If you are in the process of building a new home, repairing an old one, or anything in between, something that you may have to do at some point is attach wood to concrete. There are several different ways to attach wood to concrete, both with and without drilling, and this is what we are here to discuss today. Let’s teach you some different methods for attaching these two materials so you can choose the one that works best for you.
How to Attach Wood to Concrete Without Drilling
If you want to attach wood to concrete without drilling, there are two main ways to do so, including using a PAT (powder-actuated tool) and using adhesive. Let’s talk about both methods in some detail.
#1: Using a PAT
A PAT or powder-actuated tool, also known as a powder-actuated fastener, is a special type of tool designed specifically for driving nails into wood and concrete at the same time. Although you are using nails here, you don’t have to do any drilling at all.
This tool is more or less like a large handgun that uses 0.22 caliber cartridges of compressed air to fire a nail through wood and into concrete. Moreover, depending on the thickness of the wood and concrete being worked with, there are different power levels to choose from, which are going to depend on the compressed air cartridge. These can range from 385fps to 1,115fps.
This allows you to attach virtually any piece of wood to concrete without having to do much work. This method is often used by professionals for construction purposes, as it does produce an extremely secure hold and is easy to do. That said, PATs can cost a bit of money, so it’s probably not the first method to choose if you just need to attach a couple of pieces of wood to some concrete.
Keep in mind that these nails or fasteners will come with a plastic sleeve or metal washer, which prevents them from passing all the way through the wood and into the concrete. That washer or sleeve allows the nail to grab hold of the surface of the wood as a stopping point, therefore firmly attaching the two together.
On a side note, another downside here is that these tools are very loud. Also, make sure that everything is done properly because these fasteners are considered permanent. You really cannot remove them without damaging both the wood and concrete.
Let’s go through a quick tutorial on exactly how to use a PAT to attach wood to concrete.
Step 1: Prepare the PAT
Depending on how thick the wood and concrete that you are working with are, you’ll need to choose the right size of compressed air cartridge. Always follow the directions as provided with your PAT for choosing the right cartridge. With the right cartridge chosen, insert it into the PAT, and insert the nail you wish to use as well. On that note, putting on some safety goggles at this point is recommended.
Step 2: Line Up the Wood and Concrete
Before you do anything else, just make sure that the wood and concrete are lined up properly. If everything is lined up, move onto the next step.
Step 3: Point and Shoot
Depending on the type of PAT you have, you might need to pull on the trigger or hit the top with a hammer to activate it. So, measure exactly where you need the nail to be inserted, hold the PAT so that it is perpendicular to the wooden surface, touch the tip to the wood, and then engage the firing mechanism. Your wood and concrete should now be attached to each other.
#2: Using Adhesive
Another way to attach wood to concrete without drilling is by using an adhesive. This is a good method to choose if you only have some small projects to do and don’t want to spend the big bucks on a PAT.
Moreover, if the concrete has wiring, lines, or heat tubes embedded in it, you may not want to use nails or anything else that will penetrate the concrete.
That said, while adhesive is easy to use and relatively strong, it’s certainly not ideal for large weight-bearing applications where achieving a very secure hold is of paramount importance. These adhesives aren’t as permanent as PAT-inserted nails, and they may also have issues with moisture over time.
There are different types of adhesives you can use here, including construction adhesives that can take up to seven days to cure, as well as epoxies that usually cure within three days. We recommend using a construction adhesive such as Liquid Nails. Let’s move on and figure out how this works.
Let’s go through a quick tutorial on how to attach wood to concrete using adhesive.
Step 1: Measure and Mark
If necessary, measure and mark the concrete surface so you know where to place the glue and wood. These adhesives aren’t cheap, so you don’t want to waste any or smear any on parts of the concrete where it is not needed.
Step 2: Prepare the Surface
Once you have figured out exactly where the wood and the adhesive need to be, prepare the surfaces. Use a damp cloth to wipe down both the wood and the concrete, and then a dry cloth to make sure everything is 100% clean and dry. You don’t want any debris in the way, as this will prevent the wood and concrete from adhering properly.
Step 3: Apply the Adhesive
Most of these construction adhesives will need to be applied with a caulking gun, so snip the tube open at a 45-degree angle, insert it into the caulking gun, and then apply the adhesive to the concrete surface using a zig-zag pattern, while also outlining the perimeter of where the wood will go. Once the adhesive has been applied, immediately put the wood on the concrete.
Step 4: Apply Weight or Clamp
If possible, use clamps to press the two materials together, or if need be, use something heavy to weigh it all down. Wait for as long as indicated on your adhesive of choice until it is fully cured, which could take up to a full week.
How to Attach Wood to Concrete with Drilling
You can also use a good drill, preferably a hammer drill, to drill holes into the concrete and wood, and then insert a concrete screw. Although this method takes a good bit of work, it is usually considered the most secure.
Step 1: Measure and Mark
Using the appropriate measuring tools, mark where the screw is to be inserted into both the wood and the concrete. Make sure everything is lined up properly because you’ll only get one shot at this.
Step 2: Drill the Pilot Holes
You will now want to use your drill to create pilot holes in the wood and concrete. You can’t just insert screws without those pilot holes. Use an appropriate concrete drill bit to make the pilot hole in the concrete, and then a wood drill bit to do the same in the wood.
Make sure that the pilot holes are the same diameter as the screw you plan on using. On that note, the screw should be long enough to penetrate at least 1” into the concrete. Before you move on to the next step, make sure to use some compressed air to blow any debris out of the pilot hole in the concrete.
Step 3: Insert the Concrete Screw
With the pilot holes drilled, line up the holes in the wood and concrete, and then use your drill to insert the screw into the wood and concrete.
What Is the Best Way to Attach Wood to Concrete?
If you have the tools, time, and skills to do so, then using real concrete screws or fasteners that are inserted into both materials via drilling is generally considered best. This will produce the most secure hold, and you can even remove the fasteners if needed, all without causing much damage to either surface.
Mistakes to Avoid, Tips & Tricks
Let’s quickly go over some tips to help make this process as fast and safe as possible for you:
- If using an adhesive, make sure that all surfaces are free of debris
- When using an adhesive, never manipulate the wood before it has gotten a chance to dry and cure
- Never use a wood drill bit to drill into concrete, it won’t work
- If you are drilling into concrete, make sure to wear adequate eye protection
You should now know how to attach wood to concrete both with and without drilling, so you can choose the method that works best for you.