250-400, while the SDS Max can go for anywhere between $400 and over $1,000. A replacement bit for the Max is around $90 while a replacement set of bits for the Plus is less than $40.

Situational Differences

As touched on in an earlier point, which drill you need depends entirely on the type of work you’re trying to accomplish. The SDS Plus is designed for the majority of common scenarios, but the SDS Max is built for demo work.

Digging

One interesting attachment is the spade bit for the SDS Max, which can be very useful for digging and garden work, of all things.

While the weight of the Max makes it unlikely to use for the duration of digging, the spade bit can be used to break up hard soil that can then be shifted with a regular, much lighter, shovel.

Examples of Build Work

The SDS Plus is your best bet if you stick to domestic-building, such as sheds and patio work. If you work in construction, especially concrete demolition, and plan to build a multi-story structure, you should look into the SDS Max.

Other Attachments and Bits

Both drills have multiple options on the market that make them more versatile, many of which pertain to garden-related functions like soil compression and driving rods.

If you’ll have a need for something beyond masonry and drilling that you might need the drill for, you might want to see if there is an attachment for your purpose.

Related Questions

Where can I buy an SDS drill or replacement bit?

In general, you can find many brands of the SDS Plus or Max at any major appliance retailer, like Lowes or Home Depot. Additionally, you might find a better deal on Amazon or eBay.

Is either drill dangerous?

You don’t need any certification and neither drill is as destructive as a jackhammer, but you should be aware of silica dust if you’re going to be breaking up concrete on your own. Make sure to follow all safety protocols and not inhale any dust.

Summary of Points

As stated in the beginning of the article, the SDS Plus is the most commonly used drill for most projects, but the SDS Max is more useful when it comes to demo needs.

Here is a shortened comparison for those still on the fence:

  • The SDS Plus is cheaper and lighter
  • The SDS Max has more power
  • The SDS Plus is better for precision work
  • The SDS Plus is more versatile
  • The SDS Plus is interchangeable with the original SDS
  • The SDS Max is designed for heavy-duty demolition
  • The SDS Plus has more combinations of functional modes

Ideally, you would have both drills for every situation, as one would might be more effective than the other in any given moment, but the one that would most likely suit your needs is the SDS Plus.

Upgraded Home Team

We are a team of passionate homeowners and home improvement enthusiasts who enjoy sharing home improvement, housekeeping, decorating, and gardening tips with other homeowners! Whether you're looking for a step-by-step guide on fixing an appliance, cleaning your carpet, or even putting up a fence, we've got you covered.

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