Ceiling Fans Installation — What To Look Out For

Ceiling Fans Installation - What To Look Out For

Ceiling Fans Installation — What To Look Out For

The Revelation

Now that you searched the crowded aisles of the home improvement store for the perfect fan that suits your style, dcor and pocketbook bought it and brought it home. It is only then, after you open the box and start to read the installation instructions do you realize that this simple take down the old light fixture and replace it with the ceiling fan has now become a home renovation project! You had not envisioned this happening after all you planned on basking in the cooling breeze of your ceiling fan sooner than later. You have just become another victim of the ugly truth about ceiling fans!

Installing the fan is the easy part. All of the ceiling fan manufacturers have worked hard to make your experience easy and pleasant. What they shy away from is the ceiling box retrofit which is essential for safety reasons. When your house was first built if the builder or electrician knew that a ceiling fan was going to be installed in your home they would have used a fan-rated ceiling box. This is required by most building codes across the country. In particular NEC (314.27D & 422.18), these building codes apply to the installation of ceiling fans and fan-rated ceiling boxes. But how could they, marketing data suggests that approximately 70% of all ceiling fans are being installed by the homeowner within 2 years of occupying their home and were not originally installed by the builder.


Here you are and all you have is an ordinary ceiling box, they are only rated for a 35 pound hanging load on average and are not fan-rated. Fan-rated boxes are capable of holding 70 pound loads and are rated for dynamic load applications. Your options at this point are fast dwindling away. You could close the box and take it back to the store for a refund, or you could hire an electrician to replace the ceiling box and hang the fan? You could remove and replace or reinforce the ceiling box yourself though the options available are few and the results are easier said than done! Either way this simple project has now turned into a major task that you had not bargained for.

One option you do not want to do is hang the fan on the existing ceiling box without reinforcing or replacing it unless you are absolutely certain it is a fan-rated box! This is dangerous and can lead to serious injury to you or others, DO NOT consider this option for even one second! The instructions will show you a cross section of a ceiling box. Most of them show a metal ceiling box and all you have to do is run screws up through the ceiling box into blocking above the box. This may be true for older construction homes but not for newer construction homes! The ceiling and outlet box has been under going changes for the last 10 years and allow the electrician to rapidly install this component. Many of the ceiling box manufacturers today make them from plastics since it is easy and inexpensive for them and the builder. They also afford the electrician labor savings since he does not have to ground the ceiling box which the metal type requires.


Most of the newer construction homes have plastic ceiling boxes installed, they are simply nailed or screwed against a joist or truss and dont have any blocking above them, since this would be a waste of materials and labor. So you have several options at this point the first is to place blocking above the ceiling box. If this is an upper floor the roof is probably above you so you can go into the attic and find the ceiling box and reinforce it. In many circumstance though the average home does not have an attic this is especially true of newer homes. They only have a narrow crawl space between the trusses.

This combined with blow-in insulation makes the location of the ceiling box difficult if not impossible when a fan is to be hung on an upper floor. One trick you can use is to take a small dowel or rod about 3 feet long and slide it against the drywall and ceiling box up into the attic space. When you go up into the attic or crawl space you can see where the ceiling box is since the dowel will be poking up like a flag pole.

For installation of a ceiling fan between floors leaves little choice for this task since it cannot be accessed easily from above or below the ceiling since the upper floor is directly above the ceiling box. Cutting a hole in the floor or knocking out the ceiling is not prudent just to place blocking above a ceiling box. Medallions are available but the added expense, labor and time can be prohibitive, especially if the medallion is painted to match the ceiling. You might decide to knock out the drywall anyway around the ceiling box. If you do just replace the box with a fan-rated ceiling box and be done with it.

Repair the drywall after replacing the box which is available at your local home center or hardware store. Matching the ceiling texture and paint will require time, talent and expertise, so be prepared! The brace type of products that are sold today are an alternative though they work better in theory than in practice as the old ceiling box needs to be removed before they can be installed. Home Depot has a web page devoted to this process which they claim can take a day to complete. This is less than the other methods and may be worth considering.

A Simpler Solution

Following the trend in the construction methods of todays homes has led to the development of a new and simple method to reinforce an existing ceiling box to that of a fan-rated box that is consumer friendly.

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