Securing Wood to Concrete – With & Without Drilling

wood to concrete with drilling

If you are considering converting a garage or finishing your basement and wonder how you should go about securing wood to concrete without having to drill into it, you’re not alone.

Below, we will explain the different methods to use to secure wood to concrete and cinder blocks both indoors and outdoors without the need for a drill.

Connecting Wood to Concrete Using Nails and Screws

Wood can be connected to interior concrete using anchor bolts, screws with anchors, standard screws, adhesives or nails.

There are different types of screw-down fasteners you can use, and each of them requires a predrilled hole.

Some of them need anchors that are inserted into the concrete, while others simply grip the edges of the hole. The number of holes and steps will require more time to complete.

Anchor bolts are usually put into the holes that have already been drilled into the concrete or in the concrete as it sets.

Some anchors require plastic or lead shields, some are self-expanding, and others need some type of adhesive to secure them in place.

The holes will then need to be aligned and drilled into the wood before you can use nuts and washers to secure them.

Cut nails have a flat, tapered shaft and a square point.

Concrete nails often look like traditional nails, but they are instead made of high carbo hardened steel and have striated shafts that provide a more secure grip on the concrete.

Both concrete and cut nails will need a stronger hammer force to push them into the concrete.

They will also usually have a ring or washer to stop them from being driven entirely through the board.

Even with a moisture barrier beneath it, concrete can still wick away moisture, so you may experience moisture issues if you place the wood on concrete without a moisture barrier.

Keep in mind that moisture can get in the way of sticking some adhesives together.

Putting wood on concrete surfaces will usually need a moisture barrier or sill gasket to avoid moisture damaging the wood.

Nailing Wood to Concrete Using Powder Actuated Fasteners

This is an easy process, though it can be a bit noisy.

The fasteners that are to be used tend to be compatible with the powder actuated tool you use, but they are almost always concrete wails with a plastic sleeve or metal washer that stops the nail head from getting through the wood.

When you are fastening wood to damp concrete like in basements, use a plastic or foam moisture barrier to stop the growth of mildew or mold.

When installing, you can test the hardness of the concrete using a finishing nail or center punch. Do this by striking the nail or punch firmly one time.

If it shows an impression that is well defined, it is good to be used. If the nail sticks to it, the concrete is too soft. If the surface cracks or flakes, it is too brittle.

If it bends or blunts the nail, it is too hard. The PAT tools you use have recoil and make a lot of noise, so use ear and eye protection when testing the concrete.

The nails should be placed a minimum of three inches from the edge of the pad. If the nail bends, it is usually because the tip has hit a hard aggregate stone.

Move it three inches away from the failed nail and give it another shot.

  1. Load the right cartridge and nail for the PAT and concrete.
  2. Grip the PAT firmly and anchor it perpendicular to the concrete surface and wood.
  3. Press the nose tightly against the wood.
  4. Activate the trigger and strike the top with a hard blow from a hammer.
  5. Be sure the spent casting gets ejected.

Powder-actuated fasteners are permanent; they can’t be removed easily and will usually damage both the concrete and the wood when extracting them.

Furthermore, they need as much as 1,000 pounds of force to properly remove.

Always talk to your local building department to make sure these types of fasteners are allowed to be used where you live.

wood to concrete without drilling

Gluing Wood to Concrete – Connecting the Two Using Adhesive

There are some instances where screws and nails are not recommended or even permitted for use when fastening concrete and wood plates.

Some insurance companies and local building departments prohibit using them if there are any radiant heat tubes or lines that are stuck in the concrete.

In these cases, you can use glue instead of nails, bolts or screws.

Below are a few products you can consider as an alternative to screws or nails to provide more bonding strength.

Gorilla Glue

This is not simply a general-purpose glue. It also works as a high-bonding caulk.

Glues like Gorilla Heavy Duty Construction Adhesive can bond wood to concrete for both outdoor and indoor applications, including underwater.

Much like with any other kind of glue, the surface needs to be clean. You’ll get better results on kiln-dried or dry wood as opposed to treated wood.

Liquid Nails

This is a special construction adhesive that has various products under the brand name Liquid Nails. Some anchor wood to concrete, but others won’t.

Some are only rated for use indoors, so make sure you choose the appropriate one. Choose polyurethane Liquid Nails adhesive for wood to concrete applications.

Be sure you follow the directions and make sure the temperature is between 40 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

The finished result is considered permanent since it can damage both the concrete and wood if you attempt to break the bond.

Epoxy Glue

Most wood to concrete epoxies have two-part mixtures that use applicators like dual syringes that mix a hardener in with resin to then be applied in stripes, strips or zigzags.

Most epoxies aren’t flexible, so natural contraction and expansion of the bonded materials can cause damage.

There are various construction epoxies and adhesives you can use to adhere wood to concrete.

The biggest concerns with adhesives are moisture, curing time, drying time, cost and permanency.

Other things that need to be considered include humidity, ambient temperature, horizontal or vertical application, above or below grade and the size of the job.

Things to Keep in Mind when Using Adhesive for Connecting Wood and Concrete

Many construction adhesives are applied using a caulking gun and will need around 10 minutes to dry on the surface and seven days to fully cure.

Epoxies come with their own applicator and will usually set more quickly with a cure time between 4 and 72 hours.

Both of these are usually applied in a zigzag pattern, though some manufacturers have specific application requirements that you should look out for before proceeding.

After the adhesive has been cured, the bond is typically permanent since trying to remove it can damage the wood and even the concrete surface.

This will also help seal the gaps between the concrete or plate to ensure better airtightness.

Keep in mind that moisture can make wood contract and expand, which can cause the bond to break.

Furthermore, some adhesives are not recommended for basement or below grade use since the dampness can affect their ability to bond.

Wood that is pressure- or moisture-treated might be better, but some glues don’t bond well with treated wood. Be sure you choose a product that fits the requirements.

Fastening furring strips to walls or concrete floors uses a similar method. Below, you can get familiar with the tips and process.

  1. Remove any grease, dust, debris and loose material from the surface of the concrete
  2. Be sure the surface is damp or dry depending on the manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Be sure you are working in temperatures between 65 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit for the best results.
  4. Use a pencil or chalk line on the concrete to figure out where the wood needs to go, as you don’t want to slather glue all across the concrete for nothing.
  5. Apply the adhesive to the wood evenly, usually in a zigzag line.
  6. Lift, tip or move the wall into place or press on the furring to ensure they line up with the line on the concrete.
  7. Use wedges, weights or bracings to compress and hold the furring strip or plate on the bottom in a position that sits firmly against the concrete.
  8. Be sure you allow it to dry and cure for as long as 24 hours. In projects like these, it is generally thought that the longer you let it cure, the better.
  9. Clean up any adhesive that has spilled using a damp cloth or any of the solvents that are recommended.

Final Thoughts

Anchoring wood to concrete without a drill can be accomplished using various methods, including a hammer and cut or concrete nails or construction adhesives. You could also use a powder-actuated tool.

The methods work indoors and outdoors on untreated and treated wood alike, but be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions on the tools and products you use for best results.

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