Replacing a regular fixture with a ceiling fan: change the box?

We want to replace one of our fixtures with a ceiling fan. Despite the impending April Fool’s holiday, we figure we’d rather not decapitate our guests—which means supporting the fan with more than the stock wiring box that’s in there.

We have something like this, a brace that expands between two joists to secure itself and hold the weight of a fan.

Before I start pulling things down, it hit me—how am I going to get the existing box out? The cut-out for the ceiling drywall is pretty tight to the box (it’s between floors so there’s no access from above), so if the nails holding the box in are on the box’s wings (or whatever they’re called) or otherwise inaccessible, I’m in for a heap of trouble. Or do I just go at it with a cat’s paw, attach a medallion to cover the mess and be done with it?

Any experience with this? A technique or trick I should be aware of?

Aren’t you going to have to open up a decent-sized hole in the ceiling anyhow, in order to put the new box in place, expand the brace to go between the joists and fasten it in place (nails or screws)? That should provide plenty of space to remove the old box. I’ve had to remove old nailed-on metal boxes before - even with minimal room to work you can usually locate the nails holding it to the framing and use a hacksaw or Sawzall to cut the nails flush against the wood and then the box is free.

Obviously be sure the power is off and the wiring moved safely out of the way of the blade before doing this :slight_smile:

Anyhow, you can make a nice square cut in the drywall, going to the middle of the joists. Remove the old box, install and wire the new box and then patch the hole.

Patching a big regular hole in drywall isn’t too hard - cut a patch to fit, fasten it to the framing (that’s why you cut the hole so it’s on the centerline of the joists) and tape. You can find video and whatnot showing this, here’s one link giving the basics:

Are you sure the current box isn’t fan rated?

All the ceilings have an obnoxious patterned finish to them. Not popcorn or stucco-like, but some swirly bullshit that makes it all but impossible to simply patch (can you tell this is an issue with me?). So cutting and patching is pretty much out if it comes to that.
Fiddling around with the brace it’s actually kind of easy to slide it in a pre-existing hole; just push it through at an angle then turn it horizontal. If I could pull the box from above or be sure it’ll come out easily, I should be able to install it with minimal fuss or expansion of the hole. It sounds, though, like it should be doable—if worst comes to worst, the cat’s paw will give me some room to work and either the Sawzall or a multisaw will get me a flush surface without the box attached.
ETA: the only way I know of to tell whether the current box is fan rated is to follow the C&H methodof hanging larger and larger items from it until it collapses, then rebuilding to that maximum. Or could it be marked or otherwise obvious once I take down the existing fixture?

you will need a bigger hole than the 4" one there now to put in that brace. with the current box mounted to the joist you will have to move the box position over a bit anyway because the box can’t mount as close to the joist, with that brace as it can now.

those braces just barely work. it will also depend on the installation quality and the nature of your joists.

my style is to mount wood or metal mounting that is screwed or nailed into the joists. you would need an opening between the joist to insert the mounting material and enough opening to screw/nail at each end. then patch and paint.

if the current box is nailed in the you can pry it from the wood with a bar.

this was slowly entered before #4.

duplicate the swirly bullshit in small areas the a butter knife, putty knife, spoon. put some drywall compound on a board and practice.

I think this just went from I-should-ask to I’m-glad-I-asked. Probably obvious to the experienced, but I totally blanked on the idea that the new box wouldn’t be directly centred on the old one—meaning the fan would be off centre to the rest of the kitchenette.

Also, how does one judge the ‘quality and nature’ of joists?

Do they make fan-mountable ceiling boxes that can attach flush to a joist (similar to what I’m imagining are there now?

If hiding the hole/patch is an issue, take a look at this article from “This Old House” - it uses a box that screws directly to the bottom edge of the joist (so only a couple of inches from the existing box) and a big decorative cover plate called a “medallion” which hides the hole left when you take out the old box. Sounds like this would be ideal for your needs.

with that brace your box position would be about an inch or two away from the joist, compared to right against it now. if you put in a wood/metal screwed/nailed-in mounting the box could be in the same position.

the brace you showed seems to be the expanding kind that has teeth to bite into the wood of the joists for holding (not good enough for my taste). the joists have to be soft enough for the teeth to dig into deeply, you also need to expand it enough to do this blindly.

a fan box needs to be back mounted to be sturdy enough.

a fan box may be marked so that you could read it from the inside. a fan box with have the mounting ears for the fan unit be much thicker than the bent over ones of an ordinary ceiling box, the mounting ears will also use a larger machine screw than the ordinary ceiling box.

See my previous post r.e. flush-mounting a fan box. Short answer is “yes”.

I don’t know if there’s a hard-and-fast rule for determining the quality of the joists but you can look when you take the old box out and unless the wood is obviously rotten, wet or your ceiling is sagging I wouldn’t be concerned.

You can buy or make a wide escutcheon to cover a large hole if needed. But a lot of ceiling boxes are strong enough to hold a fan anyway, you may not have to do anything.

In the US, is it standard for ceiling lights to be earthed? When I had my fans fitted, I discovered that the wiring was done before it became ‘code’ for them to be earthed. I then had the whole house rewired.

My fans are surface mounted with screws through the ceiling board into a joist. All the connections needed to complete the circuit for fan and lights (fully earthed), are inside the mounting. There is even a clever hook to hang the fan on while wiring it up.

Yes on the grounding (earthing).

Per the link I posted it looks like you can screw a shallow box to the bottom of the joist right through the sheetrock. Good to know since my wife is agitating for ceiling fans in some rooms!

causing some turbulence then?

Things are both heated and unbalanced.

a ground conductor should be in the wiring everywhere for current new wiring.

old two wire ungrounded can continue to be used as is if it is in good condition.

if you come in contact with the fan housing while switching it or doing jumping jacks then the fan housing should be grounded.

I am with Johnpost on this one. Ceiling fans should be back mounted to blocking securely fastened between joists. A surface mount box may be strong enough but can be a real hassle to hang a fan on. Octagon boxes are usually only fastened on the side with a couple of screws, you can wiggle a box like this with your hands.

A kitchen fixture may already be strong enough; often they have to hold a chandelier or heavy pendant. See if the box has any flex in it, give it a good twist with your hand. You are way heavier than a ceiling fan. Check things out with a good studfinder, find out what blocking etc is there.

If you have to open things up retrofitting a large medalion as suggested by others is a good solution to hide the mess.

If you really hate the ceiling texture you may find that getting it retectured is less hassle than you think. It comes down to how easy it is to take off the old texture.

A fan is not connected to the electrical box by the ears on the side of the box, they are not strong enough to hold the weight and thrust. The screws to the ears are only 8/32. A fan box should have bolts going through the box, putting the force on the back of the box.

Putting up the bracket in a between floor space may be a little more difficult. Will you have the height to slide it into the hole before expanding it? If you can slide it into place and expand it. Make sure that you have expanded it enough to have plenty of force on the rafters. Despite what has been posted the box can be mounted close to the rafter, the limit is the foot of the brace’s thickness. Put the thicker end over the box hole.

I have several fans mounted this way.