How To Nail Into Concrete By Hand with Concrete Nails

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

    Use Concrete or Masonry Nails and a Hammer to Nail Into Concrete

    How To Nail Into Concrete
    How To Nail Into Concrete. © Lee Wallender

    You want to nail wood, such as a base plate for an interior wall, into concrete.  You want to do this by hand.

    Nailing into concrete by hand is tough, but it can be accomplished with ordinary tools.  

    Manual Nailing vs. Powder-Actuated Tools

    For most jobs, it is easiest to invest in a powder-actuated nailer--a tool that works like a short rifle and which uses .22 caliber shells to drive special nails into concrete.

    Manual Nailing

    • The most important plus is cost.  Concrete or masonry nails cost only a...MORE few dollars and represent your main monetary outlay (provided that you already own a hammer).  But if you have only a few nails to drive, you can do a good job with hand tools and for far less money.
    • A serious drawback to manual nailing is that it is very difficult.  Even despite your best efforts, you may end up with nails that don't completely sink all the way down.


    • Powder actuated nailers are great if you have many nails to drive.  You can knock out an entire series of nails in the same time that it takes to manually drive one nail.
    • These nailers can be intimidating, since they use live ammunition.  It is an expensive tool to use just for one or two jobs.  And after you use it, you are left with yet another tool gathering dust in your shop.

    Typical Uses

    Nailing wood to concrete when refinishing your basement or for above-grade slabs.

    Attaching fasteners to concrete is one of those necessities that comes up when you need to erect anything on that concrete.

    Unlike many ground-level or higher floors, basements always have concrete slabs.  In order to construct walls or other permanent fixtures with wood, you first need to establish a wood base or plate.  

    Once you have this base, everything above that point can be made of that more familiar and easier-to-fabricate material:  wood.

    Materials and Tools

    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 or Masonry 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 have a fluted end that expands when driven into concrete.

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    Masonry nails are V-shaped, with the wider section toward the head of the nail.  Masonry nails are cheaper than concrete nails and have less of a tendency to break or bend.

    Drill and Concrete Bit:  A hammer drill is preferable.  But a sturdy 18V cordless drill will work, too.  It will just take three or four times longer than with the hammer drill.

    Shop Vacuum:  An absolute necessity.  Broom and dust pan 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.

    Pressure Treated Lumber:  When nailing lumber to concrete, make sure that it is pressure treated wood.  Moisture from concrete will wick into any lumber that is attached to it.  Even if you believe you do not have moisture problems with your concrete, you make find that trace amounts will leach up over time.  


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  • 02 of 06

    Drill First Hole Through the Board

    Make First Hole Through the Board
    Make First Hole Through the Board. © Lee Wallender

    Establish the position of the hole 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

    Drill Hole Into Concrete
    Drill Hole Into Concrete. © Lee Wallender

    Remove the board to make it easier for you to work with and vacuum out the hole..

    Continue drilling the hole.  Keep the drill bit cool by frequently taking short breaks.

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  • 04 of 06

    Keep Your Drill Hole Clean

    Constantly Clean Up the Concrete Dust
    Constantly Clean Up the 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 on the hole for a few seconds to make sure you remove all dust.

    Do this frequently during the drilling process.

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  • 05 of 06

    Pound In the Concrete Nail

    Pound Nail Into Concrete
    Pound Nail 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.

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  • 06 of 06

    Nail Until Nail Head Is Flush With Surface

    Take Nail Head Down To Board Surface
    Take Nail Head Down To Board Surface. © Lee Wallender

    Pound the nail until the 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 do another one next to the faulty nail.