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Difference Between Headed and Unheaded Anchor Rods

Headed and Unheaded Anchor Rods

As an expert in construction and engineering, I often hear clients asking about anchor rods and the difference between headed and unheaded anchor rods. Anchor rods are essential for holding objects down and maintaining structure stability. Depending on the project, headed or unheaded anchor rods can provide optimal strength and stability. In this blog post, I will discuss the differences and what you need to know when designing and choosing the right anchor rod for your project.

What is Headed Anchor Rods?

Headed anchor rods (or dowel bars) are specially designed, pre-engineered steel rods to reinforce concrete pavement. They must be embedded in the base of a roadway to improve long-term performance and durability and increase the load support capacity. Headed anchor rods bridge any joint spaces between slabs, preventing horizontal movements that can result in cracking or shifting of concrete pavements.

What is Unheaded Anchor Rods?

Unheaded anchor rods are used in construction projects for a variety of purposes. They are pre-tensioned steel rods with an unthreaded end designed to provide secure anchorage into concrete. This is beneficial as it allows for accurate placement in the formwork before concrete pouring, reducing time spent on site correcting mistakes after the pour. Unheaded anchor rods also provide superior bond strength to traditional products due to their unique design, making them ideal for critical applications such as bridge joints and post-tensioning systems.

Difference Between Headed and Unheaded Anchor Rods

Definition and Purpose:

Headed anchor rods have a forged collar on the end, providing improved support compared to normal threaded rods. They are usually used in heavy-duty applications such as bridge construction, crane rails, and structural steel. On the other hand, unheaded anchors are threaded rods without a forged collar. They support light to medium-duty equipment such as HVAC units, piping, and signs.


Headed anchor rods are usually designed to be embedded into the concrete with the collar up, which provides greater stability and strength. At the same time, it offers higher ductility in the event of an earthquake or other forces that cause movement. On the other hand, unheaded anchor rods can be installed in various ways, depending on the specific project’s load requirements. For example, they can be cast into the concrete, attached to the supported object, or mounted on a separate base plate.


When it comes to installation, headed anchor rods usually require additional clear spacing to allow for adequate headroom for tightening the rod after it is set in place. This means the embedment depth is typically deeper than unheaded anchor rods. Moreover, special care is needed when installing headed anchor rods since the forged collar can easily be damaged or distorted, making using a nut, washer, or plate difficult. Installing an unheaded anchor rod is generally easier because there is no head collar to account for or position above the concrete.

Load Capacity:

Headed anchor rods are known for their high-tension capacity, durability, and ability to withstand extremely high loads, making them ideal for high-stress applications. They have a higher ultimate load capacity than their unheaded counterparts, and their lateral load capacity is also higher. Unheaded anchor rods are designed for less stress and can carry less load. They have a smaller diameter and are typically used in lighter-load applications.


The cost of headed anchor rods is higher than unheaded anchor rods because of their added strength features and higher load capacity. Moreover, head anchor rods can be more time-consuming and complex because of their added requirements when it comes to installation costs. On the other hand, unheaded anchor rods are relatively simpler to install, and their lower load capacity directly correlates to their lower cost.


In conclusion, the choice between headed and unheaded anchor rods depends on the application needs of the project. Headed anchor rods are ideal for heavy-duty applications and offer greater durability and a higher load capacity than unheaded anchor rods. Unheaded anchor rods are cost-effective and designed for less stress, making them ideal for lighter-load applications. As always, I recommend choosing a licensed engineer or construction professional to evaluate the project’s specific needs and make recommendations for anchor rods.

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