Masonry Guns

I thought once I starting using my framing nail gun and air compressor that I was pretty much being as bad-ass as humanly possible while finishing a basement.

Then I asked around about how to fasten my wall securely to the concrete floor and discovered....  A Concrete Gun!

If you are framing a wall for a finished basement, and you need to secure it to the floor, the best way to do this, in my opinion, is to nail it to the concrete with a hammer actuated  masonry gun.  That's right, a gun, with gun powder!  Today I'll cover how and when to use this bad boy.

First off, you don't have to nail your wall into the concrete floor right away.  If you are just getting started learning how to frame a basement wall then its better to not nail them down until you are sure that the walls are built and positioned correctly.  The nails can be pulled out but it’s a lot of work and leaves holes in your concrete.

Framing a Wall Without Concrete Nails (temporarily)

box of powder charges for a masonry gun

Gun Powder Charges for a Masonry Gun

You have a couple of options for holding the wall in place without putting nails in the floor.

  1. Screw the top of the wall into the ceiling joists.     (I recommend using screws at first because if you mess up they are easier to take out.  Once you know what you're doing switch to the framing nail gun.)
  2. Use the downward pressure of the wall studs to hold the bottom plate in place.  You should be stick-building the wall and as such cutting your studs so that they need just a little nudge to get them into place and vertical.   In other words they should stand on their own, without nails, just by friction.

When I was framing my basement I framed in almost 2 or 3 rooms before I actually nailed down the bottom plate to the floor.  The friction method is actually extremely strong.  This also allowed me to make very minor plumb adjustments just by knocking the bottom plate with a small sledge hammer.

I had to redo a couple of my first walls because I just didn't know what I was doing at first.  You won't either, even if you read every book and watch every video on the topic.  Just building one small wall is the best way to learn.

Using a Hammer Actuated Masonry Gun

You will want ear protection if your going to use a masonry gun.  After all, it's a gun.  Anyone standing near you should also wear ear protection.  But other people in the house should be ok and neighbors should not really hear anything.   Using the gun is fairly straight forward.

  1. You put the nail in the end of the gun, the orange plastic thing on the nail is used to hold it in place vertically within the gun.
  2. You put the charge in the chamber (the little gold bullet that holds the gun powder).  Yes bullets!
  3. You position the gun in the middle of the board and press down so that the end of the barrel is flush to the board
  4. You hit the top of the gun with a hammer or pull the trigger depending on your gun type.   You don’t have to He-Man it but you don't want to Strawberry Shortcake it either.  Use a real hammer, not the rubber mallet.

That's it.  The nail easily goes through the wood and then into the concrete.  You'll want to put one nail between each set of studs.


There are three basic levels of charges that you can buy.  Each color indicates a different level of bullet "power" if you will.  The more explosive the charge the deeper the nail will go.  For most basements the "brown" charge is enough but some concrete is harder than others so if your nails aren't going all the way down, try the next level up.  Don't use to much power or the nail will go all the way through the wood.


Framing a basement-concrete-nails

Specialty nails for a Masonry Gun

You can't just put any regular nail into a masonry gun.  Well, you could, but I wouldn't, it is very dangerous if the nail were to break into pieces while you're driving it.  The masonry nails should be right next to or below the masonry guns at the hardware store.  The masonry guns are in the tool area, not the nuts and bolts isle where the framing guns are.

Nails come in several lengths and some have washers on them to hold better.  When framing a basement, with a standard 2x4 pressure treated bottom plate, the 3" nail should be sufficient.  I used the ones without the washer but I've seen it done both ways.

You should always wear safety glasses when working with tools but especially with this tool.   In fact, I put on safety glasses anytime I worked in the basement, just so I was used to always having them on my head. Just a reminder.

basement finishing jasonSo there you go guys, it's not that hard to do.  Don't be intimidated.  Once you do it a couple times you'll be a pro.  I actually think this was easier to learn than the framing nail gun.

Cheers - Jason

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Questions and Comments

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  1. Brandon says

    Note to readers: I've had both hammer and trigger models; spend a few more bucks for the trigger model!! You're welcome.

  2. Dan says

    Jason, What spacing do you recommend between the concrete nails when nailing the weather-proofed 2x4 to the concrete? Keep with the 16" spacing, or can you do something more like 24"? You recommend between 16" and 24" when blocking (on the ceiling). Thanks!

    • says

      Hi Dan - Personally, I like every 16", basically one nail per stud bay if you will. Several guys though, and they are probably right, like every 24" but always have 1 on the start and end of a wall.

      Hope that helps. - Jason

  3. Dan (a different one) says

    Hi, Jason. I know this post is about masonary guns, but I'm curious why you didn't go with something like concrete screws ("tapcon" or similar). In preparing for my own basement remodel, I'm hesitant to use charges near the outside wall where I've had some water issues and "perimeter patching". Most forums seem to agree that a either will work and it depends on your preference, but a hammer drill and a good impact driver (pneumatic or electric) will make short order of the fasteners and not be as likely to crack the concrete near sensitive areas as a charge might. I'm just not going to mention cut nails as I don't want to give myself a shoulder injury trying to use them :)


    • says

      Hey Dan - I think tapcon or a similar concrete screw would work just fine. It may take a bit longer to secure into the concrete but they will work fine. That being said, I've never heard of an issue with the charges and "sensitive" concrete areas. Short of the noise, which isn't too bad, you'll hardly notice the charge. I didn't experience a single instance of concrete cracking. - Jason

  4. Phill says

    I have an undeveloped basement with in floor heating (hydronics). I am afraid when I start framing walls that the concrete nail gun will puncture a tube. How deep arw the heating lines, and what precautions should I use when purchasing and installing the nails?

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