How to Hand-Nail With Concrete Nails

Hammer Nails Into Concrete by Hand
Dusty Pixel Photography / Getty
  • 01 of 06

    Steps to Hand-Nailing Concrete Nails Into Concrete

    A wooden board with a hammer and a nail
    Lee Wallender

    Using concrete nails to nail boards into concrete slabs can be an inexpensive project when you do it manually. With just a hammer drill, masonry bit, concrete nails, and a hammer, you can accomplish roughly the same feat as you would by using a gun-style power nailer.

    Concrete nailing is one of those projects that occasionally comes up when you are remodeling a home. One typical use is when you need to nail down a base plate into concrete for an interior wall. Nailing wood to concrete when refinishing your basement or for above-grade slabs are other common applications.   

    If you expect to be doing a lot of concrete nailing, you may want to consider investing in a powder-actuated nailer. This tool works like a short rifle and which uses .22 caliber shells to drive special nails into concrete. But if you have only a few nails to drive, driving them with a hammer is much more cost-effective.   

    Materials and Tools Needed

    • Framing Hammer: Because of the heavy stresses involved with pounding into concrete, use a larger hammer. Framing hammers, with their added weight and milled faces (checkerboard ridged heads), make the job easier.
    • Concrete Nails: Make sure that you purchase nails that are designed for driving with a hammer, not the kind you use with a powder-actuated tool. Concrete nails are made of hardened steel and have fluted shafts that help them sink into the concrete. You can also use masonry nails, which have a square cross-section and are tapered from the head to the tip. Masonry nails are cheaper than concrete nails and have less of a tendency to break or bend.
    • Hammer Drill: A hammer drill is preferable, as it both revolves and hammers. But a sturdy conventional drill will work, too. The process will take much longer with a conventional drill than with a hammer drill.
    • Masonry Drill Bit: Purchase a masonry bit, as regular bits will not stand up to the hardness of concrete. *** Make sure it is the same size as the nail being used or slightly smaller.***
    • Shop Vacuum: A shop vacuum is an absolute necessity. A broom and dustpan will not do because you need to pull concrete dust from the hole that you are drilling. Unlike sawdust, which is light and tends to cycle upward on its own, concrete dust is heavy and settles into the hole.

    As an added note, when nailing lumber to concrete, make sure that it is pressure-treated wood. Moisture from concrete will rot standard lumber over time. Even if you believe you do not have moisture problems with the concrete, you may find that trace amounts will leach up over time. 

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  • 02 of 06

    Drill First Hole Through the Board

    A power drill putting a screw through wood into concrete
    Lee Wallender

    Establish the position of the hole on the concrete by first drilling through the board and down to the concrete. After you pass through wood, keep the drill running for a few more seconds in order to mark the concrete.

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  • 03 of 06

    Remove Board and Finish Drilling Hole

    Using a power drill to dig into concrete
    Lee Wallender

    Remove the board to make it easier for you to work. Thoroughly vacuum out the drill hole. With the board still removed, continue drilling the hole. Keep the drill bit cool by frequently taking short breaks. Place the vacuum hose on the ground, next to the drill hole, and keep the vacuum running to pick up dust during the operation.

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  • 04 of 06

    Keep Your Drill Hole Clean

    Vacuuming Up Concrete Dust
    Lee Wallender

    Concrete dust created by the drill bit will clog the hole, making it impossible for the concrete nail to penetrate all the way. Concrete dust is heavy and tends to congregate at the bottom of the hole. So press the vacuum nozzle directly onto the hole for a few seconds to make sure that all dust is gone. Do this frequently during the drilling process.

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  • 05 of 06

    Pound in the Concrete Nail

    A hammer putting a nail through a board into concrete
    Lee Wallender

    Place your pressure treated board on the concrete. Insert the concrete nail into the hole and pound the nail the rest of the way. Be careful not to bend the concrete nail.

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  • 06 of 06

    Nail Until Nail Head Is Flush With Surface

    Driving Nail Into Wood Board
    Lee Wallender

    Pound the nail until the nail head is flush with the surface of the board. If the nail stops before its head reaches the surface, no amount of pounding will help. Instead, remove the nail and drill deeper or widen the hole. Vacuum out the hole and then try nailing again.

    If you are building a partition wall and the nail does not completely sink, you can always place another concrete nail next to the faulty nail.