Tapcon or Powder Actuated for attaching metal boxes to concrete

I'm installing lots of electrical boxes to the concrete walls in my basement. About 29 boxes and 58 one hole straps to hold the 6 foot length of 1/2" EMT conduit. Choices are a rotary hammer with SDS bit and Tapcon screws. I already own the Makita rotary hammer, bought for this job a year ago. Haven't used the rotary hammer drill yet but I have installed electrical boxes with Tapcon and a hammer drill in the past and hated the hammer drill. Or purchase a Remington powder actuated tool and use the powder and nails. $20 for the hammer hit Remington, $40 for the trigger model that looks like the hammer model, or $70 for the trigger model that looks like a pistol. I've used powder tools to attach 2x4s to concrete and they worked great for that. Cost isn't really a concern since these amounts are not material. Concern is more time, neatness, effort, frustration, etc.
So for attaching 29 handy boxes and the 58 conduit clips to 8 year old concrete walls, which would be the most pleasant to use? Concrete has that brick mold look to it from the forms if that matters.
If powder actuated, does it make sense to get the trigger models so placement of the hndy box or clip on the wall will be easier than with the hammer model?
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This is nothing more than personal preference based on using both, but i'd use the hammer drill with a good bit. Should be just as fast as drilling in wood.
Good luck with your project.
ymmv,
jc

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Don't really have an opinion on drill vs gun, but if you go with the gun, you will REALLY thank yourself for getting the trigger fired. Not all places to place pins have room to swing a hammer.
Mike
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Trying to install conduit and boxes with the hammer model would be difficult and dangerous. With the hammer model you would need extra hands to hold the box steady why you swing the hammer. If the shooter bounces while the hammer hits, the box will go flying and concrete spalls will shoot out at you. I know - I tried it once - exactly once - and then got out the hammer drill. Just buy a good bit - you can break a lot of cheap ones with that many holes.

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I agree, I have used both and have found each has its own advantage in certain circumstances. Have supplies for both systems and you cannot go wrong. I have used the hammer model, and I don't really like it. It has a tendency to slip around when trying to hold the item you want to anchor while holding the device and swinging a hammer hard enough to fire the cartridge. You really need at least three hands to work it. A trigger operated model should make it a little easier when you don't have to aim a hammer swing at it. At least, that is the route I would take. One caution, though, 8 year old concrete may be getting a little hard and brittle causing some nails to blow out a crater rather than penetrate the concrete, especially if they used hard granite aggregate in the mix. Test out a number of different types of loads, or you may have to end up with Tapcons if you have problems.
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Tapcon bit + hammer drill + concete block = fast drilling.
Tapcon bit + hammer drill + poured concete = slow drilling.
Drilling for the Tapcon requires more cleanup than the powder actuated fasteners.
The Tapcon is easily removable if you need to make future changes. The powder actuated fasteners are a bit harder to remove ;-)
If you choose powder actuated, get the one with a trigger - you can use both hands to position it exactly where you want it.
John
On Mon, 14 Jan 2008 13:53:46 -0800 (PST), " snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com"

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Why are you not building a 2x4 wall in front of the concrete and attaching the boxes to that?
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Time, money, effort. Mainly effort though. 150 linear feet of basement wall. Stud every 2 feet is about 75 studs. Then the bottom plate is another 20 studs. Top plate another 20 studs. 115 studs. $2 per stud. $230. Hours and hours of labor installing this stud wall around the perimeter of the basement. And I would have to buy the powder actuated tool to anchor the bottom plate. I do know this is one place the powder tools shine. Then drywall to cover the stud wall. 1250 square feet of wall space so figure 40 sheets of drywall. $6 per sheet, $240. The thought of carrying that many heavy sheets of drywall to the basement tires me out. Insulation in between the studs. Insulation would be good of course. Drywall installation would be costly and very labor intensive. Hard labor. I hate drywalling. And paint the drywall of course. Two coats. Drywall and paint after putting in all of the electrical, of course. Whole lot of labor and money and time for a shop basement. I have other things I would prefer doing than building shop walls when the concrete walls of the basement will work well enough as they are. For a shop. If I was making a finished basement, then I'd have to build the interior walls of course. But this is a shop. I'm all for spending time and money on your shop, but there is a line where you should be using the shop instead of building the shop.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

Whew! I'm wiped out just reading about it.
However, there is some merit to the stud wall. Anchoring will only be necessary on the bottom plates. Top plates can be nailed into the floor joists.
I'm thinking about a stud wall that has no purpose in supporting sheeting material. You say it's for a shop only and you don't want a finished wall as in drywall. I also hate drywalling, and would avoid it if possible, but having the studs up will give you:
a. something to bang your elect. boxes into b. something to hang your perf board from (if you decide to go that route) c. something to nail cross braces to (thinking about french cleats to hang cabinets with. d. a myriad of other uses that will only need a nail or screw to hang stuff from.
In the long run, this might be a lot easier than grabbing your Tapcon every time you want to hang something from the walls.
YMMV
--
Tanus

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I've used Tapcons to secure 16" deep shelving to block walls and have a icture of me sitting on one after hanging it up. Its still there some twenty plus years on.
I used them in my basement to hang the electrical (After sealing the walls with coats of Dry-Loc).
Finishing a basement should not required footers or two-by fours. Rather furring strips set vertically 16" O.C. with horizontal members set 1/2" to 3/4" above the floor and across the top. (Cover the gap with plastic base molding) Using adhesive as well as tap-cons in pre- drilled and counter-sunk holes works well, filling the "voids" with 3/4" expanded foam or similar insulation before applying (glued and nailed/screwed) drywall up the first 3 feet or so and plywood or OSB above (provides good nailing/attachment surface/base) works nicely. A drywall hopper gun ($20 at HFT) and a little dry-wall mud allows for a great finish for a shop (I did walls and ceiling). I sued High Gloss Ultra White from Home Depot and achieved a bright, clean and highly reflective surface that works great for older eyes.
If you use Tapcons for the electrical. use the hex head versions and set the drill driver clutch to its lowest setting and move it up incrementally as you "find" the best setting For use in attaching wood that will be sheathed subsequently, pre-drill and countersink and use the philipps-head version of th Tapcons. Drive them to secure and do NOT try to "bury them."
The powder-actuated approach works quickly and holds cans well-enough and the trigger model would be worth the extra expense (and can be sold after the job to recoup most of the expense via Craigslist or similar). but th final results for such a task are equivalent. Blow out is most likely laid at th feet of the installer, concrete or block rather than the fastener.
Pay attention to the Tapcon drill size - use the size that comes with or is called or on the box of fasteners.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

Having used powder actuated hammer shooter, I have to admit I liked it over drilling when there were more than a few nails to shoot. Check the balance on the one you buy if you go this route: My first was a cheapie and wasn't balanced for crap; next to impossible to hold steady on the mark for nailing on a vertical surface. After about ten shots I quit and went out to buy another one I'd looked at, now understanding why it "felt" better in the store. The handhold was balanced so it'd stay in place with only moderate pressure & not move off the mark.
If you decide to shoot: TEST first! Some concretes will turn to dust when they get hit with a powder nailer and they don't hold for shinola. It worked like a dream on a 12 x 25' shed for the footers, and to put a wall footer in my garage. But I tried it on a basement wall and woof! All it did was shoot out huge craters where the nail hit it, regardless of what grain size I used. And trust the charts for nail length.
If I didn't have the minor experience I have, I'd probabyl opt to drill but I've managed to ruin two good drills in my past lives because of the dust they create. If I have to drill now i wrap the tool in a few layers of cheesecloth with an air conditioner filter underneath to protect the innards. Sorry; I'm talking about electric corded drills here, not pneumatic impact types; those work pretty well too.
I'm particularly curious about how the trigger types work for powder shooting; never used one but looked at them. It almost seems to me that recoil would make them less useful, compared to the mass of a hammerhead behind the tool when you whack it.
HTH a little at least, maybe, sorta, uhh, somewhat,
Twayne
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<<<snip>>>

Actually, I was quite surprised at just how well my 160 pounds would take up the recoil from a power nailer...now I'm....ahhhh....let's just say that I'm somewhat MORE than 160 now and the tip of the nailer hardly moves when I fire.
One thing I notice when I see someone using the hammer fired ones is that first you have the rebound of the hammer itself, then the recoil of the nailer following it, makes for some bad mojo...I could be seeing things, too.
Mike
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On Mon, 14 Jan 2008 13:53:46 -0800 (PST), " snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com"

My experience is that the Tapcons will be a better solution because the powder drivers seem to chip out on concrete a lot, expecially if there is much aggregate in it. About the fourth time you end up with a large crater instead of a fastener in the concrete you start looking for something different. I've but the Tapcons into concrete that was, well, like concrete and some that was rather soft, but in either case they went in and worked pretty well, just make sure your holes are deep enough. DAMHIKT
I have always used the actual Tapcon drills with good success, both in a hammer drill and in a regular drill. You will wear out the bits, I think maybe one bit for every 20 holes in hard concrete.
-- "We need to make a sacrifice to the gods, find me a young virgin... oh, and bring something to kill"
Tim Douglass
http://www.DouglassClan.com
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On Jan 14, 3:53pm, " snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com"

For those who responded with hammer drill, I am not using a hammer drill ever again. I have a ROTARY HAMMER drill to use with the Tapcon screws. I hate that hammer drill. Have not tried the rotary hammer drill yet since this is its first project, maybe. But there is enough support for drilling I'll give it a try since I only need a $6 SDS 5/32" bit from Menards. I have some left over Tapcon screws. A few holes will likely tell me if I should continue or get the $70 Remington trigger powder gun at Menards. Thanks.
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I probably wouldn't do either. I've had tapcons that ended up stripping out in the concrete.....still plenty of holding power but still. I would use these: http://www.grainger.com/Grainger/wwg/guideBrowse.shtml It's what's used commercially and quite frankly, they work darn well in solid concrete for electrical boxes. Just be sure you're certain where you want the boxes cause they're a bit of a bugger to get out. Using a powder actuated gun seems dangerous to me....nothing like a misplaced fire to ruin your day. Cheers, cc
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I'll add my two cents...
First, you'll find that a rotary hammer is a HUGE improvement over the hammer drill. I have a hammer drill and 3 rotary hammers and I'll only use the hammer drill if the larger rotaries won't fit a small space. The roto hammer turns more slowly than a hammer drill while maintaining a steady and solid rate of percussion. A good quality bit should last for hundreds of holes (the hammer drill heats up the bit far more than a roto hammer and the heat degrades the carbide and brazing, causing the bits to fail).
If you're going to go the "shot" gun method, get the trigger/pistol style. I have both versions and I'll never use the hammer type again (for the reasons that other posters here have stated). Hold firm pressure against the gun and kickback is not a problem. BUT... do wear hearing protection 'cuz it's LOUD... and I always wear gloves with gel padded palms... 'cuz the kick to your hand can be wicked!)
I'd personally recommend the TapCons 'cuz they're easy to install with a nut driver and an impact tool and you can drive them with a fair amount of control, even with that dreaded hammer drill and a nut driver, if necessary.
I also agree with an earlier post about the vagaries of concrete. The powder actuated fasteners are good, but the walls won't be consistent in composition and you'll likely get spalling and fracturing on some holes. You can avoid that with the Tap Cons. If it were my project I'd snap a chalk line along the walls (assuming that the boxes will be at the same height) mark along the chalk line for all the holes and then drill all the holes. Follow up by fastening the fixtures with the Tap Cons. CAUTION: if you remove a Tap Con from a hole, discard it. Once they've been installed and removed they become weaker and the threads don't cut into the concrete as well. They almost always snap off when using them again IMHO.
Good luck.
Cheers
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Thanks for the chalk line idea for establishing the hole drilling height for the boxes. I used chalk lines on the ceiling joists to install the fluorescent fixtures but never thought about it for other uses.
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If you don't have a helper to hold one end of the line... drill a hole into the wall where your first box will be installed, run a Tap Con a couple of turns into the hole (or use a stick) and hook your chalk line onto that "third hand"!
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Why not just use the chalk line as a level line for attaching a band of 2x4 around the perimeter. You probably don't even need the band around the whole 150ft since there must be some areas that are not being electrified. Then you can just mount the boxes to the 2x4s.
Also, you can later use them to mount other things. And a nice wood banding around the shop might even look good!
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