Fastening in concrete may seem intimidating, but with the right tools and the right fasteners, it’s actually an easy job. All concrete fasteners require pre-drilling, so get yourself a hammer drill, a set of masonry bits, and the right protective equipment (more on that below) before you begin your project.
Choosing the right fastener will depend on the amount of weight you’re fastening, the type of concrete you’re fastening into (porous or solid), and the speed at which you ended to complete the job.
While this plastic anchor may look similar to plastic drywall anchors, this type functions differently and works better for concrete. Instead of going through a drywall board and then expanding out on the backside, this actually expands in the hole. Poly-set anchors are great for concrete blocks, like you find in homes in Florida.
Similar to a wedge anchor, a hammer set anchor is a metal device that you set into a pre-drilled hole and hammer in. The difference is that the bolt on a hammer set is not threaded. Hammer set anchors are also known as nail anchors. Their main advantage is speed and ease of use, and they’re best for solid concrete. Don’t use them in mortar.
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A sleeve anchor has a similar functionality to a poly-set anchor, in that it expands in a pre-drilled hole and presses against the concrete. In the sleeve design, the bolt and the anchor are one device, and you simply tighten it into the hole. Sleeve anchors can handle more weight than poly-set anchors, and can also be used in brick and/or porous concrete.
Sleeve anchors also come in a heavier-duty version with a hex bolt head, which look similar to wedge anchors.
Concrete screws have a serrated cutting thread that starts small at the tip and then gets bigger and bigger towards the head. It actually cuts into concrete, and the threads sit in the pre-cut grooves that the tip end cuts. The advantage of concrete screws over other concrete fasteners is that they’re removable. They’re not well suited to mortar—stick to solid concrete uses.
Concrete screws like the Tapcon products shown here come with different heads. Jordan recommends a bolt head screw, rather than a phillips head, because they’re less likely to strip out. Different shank sizes can handle different weights; check the packaging for weight ratings.
For heavier duty projects, you may pair a concrete screw with a chemical adhesive like epoxy
“As your fasteners get bigger and bigger, oftentimes you’re going to go to more of an adhesive type fastener instead of just a mechanical, because concrete’s not like wood. It doesn’t have fibers. You’re not putting your threads in between fibers. You’re just physically forcing this metal to cut the concrete, and then it’s wedged from coming out by all of these threads.” --Professional builder Jordan Smith
Wedge anchors are a permanent, heavy-duty fastener for concrete. They can only be used in solid concrete—don’t use them in brick. They’re also permanent—don’t try to take them out.
Although it might look like a common box nail, this type of fastener is specially designed to drive into concrete. You’ll use either a hammer or a gun to drive this fastener into the concrete. The Ramset gun is essentially a .22 caliber rifle that shoots the specialty nail into the concrete. Top-of-the-line gun drivers allow you to achieve great efficiency when you have to use a high volume of these fasteners on a project.
Powder-actuated fasteners are commonly used to fasten base plates to a concrete slab. (You wouldn’t solely use this fastener to build a frame on a foundation—for that, there would also be anchor bolts coming up through the foundation for you to bolt the frame to. But for interior walls and for remodels, this is a good option.)
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