We are novice DIYers attempting to finish our garage walls in a 10 year old Ryan Home with a poured concrete foundation. I had planned to lay the 2x4s flat against the wall, meaning I need a fastener of 1.5" for the lumber and additional length for the concrete.

Initially I purchased a Ryobi hammer drill and two packs of Tapcon 2 1/4" concrete anchors which came with a drill bit. We were able to drill one hole with difficulty and the bit was burnt out by the time our second hole was barely started. I tried drilling several different places in case I was hitting reinforcement. At this point I was concerned I had done something wrong and damaged the bit.

I stopped at Ace hardware and asked their advice and they weren't sure what was causing the problem. They recommended I try a powder nail gun, which I purchased along with Ramset 3" pins and yellow loads (listed as 4/5 power, the strongest Ace had). When I tried this the nail was still protruding 3/4" from the wood, which means that it made it less than 3/4" into the concrete. This has led me to believe that there is some sort of reinforcement in the wall or in the way the concrete was mixed that is causing problems.

Is there something special about some concrete walls that needs to be taken into account and worked around when finishing them out? What could cause the standard methods of securing lumber to concrete to fail like this? Should I simply try again with the same powder load and a 2 1/2" pin?


Given the difficulty in getting through the concrete, would it work to treat it more like an interior wall and completely frame it on the floor, then lay the whole thing against the wall? That would allow the 2x4s to provide structural support against each other instead of the wall, minimizing the concrete anchors I need. It would also address issues with the concrete wall not being completely flat.

Or would that not be a good idea?

  • Often there is a pebble mixture in concrete. It is extremely hard to drill into a rounded pebble.
    – bib
    Nov 28, 2015 at 22:16
  • Are you sure you had the drill set to "hammer" mode? This does not sound right. I drilled anchor holes into my fiber-reinforced concrete pool deck once and went through a couple of drill bits along the way, but nothing like what you describe.
    – cdonner
    Nov 29, 2015 at 0:53
  • 1
    Slow down, speed = heat; heat kills masonry bits. Use a bit of water to keep the bit cool while you are drilling. Nov 29, 2015 at 3:28
  • @cdonner Yes, I double checked before starting. It was set to hammer mode.
    – Nicholas
    Nov 29, 2015 at 15:14
  • To your additional comments: if your concrete isn't really flat, then yes, an entire wall structure would work well. Other random thoughts: 3/4 inch penetration with your 2.25 tapcons into concrete isn't going to hold. I'd make those at least 3 inches, maybe a bit more. You didn't specify if your hammer drill was corded or cordless. If it was cordless, that might be the root of your drilling problem, as they don't hit as hard as a corded drill (which in turn doesn't hit as hard as a rotary hammer drill as noted). Nov 29, 2015 at 16:23

4 Answers 4


easy solution that we use all the time. get yourself a powder actuated gun (you will have a much easier time if you get a strip load gun instead of a single load gun). use 3" pins and red loads. just make sure when you pull the trigger, you have a good amount of force on the gun (so it can't kick back at you). this should set your 3" pins almost flush. if your concrete is super hard (for whatever reason), just hit it a second time with the gun. its seems dangerous, but we have put probably 10,000 loads through each one of our guns, 10% are probably second hits. no problem. if you would like a tip - strap the furring afterwards with 3/4 ply ripped at 3", with shims between the furring and the strapping. this will give you a perfectly flat wall with wider attachement points for all the drywall. much easier to make the joints line up in the drywall.

  • Thanks for the suggestions. Our local hardware store only had yellow loads. I'll call around and see if I can find red. Are you saying that it's safe and workable if a nail is protruding to place the gun over the partially sunk nail and use a second yellow load to completely sink it?
    – Nicholas
    Nov 29, 2015 at 15:22
  • I'd defer to the instructions that came with the gun before a random individual on the internet. Nov 30, 2015 at 4:10
  • no. use a red load as the primary charge and another red load as the secondary. you probably won't need the secondary in 90% of the pins. Nov 30, 2015 at 4:31
  • @personalprivacyadvocate Thanks. The problem is that I cannot find red loads. I called every hardware store within 50 miles. A few have red loads for a different gun, but I don't want to go out and spend $200 for a new gun if the $20 one I have will work. And I assume loads cannot be shipped so online purchase would be out even if I could find them (and I can't).
    – Nicholas
    Nov 30, 2015 at 14:46
  • I should have clarified. to me, a PAF gun is the thing with the handgrip, foregrip and trigger (like a ramset cobra), not the small cylindrical thing you hit with a hammer. don't try to do this with a manual type gun, regardless of the load. only the gun type devices are built to do this type of re-hit. if you don't want to buy one, you can rent one. Nov 30, 2015 at 15:45

The drill bits that come with the screws are junk.

Also if you don't have a Slotted-Drill-Sytem (SDS) Hammer drill then all you have is a drill that wants to be a hammer drill when it grows up.

I have one of the Milwaukee's like that and had the same problems until I dropped some money and bought a Bosch SDS. I wanted a Hilti but the price was a little high for a homeowner. Hilti is all our contractors buy for a good reason. They are the best. The Bosch I bought is a good runner up though. Makes a ½" hole 3" deep in solid concrete in about 45 seconds.

You could still use the semi-hammer drill but get your self some good carbide tipped drill bits and pack a lunch.

Good luck! 😊

  • As I only needed it for one job I purchased a cheap Ryobi on the advice of a Home Depot employee. I knew it wasn't the best but figured it would work for something small. Sounds like maybe it won't. Does it make more sense to give up on it and go to the nail gun?
    – Nicholas
    Nov 29, 2015 at 15:15
  • I guess that all depends on how much money you want to spend. If you are only doing a small job you might check into renting a hammer drill.
    – ArchonOSX
    Nov 30, 2015 at 20:27

Concrete can be adjusted with modifiers and admixtures to change or increase its performance. I don't think that its density can be increased to the point that a masonry bit can't drill more than 2-3 holes before becoming useless. As you noted, rebar would dull the bit easily. I found when drilling for TapCon screws is to let the bit set the pace and not to exert a lot of force, but enough to keep the bit working. Also, if thee hole depth is over 3/4 inches, withdraw the bit occasionally to remove concrete dust that can plug-up the hole. Every so often you will find that the bit, although relatively new, isn't advancing. Rather than burn the carbide off the drill tip relocate the hole. If you are using 1/4 inch concrete screws and the designated 3/16 inch bit, start the hole with a cheap masonry bit a size smaller and save the pricey TapCon bit for the second pass.

  • Thanks. I did try withdrawing twice on each hole. I had to press relatively hard to make any progress at all. I may try a new bit, but am starting to lean towards a nail gun at this point. With the effort it seems is needed I'm not sure the screws make much sense, especially given I have some 50 linear feet of wall to build.
    – Nicholas
    Nov 29, 2015 at 15:17

We have found Tapcons extremely problematic in concrete. We usually cannot get minimum embedment without breaking the head off even when using a properly sized SDS bit on an SDS hammer drill. They work great in softer materials though.

We recommend the powered actuated gun with 3" nails. The Ramset .22 cal does not come in a red load any more (I cannot find it). We use a yellow load as a primary and a green load as a secondary, usually always needing both loads. Or buy a .27 cal which probably does not have the same problem as the .22. Our .22 cal gun is almost dead so we can buy a .27 cal.

Framing a wall instead of scabbing 2x4s to the concrete definitely saves time and makes things easier at the expense of 2.5" +/- depth lost. This is definitely a good route to take.

As a note, use pressure treated wood anywhere wood touches concrete.

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