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Use of toggle bolts to mount ceiling lights
Old 07-02-2015, 11:01 AM   #1
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Use of toggle bolts to mount ceiling lights

I had some 4-foot 4-bulb fluorescent light fixtures installed in my garage which has a 1/2" drywall ceiling from the 1960s and holds a double garage door. The fixtures weigh ~25 lbs each and the bulbs add <2 lbs total. The contractor installed them using two 3/8" toggle bolts, one on each end of the light. The bolts are rated for 35 lbs each.

In hindsight, I should've had them screw the lights into the joists, but how likely is it that a light will fall down if I leave them with the toggles? In theory, I have a <30 lb fixture with 70 lbs of support, which seems like a reasonable safety margin. If the lights fall, they would hit the cars, which could shatter a windshield or dent a hood.
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Old 07-02-2015, 12:05 PM   #2
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I prefer going into the joists/studs whenever feasible.

Even then, I don't like the idea of relying on just two of anything for any significant weight. In the off-chance that one fails/loosens, the remaining one has to hold everything. With that one being at the end of a long light, I'm sure the leverage would pull it away (weight isn't everything, it is how it acts on the fastener).

I'd at least add another toggle at each end. If you have access to the space above the garage, drop a piece of plywood above the light, between the joists. Screw into that, and the force is spread out across the entire area of the plywood, not just that small area of the toggle.

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Old 07-02-2015, 12:19 PM   #3
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If the fixture is positioned across the joists (as opposed to inline with), you should be able to drill a 'custom' hole and screw through to the joists in a couple of strategic locations for extra safety.
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Old 07-02-2015, 12:20 PM   #4
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I don't trust drywall to hold much weight. I would not worry about the toggle bolts, but rather do worry the drywall that the bolts are using to hold the weight.

The fix is to use the studs, or put a crossmember between the studs to mount the fixture to using proper large screws, lag bolts or similar.
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Old 07-02-2015, 01:03 PM   #5
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Most fluorescent light fixtures should not be surface mounted to begin with. They should be hung from chains or threaded rod (or something along that line). This is for the heat dissipation. The ballast (or transformer if you wish) requires it, not the tubes. Being flush against any surface will reduce their life.
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Old 07-02-2015, 01:06 PM   #6
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If a stud crosses the line of your light installation you could poke a 1 1/2" drywall screw through the light into the stud. The sheet metal is very lightweight and easy to poke a screw through.
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Old 07-02-2015, 02:26 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by calmloki View Post
If a stud crosses the line of your light installation you could poke a 1 1/2" drywall screw through the light into the stud. The sheet metal is very lightweight and easy to poke a screw through.
We have a winner! I would drill a small pilot hole in the metal first, and then use a regular screw. But that's me. Same idea.

I took care of a church building where all the lights were held up with toggles as described by the OP. A few started getting loose and coming down. Why? Usually something innocent like banging it with a ladder. Other times, teenagers would jump and and give them a whack (teenagers do the craziest things).

We ended up doing just what calmolki described. Easy, fast and helps with security. The only downside is if they placed it completely between studs. I found this to be rare, in which case when it happened, we just lived with it.

(The lights were placed to look good and be equidistant, not to hit studs.)
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Old 07-02-2015, 06:55 PM   #8
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If the drywall got wet somehow the toggle bolt might pull right out. I'd add some additional attachments.
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Old 07-02-2015, 06:59 PM   #9
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I am thinking you must be mistaken on the weight of your light fixtures being a total weight of 27 pounds. Unless they are some very decorative designer style with ceramic and oak accents with a real heavy duty thick glass lens I bet they weigh less than 5 pounds. The sheet metal that the fixtures are manufactured with now days is so thin that it only has one side not to mention that the electronic ballast only weighs a few ounces. With that being said I would still like to have had at least one screw into a truss along with the toggle bolts. If you hired a professional you can only assume he knows what he is doing.
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Old 07-02-2015, 07:04 PM   #10
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... If you hired a professional you can only assume he knows what he is doing.
How can you assume that? Or did you mean that is your only choice, w/o researching it yourself?

I might assume that the professional thought "How can I do this quick and get paid and get on to the next job? Toggle bolts! Gonna need more than one, two it is!".

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Old 07-02-2015, 07:33 PM   #11
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Toggle bolts will hold the light, but I am more afraid of the drywall being pulled down. I've seen drywall ceilings pull away from joists due to their own weight.
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Old 07-02-2015, 07:48 PM   #12
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Toggle bolts will hold the light, but I am more afraid of the drywall being pulled down. I've seen drywall ceilings pull away from joists due to their own weight.
One thing might be to get drywall screws and secure the drywall to the joists better than the nails of the 1960s vintage. (Many may have somewhat popped by now).
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Old 07-02-2015, 08:11 PM   #13
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I am thinking you must be mistaken on the weight of your light fixtures being a total weight of 27 pounds. Unless they are some very decorative designer style with ceramic and oak accents with a real heavy duty thick glass lens I bet they weigh less than 5 pounds.
These are the fixtures I bought from HD, lists weight at 24.65 lbs. The bulbs add a nominal amount. I agree it seems high...

Lithonia Lighting Wrap 4-Light Flush Mounted White Multi-Volt Ballast Ceiling Light-LB 4 32 MVOLT 1/4 MVIS - The Home Depot
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Old 07-02-2015, 08:57 PM   #14
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How can you assume that? Or did you mean that is your only choice, w/o researching it yourself?

I might assume that the professional thought "How can I do this quick and get paid and get on to the next job? Toggle bolts! Gonna need more than one, two it is!".

-ERD50
What I mean as being a professional tradesman myself if I were to pick up a fixture that weighed 25 pounds I would definitely not use toggle bolts. I would have came up with another solution to support that kind of weight. However if I picked up a fixture that weighed roughly 8 pounds like the fixtures in question if all other anchoring options failed I may have used toggle bolts. Again I will assume that the OP hired a real electrician and not a handy man who knows something about wiring that has installed many light fixtures and cared about the quality of his work and figured that the toggle bolts would be sufficient. Not to mention that it will need to be inspected. Hopefully the inspector would catch sub standard workmanship.

I happen to have installed hundreds of these style fixtures over the years and they definitely do not weigh 25 pounds. Matter of fact I have some sitting on a pallet right now. They are packaged two to a box and I would guess that the two fixtures, the box and packaging contents weighs close to 16-18 pounds.
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Old 07-02-2015, 10:36 PM   #15
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What I mean as being a professional tradesman myself ... .
Ahhh, OK, I follow you now - yes a 'professional' trades-person (as in 'someone who knows what they are doing and takes pride in their work'), will certainly do it right. My point is that a 'professional' (someone who gets paid to do a job) isn't always that competent, and unless the homeowner knows something, they might not be able to tell the difference.

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Old 07-02-2015, 11:29 PM   #16
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If a stud crosses the line of your light installation you could poke a 1 1/2" drywall screw through the light into the stud. The sheet metal is very lightweight and easy to poke a screw through.
This will do it. I would add washers to prevent the drywall screws from pulling through the sheet metal.
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Old 07-03-2015, 12:02 AM   #17
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Yes, and fender washers would be best if there is room for them.
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Old 07-03-2015, 08:13 AM   #18
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...Not to mention that it will need to be inspected. Hopefully the inspector would catch sub standard workmanship.

...
Something this minor would need to be inspected & approved in some/many areas of the country? Because of running new circuit from the box, maybe?

Wow. Either I'm lucky to live in the places I've been, or have been blissfully unaware (whether DIY, or professional work) on all of my houses.
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Old 07-03-2015, 01:45 PM   #19
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Something this minor would need to be inspected & approved in some/many areas of the country? Because of running new circuit from the box, maybe?
There was already a circuit for ceiling lights, the old ones were just crappy and the wiring was all in external conduit.
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Old 07-03-2015, 01:48 PM   #20
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This. Before we had our roof replaced, we lost shingles during a storm and some of the garage ceiling drywall got soaked and had to be replaced. Fortunately nothing was hung from the damaged ceiling, but if it had been...fall down go boom.

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If the drywall got wet somehow the toggle bolt might pull right out. I'd add some additional attachments.
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