Gear-obsessed editors choose every product we review. We may earn commission if you buy from a link. How we test gear.
Fastening to concrete looks difficult, but with the proper tools and techniques, its a snap. Miniature Self Tapping Screws
There are many home-improvement projects that require you to screw or nail into concrete, such as when affixing shelf brackets to a concrete basement wall, screwing down a 2x4 sole plate to a concrete floor, fastening metal conduit to concrete surfaces, or securing steel post anchors to a concrete patio. Unfortunately for many DIYers, using concrete screws or fasterners can be a frustratingly difficult and almost impossible task. But when armed with the correct tools and a few specialized fasteners, anyone can learn to fasten almost anything to concrete.
Get more exclusive, in-depth projects by signing up for Pop Mech Pro!
Here, we’ll explain four different techniques and types of concrete screws and fasteners specifically designed for attaching to concrete, and most can also be used to fasten into brick, stone, and concrete block as well. Note that before installing most concrete fasteners, you must first drill a hole with a carbide-tipped masonry bit. The quickest, easiest way to drill into concrete is with a hammer drill, which uses both bit rotation and concussive blows to bore the holes. If you don’t own a hammer drill you can use a standard corded electric drill or cordless battery-powered drill, but it’ll take at least twice as long to drill each hole. It’s also important to always blow or vacuum out the concrete dust from the hole before inserting the fastener. That’s because concrete fasteners grip much more securely in clean, dust-free holes.
[Best Cordless Drills for Home Projects]
When you’re attaching something that’s relatively small and lightweight to concrete, it’s hard to beat the speed and ease of hammer-set anchors. Each anchor consists of an unthreaded pin set into a metal sleeve. Simply drill a hole into the concrete, hold the fixture you’re fastening over the hole, then use a hammer to tap the anchor into the hole. As you drive in the pin, the sleeve expands outward, trapping the anchor in the hole.
Most hammer-set anchors require a 1/4-inch-diameter hole and come in lengths ranging from 1 to 3 inches. A 100-piece box of 1-1/4-inch-long anchors costs about $23.
Hammer-set anchors, also known as nail anchors, are perfect for attaching metal electrical boxes, wood furring strips, metal conduit, and shelf brackets to concrete, block, and brick. Keep in mind that hammer-set anchors aren’t easily removable.
The soft-metal shield is one of the oldest and most effective concrete fasteners available. It’s little more than a ribbed, slightly tapered hollow metal sleeve that fits into a hole. The shield is made from soft, almost lead-like material that accepts a sheet-metal screw.
When installing a soft-metal shield, it’s important to drill the proper-size hole. If the hole is too large, then the shield will spin in the hole. If it’s too small, the shield will crush when you tap it in. Also, you must clean all the dust out of the hole prior to hammering in the shield.
[The Best Impact Drivers for Any Job]
Soft-metal shields are commonly available in lengths ranging from 3/4 to 1 1/2 inches, and in three different diameters for accepting screw sizes from No. 6 to No. 18. Expect to pay about $15 for a box of 100 No. 6-8 shields; you must purchase the sheet metal screws separately. Soft-metal shields are suitable for fastening to concrete, block, and brick.
It’s worth mentioning that there’s another type of soft-metal shield, called the lag shield anchor. Lag shield anchors are larger than soft-metal shields and accept big lag screws for extra holding power for heavy objects. A 20-pack of 3/8-inch-diameter x 1¾-inch lag shields goes for about $14. Items secured by either soft-metal shields or lag shields can be easily removed, if necessary.
Concrete screws provide a quick, easy and incredibly strong way to fasten to concrete. And best of all, there’s no hammering required or anchor or shield to install. All you do is drill a hole and drive in the screw. That’s it. You don’t even have to blow out the hole.
Concrete screws, commonly known by the tradename Tapcon, look like wood screws, but feature high–low threads that bite tightly to the sides of the hole. To ensure a solid attachment, it’s important to use the drill bit recommended by the screw manufacturer, and bore the hole about 1/4 inch deeper than the screw length to avoid bottoming out when you put in the screw.
Concrete screws come in 3/16- and 1/4-inch diameter, in lengths up to 3-3/4 inches. Both hex-head and Phillips-head styles are available. They can be used in poured concrete, concrete block, and brick. Expect to pay about $15 for a 100-count box of 1¾-inch-long screws.
If you don’t think fastening to concrete can be fun, then you’ve never used a powder-actuated fastener. This tool is essentially a .22-caliber pistol that fires hardened nails into concrete. How cool is that? (Some tool manufacturers also offer .25- and .27-caliber models.)
Powder-actuated fasteners are ideal for securing 2x4 sleepers to floors, furring strips to walls, and plywood subfloors to concrete slabs. They provide an incredibly strong and fast way to attach to concrete—but you can’t remove the nails once they’ve been fired in.
The gun accepts a wide range of nails, called pins, ranging from about 1/2 to 3 inches, and various charges, also known as loads. The larger the load, the more gunpowder it contains. Loads are numbered and color-coded for easy identification, ranging from Gray No. 1 (least powerful) to Purple No. 6 (most powerful). Which load to use depends on several factors, including the nail length, thickness of material being fastened, and hardness of the concrete.
[When to Use Nails vs. Screws]
Warning: A powder-actuated fastener is a potentially dangerous tool. Use it only to fasten to poured concrete—never to concrete block or brick. Keep people well clear of the work area, and always wear safety goggles and hearing protection.
Powder-actuated fasteners come in a wide range of prices, starting at about $85. You can also rent one for about $40 per day, not including pins and loads. Expect to pay about $12 for a 100-piece box of 2-inch pins, and about $12 for 100 Yellow No. 4 loads.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that for about $30 you can buy a manual powder-actuated fastener
Chandelier Threaded Rod that you hit with a hammer to fire the load and drive the pin.