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Eye Lag Screws are not just for suspended ceilings

Eye lag screws have long been used in commercial construction to provide an economical and fast way to hang things over head. If you need to suspend something from a wood or sheet metal ceiling, you should consider the eye lag screw.

The acoustical suspended ceiling industry uses eye lag screws almost exclusively to hang ceiling wires. They are economical and can be installed quickly and safely from the floor. These screws can be used in many other overhead applications. Such as hanging lights, signs, electrical cable, data communications cable (CAT5 and CAT6), HVAC ducts, electrical conduit, electrical trapeze, shielded cable and telephone wire to name a few.

Description and load limits:

The eye of the screw is a 3/16” hole punched in the flattened area. The flat end is used to twist the screw in. Screws designed for wood applications are about three inches long and have about an inch and a half of coarse threads that taper to a sharp point; here is no need to pre-drill a pilot hole. Pull out strengths vary with penetration and wood strength, but are usually more than the strength of the ceiling wire (600 pounds). Screws designed for sheet metal are case hardened and zinc plated. They may have a sharp point (for thinner gauges) but usually have a drill point. Pull strength in sheet metal varies with metal thickness. Typically the thinner gauges (22 gauge) are allowed loads of 120 pounds. The thicker gauges (18 gauge) are allowed loads of around 240 pounds.

Methods of installation:

Telescoping pole tools are available that will reach a ceiling of up to 30’. These eye lag extension poles allow you to drive in an eye lag screw and “twist” off the ceiling wire from the ground. There are installation videos available on-line that demonstrate how easy these poles are to use. The LagMaster Plus is the most versatile of the eye lag poles available for this purpose, as it can also be used to hang threaded rod, jack chain and spring steel clips from the ground. In some areas like California, eye lag screws pre-wrapped to ceiling wire are available. These pre-wrapped screws are used to make installation of ceiling wire even faster and to satisfy code requirements for hospitals, jails and schools.

When you are up next to the ceiling, you can use a drill driver jig to twist in the screw. This is the method used when you only have a few screws to install. This would typically require a ladder, scissor lift or scaffolding.

In summary, eye lag screws are surprisingly strong and versatile, whether you’re fastening to a wooden joist or metal decking. While designed to suspend ceiling wire, they can be used to hang just about anything within weight specs.

Overhead Drilling in to Concrete

Drilling overhead into concrete can be grueling and exhausting work. It’s not surprising that several companies have come up with special machines and devices to keep the operator on the ground and to make this arduous job a little easier. One of the least expensive and most innovative of these tools is the Overhead Drill Machine (ODM).

All concrete anchors require holes. So if you want to attach a hanger or secure something to a concrete ceiling overhead, drilling into concrete is a fact of life. Traditional methods include climbing a ladder with a hammer drill, setting up scaffolding or renting a scissor lift. Fatigue and muscle strain from repeatedly drilling overhead can lead to injury to the neck, back and shoulders. Safety should always be a major concern when an operator is performing a strenuous and labor intensive job for long periods of time.

Several patents have been filed dating back to 1984 for machines like “overhead drill jig” and “Jig assembly for drilling vertically upward”. There was even a University of California study funded through national labor and safety grants. As a result, there are several machines being marketed. These machines are designed to drill holes from ¼” to ¾” in diameter for commercial building trades (fire sprinklers, HVAC, electrical, plumbing, suspended ceilings and data communications).

The most expensive of these tools comes with a special drill cradle, a mobile base, a winch system to push the drill against the ceiling and a vacuum system to reduce dust. There is one model that drills two holes at once, a set distance apart. These tools are bulky and require preparation and planning to set up. However, they definitely make the job less onerous. These tools retail from around $2,000 to $3,500.

A less expensive alternative places the hammer drill at the end of a telescoping pole, which is then lifted to the ceiling by hand or with a foot pedal. These tools were designed to fasten suspended ceiling wires to concrete ceilings in Canada on jobs where powder actuated tools are restricted. They have proven to be versatile and commercial grade, able to withstand the punishment of high volume jobs.

The most economical of the telescoping poles uses a ceiling probe to switch the hammer drill on and off. As the probe is depressed against the ceiling, it pushes the trigger of the hammer drill, thereby activating the trigger. This mechanism eliminates the need for a remote switch and allows the operator to hold the tool securely with both hands.

Beware of tools that do not place the hammer drill directly against the ceiling. Hammer drills are engineered to impact and rotate a carbide bit at a speed that drills a hole efficiently in hard concrete. When you put a long extension between the hammer drill and the ceiling, you lose efficiency and will eventually destroy the extension tool.