I'm replacing a wall-mounted light fixture in my 1983 condo and as I was unmounting the fixture I noticed it was a little loose.

I checked out the electrical box and it's a bit loose. You can slightly rotate it. I think actually there are just nails holding the box to the wall. I scraped the paint off them and they look like big metal nail heads. See red circles in this pic:

Electrical box closeup

I did see this post but I don't think it's one of those riveted boxes. I have two studs on either side and then interestingly the stud finder shows something thick running vertically underneath where the box is, maybe 3 or 4" across, see this pic:

enter image description here

Can I just pull these nails out and replace with lags or "wall dogs" or similar? Or what should I do to ensure this fixture is secure?

  • 5
    Can use the other holes for screws and leave the nails in place.
    – crip659
    Commented Dec 24, 2023 at 21:46
  • Thanks @crip659 good suggestion but I started thinking I'd to rotate the box like 20° CCW so the cross bar runs vertically (just works better for the fixture I'm installing). Maybe I'll just try pulling the nails and remount the box using screws. Commented Dec 24, 2023 at 23:19
  • 3
    Pulling nails from boxes is not fun. If the nails are in the wood good, most nail pullers can damage the box. Grinding the head off might be easier and/or have a replacement box handy.
    – crip659
    Commented Dec 24, 2023 at 23:31
  • Swivel crossbar is a lot less trouble than pulling nails in my opinion. amazon.com/Canomo-Universal-Crossbar-Cross-Shaped-Lighting/dp/… Commented Dec 24, 2023 at 23:50
  • Thanks crip659 and AloysiusDefenestrate I'll take both your comments under advisement and good to know about swivel crossbars Commented Dec 25, 2023 at 0:09

2 Answers 2


All you need to do is install one more fastener (i.e. screw), and the box will rotate no more, and be adequately secure for any reasonably sized fixture. So if you have any solid backing behind any of the numerous holes in the box, you're all set.

The box is missing any sort of clamp/bushing on the incoming cable, which is required. You can probably find a 5-pack of little plastic snap-in cable clamps, to fit the knock-out hole in your box, at any of the big box "home improvement" stores.

There are light fixture crossbars that have rotating parts to allow mounting the fixture at any angle.


If the box is a little loose, what's the harm? But if you wanted to tighten it, you could tap on the nail heads with a nail set or any suitable rod.

Alternatively you could wipe some epoxy or other glue around and under the nail heads.

Assuming of course that the nails are not loose in the wood.

Your Answer

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

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