I need to hang a light fixture from my ceiling some distance away from its electrical box. The fixture weighs less than 10 lbs and my ceiling is made of drywall.

I'm generally comfortable using drywall anchors for shear loads on vertical walls, but I'm unsure about how much weight the various designs of wall anchors can handle for pull loads. I've done some internet searches but haven't found anything definite.

Can someone tell me how much pull-force the various common designs of wall anchors can handle?

EDIT: To clarify what I am trying to do, see picture below. It's not my light, but it illustrates the concept.

enter image description here

  • 2
    Your ceiling contains structure in the form of roof trusses or floor joists, can you not try to attach to one of them?
    – Alaska Man
    Nov 30, 2018 at 23:56
  • @Alaskaman not necessarily. The location of the fixture is determined to line up with features of the room - i.e. to center it over a table. It's not likely to be right on a joist.
    – rothloup
    Dec 1, 2018 at 0:20
  • how strong is the paper on the back of your drywall ceiling? - it's just the glue on that holding your ceiling up. I wouldn't trust wall anchors with anything heavier than a smoke detector. what's above your ceiling?
    – Jasen
    Dec 1, 2018 at 4:03
  • OK if asthetics are the paramount concern then you could go to the time and expense of adding structure in the space.
    – Alaska Man
    Dec 1, 2018 at 4:17
  • Also how big is the hole we can make in the ceiling that won't show once the light is fixed.
    – Jasen
    Dec 1, 2018 at 4:40

3 Answers 3


I would only trust a toggle bolt type anchor in a ceiling or overhead application, even if the manufacturer's information shows an auger or plastic expansion type anchor is strong enough. With augers or plastic anchors, if the hole is just a little sloppy, the holding power is dramatically reduced.

The table below shows that even the smallest toggle in the thinnest drywall has a tension rating of 115 pounds, so at the recommended safety factor of 4x, it can support almost 29 pounds.

I would locate the nearest joists with a stud finder, just to see if there's one that's close enough to the spot; if not, I'd use a 3/16" or 1/4" toggle. I'd recommend a Strap-Toggle, Snaptoggle or similar, they are quite a bit easier to work with than traditional toggles, especially overhead.

snaptoggletoggle bolt table

  • +1 for these modern "zip" (or "snap") toggles. A big benefit is you don't have to worry about the toggle clip falling down inside your wall if you need to temporarily remove the screw for whatever reason. Oct 29, 2019 at 0:52
  • As well, another miscellaneous benefit of these toggles: if doing precise mounting of floating cabinets or artwork, you may only get one shot at making accurate holes. Ultimately drill holes are never 100%, and if you need to 'massage' an installed toggle, let's say 1/16th, in a certain direction, just carve out a tiny amount of drywall around the toggle's plastic barrel (use a drill and tiny bit). The hole does get looser of course, but the mounting strength won't be affected much as the strength comes from the large toggle catching a large amount of drywall on the inside. Oct 29, 2019 at 0:52

Virtually all light fixtures are meant to be installed over an electrical box. Trying to remote the light fixture from an existing electrical box implies that you are intending to snake a mains power cable from the electrical box over to the light. To do this properly and in the safest manner possible you need to add an additional electrical box at the target light location.

Such electrical box needs to be secured properly to the ceiling joist structure so that it can properly support the lighting unit. It is out of scope to be thinking that you would mount said electrical box with drywall anchors or toggle bolts.

You may have an alternative if your lighting fixture came with a hanging swag chain that has a flexible lamp cord strung through the chain. These can be wired into the existing electrical box with appropriate cover and hook. The chain can then be draped over one or two swag chain hooks to the desired location where the light will hang down. It is best if the final swag hook can be screwed up into a ceiling joist or other blocking provided in the ceiling framing structure. However if the swag equipped lighting fixture is not very heavy it may be permissible to mount that swag hook with a large size toggle type fastener. The closer that you can locate the toggle fastener to an existing joist where the drywall is screwed into place the better.

  • 1
    I am picturing a pendant type plug in light. Dec 1, 2018 at 12:49
  • Your third paragraph is precisely what I was trying to describe. I added a picture to clarify. Thanks, I'll look for a toggle bolt.
    – rothloup
    Dec 1, 2018 at 16:42

You could cut a small hole and then feed though and screw a ceiling flange to the underside of the floor above, then use a rod coupler to attach a hook bolt and escutcheon (that covers the hole) to the hanger, probably overkill in this application. but may be useful for heavier loads

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