8 Options For Bolting To Concrete

bolts holding metal object in cement
  • 1-40 hours
  • Beginner
  • 10-1,000

There are many different projects that may require you to bolt something to concrete, and lots of reasons why this is a strong and secure connection you will want to make use of. But there are many options for bolting to concrete, and several different reasons why your choices matter a great deal.

You will find many options for bolting to concrete, but that does not mean that any option you choose will work for your project. It's important to know which bolts to choose and how to complete this process properly so that you end up with the steady, strong finished result you're looking for.

Working with Concrete

It may be necessary to bolt to concrete when securing a heavy piece of machinery to a concrete floor, building a bridge, or doing foundation repairs, to name just a few. But it's not so much about the type of project you are doing as it is about what the concrete and the bolt will ultimately be supporting.

The type of bolt you should use is determined by the load it will bear, as well as by how and where it will be installed.

Concrete is actually one of the oldest building materials still in use today. Ancient Babylonians and Assyrians living in the Mesopotamian region used clay as a binding agent for their building projects, which was actually a pretty high-tech use of natural materials for the day.

Egypt refined its building process and used a substance much more like modern concrete, a blend of lime and gypsum. Lime was used as a main binding agent and cement ingredient throughout the ancient world and through the Middle Ages, remaining in use until the 1800s.

Modern concrete finally came on the scene in 1824, when a mixture of limestone and clay was created known as Portland cement. This changed the building game, and a version of this is still widely used as concrete to this very day, though many companies now use their own slightly varying formulas containing different mixtures of organic compounds, such as sand.

Today, there are different varieties of concrete you might choose to work with, such as prestressed concrete, high-strength concrete, and limecrete.

Concrete is used in buildings of all types. In residential homes, concrete may be used to create outdoor patio areas, exterior or interior walls, interior floors, or entire buildings (like garages).

You might need to bolt framing for a room to a concrete floor, or you want to hang something from a concrete wall that needs to bear a large load. You might need to bolt something to concrete for a million different reasons.

And you might be confused, because sometimes it seems like there are about a million different options when you want to bolt to concrete. However, for the most part, you will only be working with certain types of bolts.

Get to know them, and how they work, and you will find it much easier to complete any DIY task involving bolting to concrete.

Types of Concrete Bolts and Anchors

There are many, many different types of fasteners that can work with concrete. You may choose to use anchors or concrete screws, rather than bolts.

All of these fasteners do work in essentially the same way and do all serve the same purpose, however. So whatever fastener you choose to work with, make sure you're choosing one that will do the job you have in mind and pick one that you can install into the concrete without calling for help from the ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses.

There are tons of options when you're looking for fasteners that will work with concrete. But for the most part, these will all fit into a specific category covered by the various types of bolts you can purchase.

Light Duty

Light-duty fasteners, which may include anchors, screws, or bolts, can support items that weigh up to 50 points.

Medium Duty

Medium-duty concrete anchors and bolts can support up to 200 pounds of weight.

Heavy Duty

When you have a big project and you need to support a lot of weight, get out the big guns. These are heavy-duty fasteners that can support more than 200 pounds of weight.

Options for Bolting to Concrete

Choosing the right bolts to secure to concrete gets easier once you understand what these different types of fasteners do and what they're used for.

Concrete Screws

It's right there in the name that these screws work with concrete, so it seems pretty natural to choose concrete screws. They are designed for medium-duty use, and they're made with diamond-cut notches that create a very secure, tight connection.

These are best used for attaching doors, electrical boxes, and furring strips to concrete or masonry. You will use them for windows and conduit clamps as well.

There are lighter-duty and heavier-duty versions of concrete screws, so pay attention to what you're working with and make sure you get the right size for the project you have in mind. These screws are made with Phillips and hex heads, so you also need the corresponding screwdriver to properly work with these fasteners.

Lag Shields

Though they sound like something carried by knights of old who were late getting to the scene of battle, lag shields are designed to work with lag bolts that are used for medium-duty load-bearing tasks.

Use shorter bolts if you're working with shallow concrete, and longer bolts if you have a thicker piece of concrete you're trying to connect to. The longer bolts are stronger and more secure than their shorter counterparts.

Plastic Wall Plugs

These light-duty concrete fasteners are designed to expand once they are inserted into the concrete, which keeps them from coming out even after repeated use.

Plastic wall plugs are used to support lightweight home additions like towel racks.

Ribbed plastic anchors are another type of plastic wall plug made for light-duty applications. They are most commonly used to support lightweight decorative and finishing elements, such as electrical plates.

Plastic anchors are perfect for little lightweight tasks such as installing brackets, shower doors, pipe retainers, and little odds and ends that need to be secured to your walls.

Sleeve Anchors

Made for medium-duty work, sleeve anchors are designed to tighten as they are driven into place, which creates a secure connection. Use these to add things like metal grab bars and railing to concrete.

Sleeve anchors tighten after they are installed into concrete to create a secure and stable connection. However, this gets a little tricky because you can over-tighten, so exercise care and pay attention to your work when you're using these anchors.

Tighten sleeve anchors down with a socket wrench, but don't treat them like lug nuts on the tire. You simply want to tighten them in place without over-tightening, as you can break the bond if you tighten too much.

Toggle Bolts

Use toggle bolts for light and medium-duty tasks. These bolts are made with a set of wings that expand once they are tightened into place, which creates a tight fit.

This is a strong and secure connection that works well if you're adding bolts to a hollow block of concrete.

Wedge

Wedge anchors are meant for heavy-duty support jobs and they are usually made with stainless steel expansion clips that resist corrosion. Make sure you want these where you want these before you put them in place, as they are almost impossible to get out once they're in.

Use these anchors for heavy-duty tasks in concrete of any kind, from thin wall construction to solid concrete blocks.

Wedge bolts are also used in hardened concrete floors to support room framing and other construction elements. They come in various lengths and they are secured to concrete with washers and a corresponding nut, which you will want to tighten to create a strong connection.

Power Actuated Fasteners

Powder-actuated fasteners are different from your other concrete bolting options because they are basically shot into concrete with a low-velocity charge of gunpowder. They are shot into concrete quickly.

This is a way to get things done fast, but sometimes, these fasteners can cause the concrete to rupture. Powder-actuated fasteners work best in cinder block walls.

Hammer Set Anchors

This is a light-duty concrete anchor that is pretty easy to use. These anchors are made with a sleeve that expands outward to create a secure connection.

These light-duty anchors are difficult to remove once in place. They are good for securing electrical boxes, metal conduits, and furring strips to concrete.

How to Install Concrete Bolts

No matter which type of fastener you're using, the process for installing concrete bolts is pretty much the same for all types.

Use a hammer drill to pre-drill pilot holes to install bolts or anchors. Regular drill bits should not be used on concrete, as it will make them dull.

You should always drill a pilot hole, no matter how quick and easy you think your project should be. Also, have extra drill bits ready and have a can of air on standby.

You need to use the can of air to blow away concrete dust from the drilled area. The hole should be 1/4-inch deeper, at least, than the length of the bolt you're using.

Once the hole is drilled, tap the bolt into place with a hammer until it is securely installed. If needed, twist the bolt to secure it.

Always wear safety glasses when you are working with a drill or any power tool at all, particularly when you're drilling concrete. You don't want the dust to get in your eyes.

Consider, too, wearing a mask to protect yourself from breathing in the concrete dust.

Bolting to Concrete

You might find yourself needing to bolt to concrete for many different reasons because concrete is such a common and strong building material. You need some special tools, and you will need to take safety precautions, but bolt anchors are made to be incredibly strong and secure, so you can be sure what you attach with them will stay in place as long as you choose the right options for bolting to concrete.

Once your fasteners are nice and secure and put in place properly, you will have a secure connection you can trust and you will know how to bolt to concrete in the future.

Bolting to Concrete FAQ

Can you install bolts into crumbly concrete?

Concrete may be strong stuff, but it's not immortal. Over time, even concrete will weaken and may get crumbly.

Bolting anything to crumbly concrete is extremely tricky and there are some types of bolts and anchors you simply cannot use. If you're working with crumbling concrete, use an extra plastic anchor before you install your bolt.

You should also avoid using hammer set anchors with crumbly concrete, as they won't attach securely and may even cause further damage. Concrete screws also don't work well with crumbling concrete, as they don't have enough material to grip onto to create a secure connection.

Can you install bolts into reinforced concrete?

Reinforced concrete, as the name implies, is even stronger than regular concrete. This concrete has steel mesh or rods inside of it, which gives it even more strength.

You can install bolts and anchors into reinforced concrete in the same way you would install them into any other type of concrete. Reinforced concrete is used in building projects that need a lot of strength, such as heavy load-bearing support beams or earthquake-proof buildings.

Can you install bolts into cement?

So, does all this same stuff apply to cement? While cement and concrete are used interchangeably by some, these are two different building substances.

Concrete is far stronger than cement and in fact, cement is an ingredient in concrete. Before you begin bolting and anchoring things, make sure you are working with concrete and not cement because there is a big difference in these materials.

You will use many of the same methods to bolt into cement as you would to concrete and sometimes, some of the same types of bolts and anchors. However, the process for installing bolts into cement takes a little bit longer and cement is more prone to cracking than concrete so you need to use extra care not to over-tighten bolts and anchors.

Further Reading

2 Recipes for Concrete Patch Mix

4 Surprising Places Concrete Can Improve Your Interior

About Laying Concrete

All About Tapcon Screws

Choosing and Installing Wall Anchors

Concrete and Cement Repair and Care

Concrete vs. Cement: What's the Difference?

Installing Plastic Wall Anchors

The Nuts and Bolts

Why Aren't You Making Stuff Out of Concrete?