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Homework: Attach wood to concrete with nails

Screengrab from a video, Tim Carter showing how

Screengrab from a video, Tim Carter showing how to install a wood to concrete using common nails. Photo Credit: Screengrab

You may have an upcoming project where you need to attach a piece of treated lumber to a poured concrete slab or a wall. The wood could be a 2-by-4 bottom plate for a wall or a simple 2-by-2 cleat for some utility shelving in your basement or garage.

I remember my dad drilling a large hole into dense concrete to install lead anchors to achieve this goal. It took hours and hours. Fortunately, I discovered my own way using regular 16 penny-coated sinker nails and a hammer drill to permanently attach wood to concrete faster than you can say Jiminy Cricket. I can drill 10 holes and install the nails in less than 15 minutes.

You can watch a short video showing how to attach wood to poured concrete by going here:


You'll just need a one-pound box of 16d coated sinker nails, a 20-ounce hammer and a roto-hammer drill equipped with a 1 / 4-inch carbide-tipped bit that can drill a hole 6 inches deep.


Be sure the wood you're using is treated lumber. It's always a good idea to use treated lumber for any wood in contact with poured concrete. Concrete can become damp from contact with soil, causing regular lumber to rot. Wood-destroying insects, such as carpenter ants and termites, often are found near poured concrete that's touching wet or damp soil. These insects do not like to eat treated lumber.


Position the wood exactly where you want it to be when contacting the poured concrete. If it's a bottom plate for a wall, gravity will hold it in place for you. If it's a cleat for wall shelving, you may want to enlist a helper to hold the wood tight against the wall as you operate the drill.


Turn on the drill, making sure it's in the hammer mode. Hammer drills are amazing tools that use rapid back and forth hammer motions while the drill is also rotating. The hammer blasts pulverized poured concrete and drilling is very easy.


Even though the drill bit is made for masonry, it will easily penetrate wood. You don't need to pre-drill a hole in the wood with a wood bit before using the carbide masonry bit. Just drill into the wood with the carbide bit.


Once the bit starts to bite into the poured concrete, creating dust, extract the bit from the concrete and wood about every five seconds as you drill. This helps pull up to the surface much of the concrete dust and particles, creating less friction on the sides of the drill bit. Apply even pressure on the drill as you drill down.


Continue drilling until the hole in the poured concrete is at least 21 / 2 inches deep. If you're drilling through 2x material, this means four inches of the 6-inch-long drill bit must be buried in the wood and concrete. (1.5 + 2.5 = 4 inches.)


Take two of the 16d coated sinker nails and hold them together so the heads of the nails are even. Tap both nail heads at the same time lightly until they come in contact with the poured concrete. Continue striking the nails with the hammer, using heavier blows and making sure the hammer head strikes the nails squarely in the center of the hammer head. Short, strong hammer strokes are better than wild, large strokes that can bend the nails.

Summary: The combined diameter of the two 16d sinker nails is perfect to produce a very strong bite into the concrete. If you do this right and the concrete is strong, you often will need a crowbar to extract the nails at a later date.

DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: Two hammers out of five

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