Uh oh. I've used two other toggle bolts to hang plants using a swag hook in this 2 sq foot area of my ceiling, and it never occurred to me that I might actually hit a joist. The one inch gap between the joist itself and the drywall is big enough that the wood screw bolt doesn't extend far enough to attach the hook. So, can't use the toggle, but can't use the bolt provided because it's too short. Any ideas? Attaching photo of swag hook to illustrate. swag hook

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    you said there is a 1inch gap between the drywall and joist? is your ceiling floating? are you sure its a joist and not a pipe or hvac duct? One of the answer suggests drilling more, I'd highly recommend confirming that it's a wood joist you are hitting before drilling
    – Steven
    Mar 15, 2016 at 18:56
  • Thanks everyone! Especially for the tip about whether it's a joist--going to check that immediately. Does anyone know the best way to tell? I went out and bought a simple hook with a longer screw, screwed it in (didn't need a pilot hole), and spackled around the remaining space. I can definitely shine a flashlight but I don't know how much that will tell me and I don't know if I trust one finger and limited wiggle room to tell what the material is. This is a rental so I'm not sure whether it's a floating ceiling and I guarantee you that my landlords, who always play dumb (or are dumb?) when it
    – alma1
    Mar 17, 2016 at 16:50
  • the best bet is an inspection camera so you can positively identify the object. You can try a coat hanger to see if it "dings" when hitting it which would usually indicate a HVAC duct but possibly a copper pipe. If it is an ABS/PVC pipe then it will be hard to identify this way.
    – Steven
    Mar 17, 2016 at 18:12

5 Answers 5


Running your 1/2" bit into the joist a ways may give you the clearance you need to get the toggler to expand.

Otherwise, I'd drill a hole in the joist slightly smaller than the toggle bolt, run that bolt (without the toggle wings) into the hook, and thread the bolt directly into the wood. It'll hold as well as the drywall would have if you keep it snug.

If that's not suitable, your local hardware store may have a longer version of the other (dual-thread) bolt.

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    I would be very sure it's a wood joist you are hitting before drilling with a 1/2" bit. Drywall would usually be hung right against the joist and not floating, so if there is an inch or two of space between the ceiling and the obstacle, there's a good chance it's a pipe and not a joist.
    – Steven
    Mar 15, 2016 at 18:57
  • Good point. I meant to post a comment asking about that. Thanks.
    – isherwood
    Mar 15, 2016 at 19:26

Going into a joist is preferred. Your kit just doesn't supply the correct hardware for this particular situation. Make sure it's really a joist, then make a trip to the hardware store for the right thing.

Most likely you have struck a cross brace. An example is below, but typically on shorter joists. (this was the only existing SE pic I could find.)

cross brace


If you can access the ceiling from above (in the attic?), then you could use a piece of plywood in the gap. If the plywood is long or large enough to hit an obstruction, to keep it from spinning when you screw into it from underneath, then you will have something to screw into. If you don't have a large enough piece of plywood, but you have a friend, you could hold the wood from above while your helper screws the hook in. enter image description here


It sounds like you could use the toggle anchor with a shorter bolt. I know they're slightly different here in the UK but all the toggle bolts I've seen would allow me to simply cut the bolt down.

To cut the bolt, wind a nut onto it then use a hacksaw. File off any rough edges before winding the nut off again.


Getting a smaller toggle with shorter wings will likely get the wings to release, but you still need to shorten the toggle's bolt. With your toggle on the bolt & screwed down to where the closed toggle wings are a little further from the bolt's head than the thickness of the drywall...you want some slack.

Snap or cut (with wire cutters or pliers bending the offending bolt section back & forth) the bolt's length down to the toggle or slightly above of course. Then, also double the drywall hole diameter, nothing close to the hook base's diameter though.

This will allow you to just tilt the toggle away from or outside of the joist to let the toggle wings flare out. Once the wings are out then you can pull the bolt back down under the joist & screw the 1/4" or so right into the joist. I've had very little trouble getting that thin bolt screwed into a joist, even a full inch, those hooks are a pretty good handle.

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