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All Sorts of Things Can Hang from the Ceiling – But Carefully

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By Bill Primavera

Bill Primavera
Bill Primavera

As a realtor, I always make special note of lighting fixtures and other objects hanging from the ceiling when showing homes. I have a couple of good stories to explain why.

The essence of the first incident may get lost in translation when cleaned up, but I am assured first hand that it’s true. A woman who owned a condo locally was in bed for the very first time with a new boyfriend when suddenly the ceiling fan/light fixture disengaged from its mooring and plunged down, hitting the poor fellow squarely in the backside at a critical moment.

Within that same year, the couple, then married, were having dinner one evening when suddenly the chandelier in the dining room plummeted to the center of the table, again hitting the woman’s husband, this time grazing the side of his head.

What are the chances? In the case of the bedroom ceiling fan, the action of the fan had loosened the screws that held it to its box. With the dining room chandelier, it seems that the holding box itself was defective.

By this time, the couple decided it was time to buy a single-family house – and the one they selected didn’t offer a single chandelier.

My wife Margaret and I have had our own little experience with falling missiles from the ceiling when her parents had their 50th wedding anniversary. It affected us for the rest of our lives. We were in the ballroom of a famous hotel in Cape Cod and Margaret was seated on a raised dais with the family. Without warning, a large, recessed high hat almost directly above her head plunged down and landed on the table between her and her uncle with a horrible, ear-splitting crash. It certainly put a damper on the evening.

Ever since then, wherever we go together, we look above and see if we would be sitting under any kind of fixture. If we are, we either move if we can or make a little mental notation just in case we have to make a dash for it. It’s neurotic, I know. Or is it?

For the less threatening creative things that we can hang from our ceilings at home, make sure that you’re securing them correctly.

To hang things properly, here are the basic rules.

The first rule of thumb is to always check your walls and ceiling for electrical wires or pipes that can be damaged by drilling and cost you thousands in repairs.

There are two basic types of mechanisms to secure objects safely to a ceiling or wall. One is a plaster anchor, which is an insert designed for hanging objects from walls, either plaster or drywall, by using pressure to keep the screw in place. To install, you simply drill a hole into the wall, based on the size of the anchor, and push the anchor into the hole. Next, you take a screw and drill it into the hole in the anchor, allowing it to protrude slightly to hang your desired object. Plastic anchors are effective because they expand once inside the wall and hold everything in place with pressure.

A toggle/snap bolt is used to hang objects from plaster/drywall safely using pressure. The bolt works by having two spring-loaded arms that go onto the screw. After drilling a hole where you want the bolt to go, you slide it in. Once inside, the arms will spring open and allow you to pull on the screw. You then take a screwdriver or drill gun and tighten the bolt until it locks in place.

Once you have a secure anchor, the sky’s the limit in how creatively you can approach hanging art. Typically we go for lighting fixtures or plants, tapestries, mobiles or stabiles. Another idea is to take panels of stained glass and hang them in front of windows. Or how about a statuary, perhaps supported by more than one wire?

One of the most creative minds I’ve ever encountered planned an entire restaurant dining room – tables and chairs – that hung from the ceiling because of a very uneven brick floor.

Ever since I read the story of the famous architect Stanford White who installed a red velvet swing from his ceiling for the amusement of his mistress Evelyn Nesbit Thaw, I harbored the thought of designing a room interior with a red velvet swing as its central theme. That’s where my wife has put her foot down – and not particularly delicately.

Bill Primavera, while a publicist and journalist, is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. ( To take advantage of these dual areas of expertise, you can engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale.  Just call 914-522-2076.

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