How to Attach Wood to Concrete Without Drilling

Are you considering finishing your basement or converting a garage and need to secure some interior walls to the concrete floor? Wondering how to attach wood to concrete without drilling into hardened concrete? There are other ways that are quick and effective for fastening wood to concrete floors.

You can use concrete or cut nails, powder-actuated tools (PAT) with appropriate nails, or construction adhesive to secure wood to concrete. The nails should penetrate 3/4″ to 1” into the concrete to hold the wood tight and prevent lateral movement. Any deeper, and the nails may hit radiant heat lines or rebar.

In this guide, we’ll explain different ways to fasten wood indoors and outdoors to concrete, concrete blocks, and cinder blocks without drilling. We’ll also discuss different adhesives and how they work with untreated wood, pressure-treated boards, and even plywood. Our goal is to provide you with the information you need to attach wood to concrete so your project is successful.

How to Attach Wood to Concrete Without Drilling

Can You Attach Wood Directly to Concrete?

Wood can be attached directly to interior concrete using screws, screws with anchors, anchor bolts, nails, or adhesives. There are a variety of different screw-down fasteners, but all require a predrilled hole. Some require anchors inserted into the concrete, and others bite and grip the edges of the hole. The number of holes and added steps means more time to do the job.

Anchor bolts are either placed into the concrete as it sets, or set into holes drilled into hardened concrete. Some anchors are self-expanding, some require plastic or lead shields, and others some kind of adhesive to secure them in the hole. Holes then need to be aligned and drilled into the wood before washers and nuts can secure them to the concrete. A lot more steps and mess.

Cut nails have a tapered flat shaft and square point. Concrete nails may look like normal nails, but are made of high-carbon hardened steel and have striated shafts for better grip in the concrete. Both cut and concrete nails require greater hammer force to drive into concrete. Powder-actuated tools only require about 5lbs of force to hold and drive their nail into the concrete. They also often have a washer or ring to prevent them from being driven through the board.

Concrete, even with a moisture barrier underneath it, can still wick moisture, so wood placed on concrete that is susceptible to moisture issues should have a moisture barrier for protection. It’s also important to note that moisture can interfere with the bonding of some adhesives. Attaching wood to exterior concrete surfaces, however, typically requires a sill gasket or moisture barrier to prevent moisture damage to the wood.

Nailing Wood to Concrete With Powder Actuated Fasteners

Attaching wood to concrete

Nailing wood to concrete using powder-actuated fasteners is a quick and easy, albeit noisy, process. There are different powder-actuated tools (PAT) on the market for purchase, or they can be rented.

The fasteners are often proprietary to the tool, but typically are concrete nails with a metal washer or plastic sleeve that prevents the nail head from penetrating into or through the wood. When fastening wood to concrete in damp areas such as basements, use a foam or plastic moisture barrier to prevent mold and mildew growth, or wood rot.

Powder Actuated FastenersThe PAT’s drive power is provided by a specially loaded .22 caliber cartridge load. The small explosive is activated by a firing pin striking the primer charge, which ignites the powder charge. The resulting explosion produces gasses that generate the power to drive a piston that hammers the nail. The cartridges come in brass or silver-colored casings with color-coded tips identifying the load velocities.

ITW BRANDS 40088 .22 Caliber Fastener ToolThe color-load velocity differs depending on the concrete’s hardness. Typically, a brass-colored casing with a brown (385ft/s) colored tip, green (490ft/s) tip or yellow (575ft/s) tip is used. Don’t use brass and silver color casings interchangeably. Silver cased cartridges commonly require a different PAT due to increased compression power; silver brown tips have a velocity of 935ft/s, green tips 1,025ft/s, and yellow 1,115ft/s.

Test the concrete’s hardness using a center punch or finishing nail. Strike the punch or nail once firmly. If it leaves a well-defined impression, it’s good to go. If the nail sticks in, the concrete is too soft, if the surface flakes or cracks, it’s too brittle, and if it blunts or bends the nail, it’s too hard. Only use PATs on concrete that leaves a well-defined impression from the center punch or nail.

PATs make a loud noise and also have a recoil, so wear eye protection (safety goggles are better than safety glasses) and good ear protection when using one. The nails should be at least 3” from the edge of the pad, or from control or expansion joints. If a nail bends it’s often due to the tip hitting a hard aggregate stone. Move 3” from the failed nail, and try again.

  • Load the correct cartridge and nail for the concrete and PAT.
  • Hold the PAT firmly and perpendicular to the wood and concrete surface.
  • Press the nose tight to the wood.
  • Pull the trigger or strike the top with a firm hammer blow – depending on the type of PAT.
  • Ensure the spent casing is ejected.

Powder-actuated fasteners are considered permanent. They do not pull out easily and often will damage both the wood and concrete during the extraction process. Additionally, they can require as much as 1,000-pounds of force to remove.

Always check with the local building department to ensure powder-actuated fasteners are permitted in your area, and for the purpose, you intend. Also, treat the PAT as if it were a weapon, not a toy. Inspect it for damage, especially if it’s been dropped. Clean the barrel and chamber of powder residue, and oil it as per the instruction manual.

Can You Glue Wood to Concrete?

There are times when nails and screws aren’t recommended or permitted for use to fasten wood plates to concrete. Some local building departments and even some insurance companies prohibit their use if there are radiant heat tubes or lines embedded in the concrete. The alternative to screws, bolts, or nails, is glue.

There are numerous brands of construction adhesives and epoxies that can be used to glue wood to concrete. The main concerns, though, are drying and curing time, moisture, permanency, and cost. The size of the job, above or below grade, horizontal vs vertical applications, and even the ambient temperature and humidity also need to be considered.

Most construction adhesives are usually applied with a caulking gun and take 10 minutes or more to surface dry and up to 7 days to cure fully. Epoxies have their own applicator and typically set faster and have a cure time between 4 and 72 hours. Both are commonly applied in a zig-zag pattern, but some manufacturers have specific instructions for surface prep and application, so check first.

Attaching Wood to Concrete Using Adhesive

Liquid Nails 56198673380 LN-2000 FuzeIt All Surface Construction Adhesive (9-Ounce) , GrayUsing adhesives to attach wood to concrete is an alternative to screws, nails, and bolts. It may be necessary for a number of reasons to use glue to comply with local code requirements, including radiant heat lines or tubes set in the concrete or other structural issues.

Once the adhesive is cured, the bond is typically considered permanent as removal is likely to damage the wood and possibly the concrete surface. The glue also helps seal any gaps between the plate and concrete for a more airtight seal.

It is important to note though, that moisture can cause wood to expand and contract, which can break the bond. Additionally, some adhesives aren’t recommended for below-grade or basement use as the dampness can affect their bonding ability. Wood that is moisture or pressure treated may be recommended and some glues don’t bond well with treated wood. So, ensure you pick a product that meets the requirements.

Fastening bottom plates to concrete floors or furring strips to walls with adhesive is a similar process. Follow the manufacturer’s directions for surface prep and application as they do vary from brand and product, and wear appropriate safety gear. As a side note, some contractors like to sink in a couple of nails or screws just for added security too. The following are general steps common to most.

  • Remove dust, grease, loose material, and debris from the concrete surface
  • Make sure the surface is dry for some adhesives or slightly damp for others
  • For best results, the temperature should be 65 °F to 95°F
  • Use a chalk line or pencil on the concrete to identify where the wood is to go, you don’t want to be rubbing glue all over the concrete
  • Apply the adhesive evenly to the wood, typically in a zig-zag line of caulk on the bottom plate, some manufacturers recommend on both wood and concrete surfaces, so check the directions
  • Tip, lift, or move the wall into place or press the furring, so they align with the line on the concrete
  • Use weight, wedges, or bracing to hold and compress the furring strip or bottom plate in position against the concrete
  • Leave it to dry and cure for 8 to 24 hours – the longer the better
  • Clean up any adhesive that oozes out using a damp cloth or recommended solvents

Here are three products to consider as an alternative to nails or screws, or for extra bonding strength.

Liquid Nails

Liquid Nails 56198673380 LN-2000 FuzeIt All Surface Construction Adhesive (9-Ounce) , GrayLiquid Nails is a specialized construction adhesive with different products under the Liquid Nails brand. Some will bond wood to concrete, and others won’t, additionally, some are rated for interior use only, so pick what is appropriate.

Select a polyurethane Liquid Nails construction adhesive identified by the manufacture for wood to concrete use; LN-907 is one such product. Follow the directions, ensure the temperature is between 40°F and 90°F, and the surfaces are clean. The bond is considered permanent as it can damage both the wood and concrete in order to break the bond.

Gorilla Glue

Gorilla Heavy Duty Construction Adhesive, 9 Ounce Cartridge, White, (Pack of 1)Gorilla Glue isn’t just a general-purpose glue, it’s also a caulk with great bonding power. Adhesives like Gorilla Heavy Duty Construction Adhesive are capable of bonding wood to concrete for indoor and outdoor applications, and even underwater. As with most glues, the surface needs to be clean, with better results on dry or kiln-dried wood over treated wood depending on the product selected.

Epoxy Glue

Loctite Epoxy Five Minute Instant Mix 0.47-Fluid Ounce Syringe (1365868)There are different epoxy glues on the market, including some manufactured to bond wood to concrete, such as Loctite Epoxy Metal/Concrete which has an 8-minute set time. As with any adhesive, the surfaces need to be free of dirt, dust, grease, and loose particles, plus they should be dry.

Most wood-to-concrete epoxies are two-part mixtures. They are often in applicators like dual syringes that mix a resin with a hardener in measured parts at the nozzle.

The epoxy is typically applied in strips, stripes, or zig-zaps to both bonding surfaces and usually needs to be held in place so as not to force the epoxy out from between the bonding surfaces. Unfortunately, most epoxies aren’t flexible, so natural expansion and contraction of bonded materials can damage the bond.

What Is the Best Way to Attach Wood to Concrete?

The fastest way to secure wood to concrete is with a powder-actuated tool (PAT). The next quickest is to use a hammer to drive concrete, tapered, or mortar nails through the wood into the concrete. Both methods are quick and offer good lateral control but may not grip and pull down as well as screws. However, the hardness of the concrete needs to be checked prior to driving in nails to ensure it isn’t too soft, hard, or brittle.

Fastening wood with concrete screws, screws and anchors, or bolts takes longer as they typically involve pre drilling holes. The bond is very secure, usually doesn’t cause the concrete to flake, chip, or crack, and is also easier to remove down the road. The fasteners prevent lateral movement and usually pull the wood in and grip well. Screws and bolts also work well to pull furring strips and other wood tight to walls and ceilings.

Glue and epoxy commonly take longer to dry and cure to form a solid permanent bond between wood and concrete. Adhesives are frequently used where nails and screws are prohibited or not recommended. The surfaces also need to be free of dust, debris, and grease.

Additionally, weight, bracing, or wedges need to be used to hold the wood to the concrete floor or wall until the bond is set. The longer the set time, the greater the delay in construction. Many contractors combine glue with either screws or nails where possible for a faster and more secure bond.

Having used all three methods to attach wood to concrete, my preference is driving nails with a PAT provided the concrete passes the nail test. If the concrete doesn’t pass, I’ll pre drill and use concrete screws or sink a concrete nail into the hole. Both methods are quicker than adhesives, and don’t delay work, nor are there any fumes to worry about.

Best Adhesive for Wood to Concrete

Liquid Nails LN-903 12 Pack Heavy Duty Construction Adhesive, TanChoices, choices, choices, and the debate goes on. Whether you follow blogs, check online reviews, talk to pros, or go with your peer experiences, the choice for which adhesive is best for bonding wood to concrete is a sticky topic. Formulas change, products are dropped, plus, who or what do you believe.

Polymer or polyurethane construction adhesives tend to top the list. Some bond and set up more quickly than others, but all form a strong bond between wood and concrete. Additionally, most of the top products also have good flow and fill ability, so they work well on both rough and smooth surfaces, including concrete, concrete block, and cinder block.

There are arguments for all the top-rated products. The temperature range is typical for all, and while they can be used to stick different materials together, our focus is wood adhesion to concrete, concrete block, or cinder block. Some work well indoors, while others work well both inside and outdoors. In alphabetical order, here are the top adhesives for bonding wood to concrete.

There are others, such as Gorilla 7700104 Super Glue Gel and 3M Hi-Strength 90 spray adhesive, that create a strong bond between wood and concrete. However, they are typically used for crafts or small projects versus construction scale tasks.

If I was going out to buy today, I’d look for Adiseal Hi-Grab Extra Strong Grab Adhesive, Gorilla Max Strength Construction Adhesive, or Loctite PL Fast Grab Premium. Adiseal is arguably the best, but availability and price may make one of the other two more attractive.

Can You Glue Wood to Concrete Outside?

Using adhesives to fasten wood to concrete outdoors is a common practice. The surfaces typically need to be clear of dust and debris, and reasonably dry, although there are products that work on wet surfaces as well as some that work underwater. Read through the manufacturer’s fact sheet or directions for the best results. A bonus of using adhesives outdoors is no worry of noxious fumes or off-gassing.

Can You Glue Pressure Treated Wood to Concrete?

Pressure treated wood is often used where moisture may be a concern, such as in basements, sheds, garages, mud, laundry, or utility rooms, and even bathrooms. In most cases, it’s commonly used for the bottom plate, not the whole framework. Most polymer or polyurethane construction adhesives will bond to damp surfaces, including pressure treated lumber.

Select a construction adhesive that works on damp surfaces and that remains flexible, so the wood can expand and contract with moisture gain and loss. The greatest issue of gluing pressure treated wood to concrete is the wood warping or bending as it dries, and breaking the bond. Polymer and polyurethane adhesives typically cure in the presence of moisture, but remain flexible, allowing shrinkage and expansion to occur.

How to Glue Wood to Cinder Block

Cinder blocks have a porous, hard surface that tends to flake, chip, crack, or break when attempting to fasten wood to it with nails or even screws. As a result, construction adhesives offer a less damaging way of securing wood to cinder blocks. Select a construction adhesive that has good gripping stamina right out of the nozzle and has a good fill ability. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the best results.

  • Mark where the wood is to be fastened to the cinder blocks
  • Apply a bead of glue to the cinder blocks in vertical strips where the wood is to go, the vertical strips will allow moisture to run down and not get trapped
  • The adhesive should fill the porous voids and be thick enough to spread on the wood to bond well
  • Gently press the wood into position, not hard enough to make it ooze out from the edges of the wood
  • If the grip and hold isn’t strong enough, brace the wood into place and allow enough time for the bond to be secure

How to Attach Wood to Concrete Block

Concrete blocks are smoother, denser, and heavier than cinder blocks. Wood can be attached to them using bolts, screws, or nails, or with construction adhesive in a manner similar to gluing it to cinder blocks. The type of attachment typically depends on how the wood will be used once it is secured to the blocks.

Attaching furring strips to finish off a basement can be done with screws or nails while attaching a ledger plate for a deck to concrete blocks will require bolts. Since this article is about attaching wood without drilling and using adhesives is similar for cinder and concrete blocks, we’ll look at nailing wood to the blocks. Some contractors use both nails and adhesive for a more secure bond, but the nails typically do the trick.

Using a powder-actuated tool (PAT)

  • Use a string line, tape and level, or other methods to identify where the wood will attach to the concrete blocks
  • Align the wood into position and hold it tight to the block
  • Use a PAT to drive the nail near one end of the wood
  • Check alignment, and move the PAT to the next nailing point
  • Repeat until the wood is secure, and then do the same with any other pieces

Using tapered or concrete nails

  • Use a string line, tape and level, or other methods to identify where the wood will attach to the concrete blocks
  • Hold the wood into position and mark where the mortar channels are that coincide with nail spacing, use this as a guide to mark nail locations on all pieces to attach
  • Drive all the nails into the wood until the points show through, this will cause less vibration as you drive the nails into the mortar lines, so they don’t vibrate loose
  • Align the wood into position and hold it tight to the block
  • Drive the top nail into its mortar line
  • Check alignment
  • Drive the rest of the nails into their mortar lines
  • Repeat with the rest of the wood to secure

How to Glue Plywood to Concrete

There are numerous construction adhesives that can be used to fasten plywood to concrete. Some are applied with a caulking gun and others with a trowel from a bucket of adhesive. Select a glue that is designed for bonding wood or plywood to concrete, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the best results. In most cases, the surfaces need to be free of dust, dirt, and debris.

Whether gluing the plywood to a concrete floor or a wall, the process is basically the same.

  • Clean all surfaces to be glued
  • Lightly mist the concrete surface to moisten it for a better bond
  • Place the plywood on a flat surface with the to-be-glued side up
  • Run a 1/4″ bead of adhesive in a zig-zag pattern and spread it with a trowel, or use a trowel to evenly spread it from a bucket, the adhesive should be about 1/8” thick
  • Move the plywood into place and press or tap it to squeeze out any air bubbles and to firm up the bond
  • You may want to brace it into place or use concrete block weights to hold it down until the bond sets
  • Repeat for other plywood sheets

Conclusion

Fastening wood to concrete without drilling can be done using a variety of different construction adhesives, or using a hammer and either cut or concrete nails, or a powder-actuated tool with appropriate nails. The different methods work both indoors and out and with both treated and untreated wood. Hopefully, you now have the necessary information to successfully complete your project.

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