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At least your house isn't haunted; chandelier chain just slid off the hook

QuestionThree nights ago we were awakened at 3:25 a.m. by terrible crashing noises from our living room. At first we thought it was an intruder. Our chandelier was swinging back and forth in about a 5-foot arc, dropping off many of the hanging glass rectangles.

We searched the house, but everything was locked from the inside and there was no sign anyone had been in the house. The roof over the chandelier is an A-frame, about 16 feet high, and the chandelier hangs about 7 feet from the floor. I called the police and the radio stations to see if an earthquake had occurred, but no one could find any mention of one. None of the neighbors had so much as a book or picture out of place, as is common in an earthquake, and neither did we, so why did the chandelier do this in the first place and how can I make sure it does not happen again?

AnswerThanks so much for the detailed photos and our phone conversations. I'm sorry to see such a beautiful chandelier bite the dust, but it looks like it could be repaired or rebuilt. Contact the manufacturer directly (if you know who made it) to see if they have any spare parts. You may need to search eBay to see if someone has the same chandelier as yours for sale.

One of your photos was quite interesting: it shows where the chandelier hung from the cathedral ceiling in the entryway. It appears that the chandelier was not in the center of the entryway, which led me to believe that it was originally in a swag installation to center it in the area below.

The close-up of the fixture's cover plate (trim) shows it being pulled away from the ceiling-mounted electrical box. This means that the chandelier was too heavy to be hung from the electrical box or the swag hook bent or broke.

Since you found the chandelier swinging, it appears that the chain slid or fell off the swag hook, causing the chandelier to go for the ride of its life. It's surprising that the sheer weight of the chandelier didn't pull the guts from the electrical box or open a link or two on the chain (most swag chain links are not welded). When we talked, you confirmed that there was indeed a swag hook fastened to the ridge beam and that it had bent, causing the chain to slide off.

Swag hooks are cast metal, which (in most cases) will break under heavy loads or bend to the side during installation. I have never seen one bend downward. Swag hooks have weight restrictions depending on their sizes: a 1 1/2-inch hook can safely carry a 45-pound load and a 2 1/4-inch hook can safely carry up to 70 pounds when fastened directly into solid material and only 30 pounds if fastened into drywall.

In your case, you had a complete tear-off of the roof earlier this year. Because your home has a cathedral ceiling design, the activity on the roof caused direct vibrations to the chandelier. This vibration probably put enough stress on the swag hook to cause it to slowly bend with time and weight.

If I were in your shoes, I would not re-hang the chandelier with a swag hook. Instead, I suggest you consider installing a clothesline hook. It is a 5/16-inch steel hook attached to a steel plate with holes in each of the four corners to accept screws. You can pre-paint the hook and screws to match the beam, and at a height of 16 feet, no one will really see the hook when looking straight up. Knowing that this hook carries a safe load of 125 pounds, you can rest assured your chandelier will stay put.

The damage to the fixture's cover plate suggests that the crossbar that holds the cover plate secure to the electrical box and supports the chain and chandelier is also damaged. Do not straighten the crossbar; instead, replace it with a new one.

Good luck on putting your chandelier back together!

Copyright © 2005, 2006, & 2007 LAF/C.R.S., Inc. All rights reserved.
Question answered by Leon A. Frechette.

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