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Knock out the old box and install a fan brace

Shut off the power at the main panel and remove th

Shut off the power at the main panel and remove the light fixture. Knock the existing electrical box free of the framing with a hammer and a block of wood, then pull the electrical cable free of the old box and through the ceiling hole. Leave the old ceiling fan junction box in the ceiling cavity unless you can easily remove it through the hole.

Tip: Before you blast out the box, bend back the plastic clamps or loosen the metal cable clamps so it’ll be easier to pull the electrical cable free after the box is loosened.

Supplies Needed

Before installing a ceiling fan, you must shut off the circuit breakers supplying power to any fixtures or outlets you’ll be working with. You should also fully unpack your fan kit and read the included installation guide. Verify that all the parts are included, and gather the other tools you’ll need, which may include:

  • Electric drill
  • Pliers
  • Crescent wrench
  • Wire cutters
  • Screwdriver
  • Ladder
  • Drywall saw
  • Safety goggles

STEP 3: Mount the ceiling fan brace bar

Insert the ceiling fan brace bar into the ceiling hole. Position the ceiling brace box so it is centered above the hole and perpendicular to the ceiling joists. Next, twist the outer bar until it locks into the foot. Continue turning until the foot is fastened. Next, turn the inner bar to secure the other foot.

If you are renovating the room and are lucky enough to have open framing, there is the option to use lumber and a ceiling fan box instead of a brace bar with an attached box. Measure the distance between the ceiling joists, and then cut a 2-inch-by-8-inch piece of framing lumber to span the distance. Secure the wood block with three 3-inch deck screws to each joist. Then secure the ceiling fan box to the block using the recommended fasteners from the ceiling box manufacturer.

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How to Install a Ceiling Fan

1. Remove the Existing Light Fixture

  • Make sure electricity to circuit is turned off and carefully remove the glass shade or globe from the old light fixture.
  • Unscrew the retaining nut or screws that hold the fixture to the ceiling.
  • Lower the fixture and disconnect the wires by twisting off the plastic connectors from the ends of the wires.

2. Remove Box and Cut New Hole

  • Remove the old electrical box from the ceiling. If it’s nailed to a joist, pry it free with a flat bar. If it’s suspended from a bar, you may have to take off a metal plate to unscrew the box; then pry the bar from the joists.
  • Hold a 1/2-inch-thick pancake box against the ceiling, centered on a joist, and trace around it with a pencil.
  • Cut along the line with a drywall saw.

Tip: Hold a vacuum cleaner wand next to the saw to catch the dust.

3. Attach New Electrical Box

  • Feed the electrical cable coming from the ceiling through the knockout hole in the pancake box. (Be sure there’s a cable connector attached to the knockout hole.)
  • Set the box into the hole cut through the ceiling and press it tight against the underside of the joist.
  • Attach the box to the joist with the two 1 1/2-inch No. 10 hex-head screws provided. Drive in the screws with a drill/driver equipped with a 5/16-inch nut-driver tip.
  • Wrap the cable’s bare copper wire around the grounding screw inside the box. Allow the wire end to hang down.

4. Glue on the Ceiling Medallion

  • Apply a small bead of urethane-based adhesive to the back of the ceiling medallion.
  • Pass the wires through the medallion (above).
  • Center the medallion on the pancake box and press. Fasten it with four 6d finishing nails driven into the joist.
  • Set the nailheads and fill with caulk or spackle.

5. Mount the Ceiling Plate

  • Hold the fan’s metal ceiling plate up to the pancake box and pull the wires through its center hole.
  • Attach the ceiling plate to the box with two 1 1/2-inch-long 10-32 machine screws.

Tip: If you’re going to paint the medallion, do it before installing the ceiling plate.

6. Assemble the Fan Components

  • With the fan on the floor, feed the wires coming from the motor through the center of the canopy. Set the canopy on top of the motor.
  • Next, pass the wires through the hollow down-rod pipe.
  • Thread the down-rod pipe into the top of the motor. Use a wrench to tighten the square-head locking screw on the side of the pipe.

Tip: The pipe’s threads have a factory-applied coating. Don’t remove this coating; it keeps the pipe from unscrewing.

7. Make the Wire Connections

  • Hook one side of the canopy onto the ceiling plate.
  • Using twist-on wire connectors, join the two green wires to the bare copper wire coming from the cable. (If your room is wired differently from the one shown here, consult a licensed electrician.)
  • Join the two white wires.
  • Then connect the two black wires.
  • Swing the fan up into position against the medallion and secure it with the two canopy screws.

8. Attach the Blades and Lights

  • Attach each fan blade to a blade iron (the bracket that holds the blade to the fan). Then, fasten the blade irons to the motor with the screws provided.
  • Plug the fan’s light-fixture housing into the wire hanging from the underside of the fan’s motor.
  • Install the shades and lightbulbs.
  • Screw the plastic holder for the remote control to the wall beside the wall switch.

STEP 1: Select a ceiling fan that suits the size of the room

Photo: istockphoto.com

When choosing a fan, note the size of your room. The blades need to be at least 18 to 24 inches away from all walls, a minimum of 7 feet from the floor, and 10 inches from the ceiling. Use the following figures as a guide to selecting the right size ceiling fan for your space:

  • 36-inch fan if the room is less than 144 square feet
  • 42-inch fan if the room is between 144 and 225 square feet
  • 52-inch fan if the room is more than 225 square feet

Our researched guide to the best ceiling fans offers terrific fan options at a variety of price points. After selecting the fan, select a ceiling box that’s approved for fans. Boxes for overhead lights are not strong enough to support the weight of a fan; your best bet is to choose a metal box that can support a fan’s weight. If you have access from an attic above or have open ceiling framing, you can add framing between joists to attach the box. If not, use a brace bar. A brace bar can be screwed into the joists, and the ceiling box and fan will hang from the newly added support.

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Install the ceiling fan box

You need a ceiling fan rated electrical box before you install a ceiling fan. Ceiling fan rated boxes are built and tested to ensure they’ll support the weight and vibration of a ceiling fan. You need to make sure the ceiling fan box you get can support 70 pounds. If you’re not comfortable installing the ceiling fan box yourself, hire a licensed, professional electrician.

You need to ensure the ceiling fan rated box is securely installed to the structure. It could be installed with a box that comes with a bracket that hangs between the joists, or it could be a box that’s installed into a brace that’s placed in between the joists. There are multiple options to hanging a ceiling fan box depending on the inside of your ceiling, so we highly recommend consulting with a certified, professional electrician.

Ceiling fan rated box
Ceiling fan rated box

Installing a New Electrical Box

If access is possible above the ceiling where the box is located, it is a simple job to replace the current box with one rated for ceiling fans.

  1. Remove any existing light fixture just as if you were going to replace it with a new light, and push any wires back into the attic.
  2. From the attic side, remove the box from the rafter or joist it is nailed to, and replace it with a new box designed for a ceiling fan.
  3. Push the wires back into the new box and connect them as they were, leaving the same wires that went to the light fixture free for use with the fan.
  4. If access to the box is not possible through the attic, the box still needs to be replaced but it is a little more complex. The old box must still be removed by either breaking it apart with a screwdriver and hammer or prying it away from the ceiling joist, leaving any wires above the ceiling. Special boxes are available for mounting through a hole in the ceiling; they have expandable bars that will reach out to the joist on either side of the hole and by turning a nut on the bar will be pressed against and into the adjacent joists.
  5. Alternatively, a joist can be located and a hole cut directly over the joist. There's a second type of specialty electrical box is available that will fit over the joist.
  6. In either case, the wire is pushed into the new box. If the hole for the original lightbox is left open it needs to be right beside the new box, and a ceiling fan medallion that will cover the hole purchased and installed above the fan.

Metal box mounted on the ridge of a covered patio for installation of an outdoor ceiling fan.

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Finding the Mounting Position When Installing aCeilingFan

When installing a ceiling fan, you must mount it to a metal junction or outlet box. This must be securely attached to the ceiling joist, either directly or via a secure cross brace. The box and whatever is supporting it must be capable of handling a ceiling fan in motion. There are several choices for this, including solutions for new construction and “old work” (existing installations):

For new construction, you simply attach your choice of fan box to a vertically-positioned 2×4 which braces between two ceiling joists. Conveniently, both thick and thin boxes are available, though you should ensure that all exposed wiring stays within the box and ceiling fan canopy. For existing installations, if you don’t already have an adequate mounting electrical box, you can use an expanding metal ceiling fan hanger bar. Some of these are meant to be inserted from below and expanded once they are positioned between the joists.

Be sure to measure your fan mounting position well if you are doing new construction. There’s nothing worse than mounting a fan and realizing it is off-center after the installation is complete!

Note: For detailed wiring examples and options, please see our article on wiring a ceiling fan, which details several different ways to make the necessary electrical connections in a variety of situations you may encounter.

Connect the switch

Check and reset (if necessary) the code toggles on

Check and reset (if necessary) the code toggles on the wall-mounted electronic switch to match the ones on the receiver. Remove the existing wall switch and connect the two black wires on the new switch to the ones that were connected to the old switch with wire connectors. Screw the switch into the box and install the cover plate.

New electronic controls save you from running additional ceiling fan wiring

Since most fan installations are retrofits into existing electrical boxes, there’s usually a single electrical cable connecting the fixture to a single wall switch. You can leave the switch and use it to turn the fan on and off, then use the pull chains on the fan to control fan speed and lights. A second option is to install electronic controls. Higher-quality fans give you the option of adding a radio receiver kit. The receiver accepts signals from a special wall switch (included in the kit) to control the fan and light separately without additional wiring. The receiver also accepts signals from a handheld remote, so you can operate multiple fans and fine-tune fan speed and light intensity from your La-Z-Boy. Electronic switches are matched to fans by flipping code toggles in the controls and the fan, just like with your garage door opener. Installing an electronic switch (Photo 12) is a snap. The receiver drops right into the fan housing and plugs into the bottom of the motor.

If the old light is fed by two three-way switches instead of a single switch, the control options are a little more complicated. You have three choices:

  1. Leave the existing switches in place and turn one of them on. Then use a remote control to control the fan and lights.
  2. Use the existing switches and control the fan and lights independently with pull chains.
  3. Disable one of the three-way switches and rewire the other one to receive a wall-mounted electronic control. Sorting out all the wires is complex. You’ll need an electrician’s help for this.

Buying a Ceiling Fan

If you haven't walked under a large fan display ye

If you haven’t walked under a large fan display yet, hold onto your hat. You’ll be overwhelmed by the selection of colors, styles and accessories, especially if you visit a ceiling fan store. If you intend to use your fan regularly, invest in a high quality model. You’ll get a quieter, more efficient, more durable unit. If you spend beyond that amount, you’re usually paying for light packages, radio-actuated remote and wall controls, style, and design (fancier motor castings, inlays, blade adornments or glasswork). If you spend less, you’re likely to get a less efficient, less durable, noisier unit with fewer color, blade and electronic choices.

Choose the blade diameter that best suits the room visually and make sure the unit will fit under the ceiling without jeopardizing beehive hairdos. Bigger rooms call for wider fan blade diameters. The bigger fan will not only look better but also move more air.

Most ceiling fans are designed for heated, enclosed spaces. If you’re putting a fan in a screen room, a gazebo or other damp area, the building code requires you to use a “damp-rated” fan. These fans have corrosion-resistant stainless steel or plastic parts that can stand up to high humidity and condensation. If you live in a coastal area with corrosive sea air, or if you’re putting a fan in a particularly wet environment like a greenhouse or an enclosed pool area, you should choose a “wet-rated” fan.

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