I'm installing a track light on the ceiling. The ceiling is old plaster (~1945)

The fixtures come with what I can tell are self-drilling anchors.

Is it a good idea to use these anchors on plaster ceiling, or should I use something else?

The weight load on each anchor should be fairly low (1-2 lbs is my best guess) so I suppose I could use any plastic-sleeve anchors, predrill the holes, and it should do minimal damage to plaster.

ceiling fixture with anchor

  • 1
    Do you know how the plaster is supported? Lathe, expanded metal? These were common ways in the 40’s I love those EZ self drilling anchors on Sheetrock but find on lath sometimes they push the wood not drilling so well and expanded metal they usually won’t go through. I have found pre drilling and molly or toggle bolts the best option with plaster even light loads like you have.
    – Ed Beal
    Mar 25, 2021 at 14:34
  • I'm not sure about this exact part of the ceiling. On the walls, plaster sits on wood lathe. On the ceiling it is on some sort of pre-manufactured gypsum board with holes Mar 25, 2021 at 14:55
  • Note that when you install track lights most of the weight should be firmly screwed into the box. The other screw points are just to hold the arms close to ceiling.
    – DMoore
    Mar 25, 2021 at 15:25
  • I have installed tracks that the box was attached to the ceiling the wiring snapped into the box that was attached to the ceiling and a cover snapped over that when the track was plugged in. Other types are made to mate to a ceiling 3” light fixture box or other similar method if we don’t know the style it is hard to say what is required.
    – Ed Beal
    Mar 25, 2021 at 19:32

3 Answers 3


Since the structure is known to have lath on the walls I would not use self drilling bits they do have problems with lath or I have experienced problems with lath.

the gypsum ceiling that is over coated the self drilling work about as well as a drill bit. Many thought Sheetrock because it was less expensive was an inferior method so a skim coat was overlaid so it looked like plaster and some wanted the stucco look until the housing boom at the end of WW2. The coating may look like plaster but may be Sheetrock mud with sand (very common on the west coast). In any case these anchors work well on the ceilings where plaster or gypsum was used. If you hit a joist back off and use a screw.

On the walls I would use pre drilled molly bolts or toggle bolts.

Plaster is not hard but some skim coats of stucco are. Very few remodels I have done actually had stucco skim coats over plaster but a few did.


This will most likely not work because you won't be able to get this to screw into the plaster. That stuff is HARD. I use masonry drill bits in my house, and they go dull after just a few holes drilled.

You will probably be OK using wall anchors as far as the anchor holding your light, but I would go with a different style instead, like the expanding plug, or toggle bolt type.


I wouldn’t use self drilling drywall anchors if I didn’t know what I was drilling into. If it’s lath and plaster, or fiberboard or hardboard (you said there are holes???), you’ll run into problems. Use a tiny drill to drill a pilot hole. Be slow and gentle so you can feel what you're drilling into. If you hit a wood lath or a joist, screw a sufficiently long screw directly into the pilot hole and through the lath or into the joist. That (getting a good bite on a wood lath) will be at least as strong as a drywall anchor in drywall.

If you don’t hit a wood lath (you go between them, or the ceiling is not a lath and plaster ceiling) then drill the hole larger and use a good plastic anchor that’s not specific to drywall.

Re toggle bolts -- I also don't like those when I don't know what I'm drilling into. If you drill between laths and there is an excess of plaster pushed up that gap, you'll end up with a mess.

  • Drilling with a drill bit it doesn’t make much difference if the bit Is tiny as that is not a size, to me a 1/4” might be tiny and that is large enough for the smallest size toggles I have used many are 3/8 or 1/2” but that is irrelevant a toggle will work with lath, expanded metal, Sheetrock, stucco, and fiber board. The op said gypsum board that was coated a toggle would be a great product here.
    – Ed Beal
    Mar 25, 2021 at 19:27

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.