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Concrete Screws, Uses & Important Concrete Screws, Uses & Important Information

Published by Mike C Pistorino on Mar 30th 2010

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Every home improvement and construction project will require different types of equipment, tools, and precautionary measures. It is important to use the correct type of concrete screw to ensure that the application and installation is executed correctly and safely. The concrete screw is a special type of screw specifically designed to tap its own threads into a pre-drilled hole in a variety of base materials including concrete, brick, and block. The brand name Tapcon® was the first concrete screw on the market, patented in 1976 by ITW Buildex. These screws are known for their ease of installation, superior pull-out resistance, and strong holding values.

Concrete Screw Threads

In the concrete anchoring industry, the threads of these concrete screws are referred to as "High-Low". These unique "High-Low" threads allow for fast and complete dust removal during installation. This type of thread also permits the screw to tap threads consistently and delivers high-quality performance. Dust removal is important because the dust created in the hole when the threads are cutting into the base material must be removed as quickly as it is created. This ensures smooth and consistent installation, with less torque required to insert the screw into the base material.

If the dust is removed slower than it is created, a number of different problems can occur. The screw can bind up in the hole, preventing further insertion and/or prohibiting the removal of the screw. Also, if the screw binds in the hole and too much torque is applied, the head of the screw can shear off. Since the lead thread is doing all the cutting of the base material, the quality of the steel and thread forming is extremely important when using these screws.

Hole Requirements

As with all concrete anchors, the hole tolerance for a concrete screw is critical. For a 3/16" diameter screw, the required hole diameter is 5/32". When using a screw with a 1/4" diameter, the hole diameter required is 3/16". Always use a hammer drill and matched tolerance carbide tipped masonry bits when installing concrete screws.
Tech Tip:
1/4" diameter screws use a 3/16" bit and 3/16" diameter concrete screws use a 5/32" bit.

The hole should always be drilled at least 1/4" deeper than the required penetration. This will guarantee that the screw does not bottom out before it reaches the desired depth of embedment. If the screw bottoms out because the hole is not deep enough; it will stop, bind up and probably shear off at the head. Masonry bits come in different lengths to accommodate the different lengths of screws that are available. These bits are typically available in 3-1/2", 4-1/2", and 5-1/2" lengths.

Embedment Requirements

Concrete screws require a minimum embedment of no less than 1" and a maximum embedment of 1-3/4" into the base material. An embedment of less than 1" should not be used because this will diminish the holding values of the screw. True holding values are not known in this situation. Trying to embed the screw deeper than 1-3/4" could cause a variety of problems including:

  • The screw to bind in the hole prohibiting it from going any further
  • Prohibit the removal of the screw
  • The screw to shear off at the head

It is also important to note that the harder the base material, the less the maximum embedment should be. The lead thread may lose its ability to cut into the base material after 1-3/4", especially if the base material is extra hard or abrasive.

Determining the Length of Concrete Screw to Use

Each unique application will require a different concrete screw length. To determine the length of screw required, follow the instructions below:

Thickness of the material to be fastened
+ a minimum of 1" or a maximum of 1-3/4"=
Length of screw required for specific application

Keep in mind that all concrete screws are measured from under the head. For example, when fastening a 2x4 to concrete, the 2x4 is 1-1/2" thick. Take 1-1/2" plus a minimum of 1" and a maximum of 1-3/4" embedment. This provides a total of 2-1/2" to 3-1/4" for the screw length. Concrete screws are available in lengths of 2-3/4" and 3-1/4". In this particular case, the 2-3/4" screw would be the proper choice, as the embedment would be 1-1/4".

Installation of Concrete Screws

The installation of a concrete screw is quite simple. Installation can be completed in three steps:

1. Using a hammer drill and a correctly sized carbide tipped masonry bit, drill a pilot hole 1/4" deeper than the recommended anchor embedment.
2. Clear the hole of all debris.
3. Using a standard drill with the appropriate hex or Phillips socket, drive the concrete screw into the pre-drilled hole until the screw is fully seated.
** Be careful not to over-tighten the screw, this will cause the screw to spin in the hole stripping the threads.

For more detailed step by step installation information, please view this Concrete Screw Installation Video.

Applications for Concrete Screws

Concrete screws are very versatile and are ideal for use in both light and medium duty fastening applications. These screws come in a variety of sizes and styles that are easy and fast to install. After installation, concrete screws can be removed without disturbing the base material. These screws can also be installed close to an edge. The different lengths can be used in applications when the fastening material has a thickness of up to 5". This wide range of lengths allows the screws to be used in many applications including studs, plywood, electrical boxes, exterior insulation systems and door bucks.

Additional Information

All concrete screws have different holding values which depend on the type of base material, screw diameter and depth of embedment. Concrete screws are available in two different head styles- hex washer head or flat Philips countersunk. These screws typically come packaged in boxes of 100 with one matched tolerance drill bit to use during installation.

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