Editor’s note: This article originally ran in 2008. We’ve come a long way in terms of quality pictures since then, but the information is still useful for tackling this project.
Ever since we moved to this house, Kim and I have been longing for a master bedroom ceiling fan. In our first home, we had a Hampton Bay fan hanging over the foot of our bed. We grew accustomed to having the white noise & gentle air circulation usher us to sleep each night. Since our new home didn’t come with this feature, we’ve had a floor fan running almost every night. It’s not a perfect substitute for a ceiling fan, but it works.
You can imagine our delight when Home Depot contacted us and asked us to pick out and review a ceiling fan from the hundreds they offer. We’d love to jump right into a review, but the reality is we had to follow a few steps to get this fan installed. So, this is the first in a series of three or four articles on ceiling fan installation that wll conclude with that review. After you’re done here, you might check out Home Depot’s YouTube video on installing and replacing a ceiling fan. Home Depot regularly publishes YouTube videos on common household projects. If you like what you read here, you might consider subscribing to their YouTube feed.
The Environment for Our Installation
In our current home, our master bedroom is on the top floor and has attic access. The room had no overhead lighting. In fact, nearly every room in our home has a wall switch wired to a nearby receptacle, a common cost-savings strategy builders use to avoid paying for light fixtures. Since we wanted that switch to control our fan and future overheads lights, we had to rewire the switch to control the overhead fan. This article focuses on the first step of installing a ceiling fan in a room that didn’t previously have a fan: installing a ceiling fan electric box strong enough to hold the fan.
Selecting a Ceiling Fan Eletrical Box System
There are two types of ceiling fan mount kits: those designed to mount directly to the side of a joist, and those designed to be suspended between joists. Our attic consists of a 2×4 truss system with each truss spaced 24 inches on center (a common attic setup). Without measuring to find the center of the room in advance, we knew the odds were good that the fan box would need to sit between two joists. If the center of the room happened to fall on a joist, we could move the box 2 inches off that joist without creating a visual detractor in the room. So, we opted to buy a mount system designed to suspend between two joists. (This later proved a good decision, the center of the room is between two joists).
We chose the Westinghouse Saf-T-Brace for its promise of simple, quick installation, and relatively inexpensive price ($14.95 from the local HD). When suspended between joists 24 inches on center, the Saf-T-Brace is rated to hold 50 lbs. This correlated to the minimum strength required by the ceiling fan we picked. (At 16 inches, the rating increases to 150 lbs. If we wanted to hang a heavier fan, we would have simply added some blocking to the joists.)
The Saf-T-Brace turned out to be an extremely well-engineered system. You can see in the picture below the brace consists of a square metal shaft with a corkscrew-style expansion bar. Each end of the Saf-T-Bar has a triangular plastic piece that sits on the overhead drywall to ensure proper vertical spacing. The ends terminate with a circular metal component with spikes that dig into the joists on both ends. The result: a brace between the joists strong enough to support a fan.
How to Install a Ceiling Fan Box Between Joists
Here’s the simple steps we followed to install the ceiling mount box. Note that these instructions are not a replacement for the ones that come with the Saf-T-Bar. Always follow manufacturers’ instructions when performing home improvement projects.
- Step 1: Measure to find the center of the room and mark the center point with a pencil.
- Step 2: Use a stud finder to ensure that no joist is close to the center point, and that two joists will be reachable by the Saf-T-Bar within a 24″ span.
- Step 3: Hold the metal ceiling fan box that comes with the Saf-T-Bar to the ceiling, centered on the pencil mark. Trace the ceiling box with a pencil so that the ceiling box shape is on the ceiling.
- Step 4: Use a drywall saw to pierce and cut out the shape of the box in the ceiling.
- Step 5: Move any insulation impeding your access to the joists on either side of the mounting box. This may be easier to do from the attic-side depending on the type of insulation. (Note, the Saf-T-Bar claims that one doesn’t need attic access for the installation, but we think its much easier if you have the access to go ahead and use it).
- Step 6: Push the Saf-T-Bar into the ceiling and start unscrewing the cork screw to expand the shaft. Ensure that the Saf-T-Bar stays centered over your access hole while unscrewing the shaft. Keep unscrewing the shaft until a strong bond is reached between the ends of the shaft and the nearby joists.
- Step 7: Place the U-shaped bracket over the rectangular section of the shaft and screw the mounting box to U-shaped bracket.
- Step 8: Remove one of the punch-outs on the box and run electric into the box (note: a wire holding insert for the punch-out is included).
- Step 9: Replace the insulation and continue the installation from the room below.
What do you think? Have you installed a ceiling mount box in your home? Leave a message here and let us know your experience.