How to Install a Ceiling Fan Box
Ceiling fans are heavy and they vibrate. A fan installed on a standard ceiling fixture box could come loose and perhaps crash to the floor.
The first step in adding a ceiling fan is to inspect the existing electrical box. Shut off power to the circuit. Test to confirm that the power is off and remove the existing ceiling fixture.
Most building codes require ceiling fans to be mounted on special fan-rated boxes, which are made of metal or strong plastic and have deep-threaded holes for the mounting screws. The box must be mounted firmly, either by attaching it directly to a framing member or by using a fan-rated brace.
Replacing a ceiling box is a messy job. Work carefully to avoid cutting through wires hidden in the ceiling. We'll show you how to do it all in our careful steps below.
What You Need
- Pry bar
- Utility knife
- Wrench or groove-joint pliers
- Perhaps a reciprocating saw
- Fan-rated box
- Box brace
Removing the Old Box
Step 1: Loosen Box
Use a knife (not a saw) to cut through the drywall or plaster around the old box. The box is probably attached to a joist with screws or two horizontally driven nails. Force the box loose by hammering a 2X4 into it.
Step 2: Pry Box
Insert a flat pry bar between the box and the joist. Pry the box away from the joist. You may need to pry out a staple anchoring the cable to the joist. Work carefully to avoid unnecessary damage to the ceiling.
Step 3: Remove Box and Cable
Pry out the box's mounting nails and pull the box down from the ceiling. Disconnect the cable from the box. The box shown has a slot that the cable slides through; pry the tab and pull the cable out. If the box has a cable clamp, remove the locknut.
Installing a New Box
Step 1: Install Brace
To install a braced box, slip the brace through the hole. Rotate the shaft of the brace clockwise until it touches a joist on either side and its legs rest on top of the drywall or plaster.
Step 2: Tighten Brace and Bolt
Tighten the brace with a wrench or groove-joint pliers. Attach the U-bolt to the brace and slide the box up through it. Tighten the nuts.
Installing a New Box from Above
If you can get at the attic space above the ceiling box, go there to disconnect the old box. Install a braced box.
Screw the Fan Bracket to a Ceiling Joist
Here's an option that eliminates the need for a new box. Screw the fan's mounting bracket directly to a nearby joist. The plate will be off-center, so you may need a medallion to cover the hole.
Older pancake boxes mount with screws driven into a framing member. Remove the screws and pry out the box.
Removing a Stubborn Box
If a box is too firmly mounted to be knocked free, cut a hole into the ceiling just large enough so you can see the mounting nails and the cable. Carefully cut through the nails with a reciprocating saw.
Available Fan Boxes
If a strong framing member is positioned directly above the box's hole, a pancake fan box or a box with a joist bracket through its center may be the easiest to install.