Side Mount Ceiling Fan Box

Ceiling Fan Box for Side Mount to Joist

Dear Mr. Electrician:  How to install a side mount ceiling fan box to replace a plastic side mount electrical box?

Answer:  A side mount ceiling fan box can be easily installed after removing the existing plastic box.

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REMOVE THE EXISTING CEILING BOX

Turn the power off.  An existing plastic ceiling electrical box must be removed carefully to not damage the wires inside or outside the box.  Do not cut any wires.

Separate the wires and straighten them.  Tape the ends with electrical tape.  If there are multiple wires in the box, label them with numbers or colors so that you know how to reconnect them together.  Take a picture before taking anything apart.

Try to cut out the internal cable clamps on the plastic ceiling box to make it easier to remove the wires.  Some plastic boxes break apart easier than others.

I have found that the brown-colored plastic boxes break apart easily when pliers or Channellock’s are applied.

The blue plastic boxes take more time to remove because the PVC plastic doesn’t snap apart; it must be cut.  I use my Knipex high leverage diagonal pliers for this.

I can also use my Knipex diagonals to cut the nails that fasten the existing ceiling box to the side of the ceiling joist.  I also have small pry bars and large screwdrivers to pry electrical boxes away from their mounting surface.

Once the old ceiling electrical box is out, I check the slack on the existing electrical cable.  Most of the time, the cable does not have much length.  However, I found that I can usually gain a few extra inches by removing the nearest cable staple inside the ceiling.

Knipex diagonal pliers work well for staple removal by grabbing the edge of the staple and leveraging it out.  Cutting the staple is also an option, but you must be careful not to nick the cable.

INSTALLING A SIDE MOUNT FAN BOX

When the old plastic ceiling electrical box is out of the ceiling, a new side-mount fan box can be installed.

The Westinghouse model 01240 side mount fan box consists of two pieces.  One is a bracket that gets attached to the side of the joist.  The other is the fan-rated electrical box that attaches to the bracket using some included anti-vibration nuts.

The support bracket for a Westinghouse side mount ceiling fan box installed in an existing hole
The support bracket for a Westinghouse side mount ceiling fan box installed in an existing hole.

The bracket is installed first after separation from the box in the factory packaging.  I put the bracket in the ceiling and marked the holes with a pencil.  Then I use my awl to start the holes for the screws at the best angle for screwing from below the ceiling.

In some older homes with old-growth wood construction, I have had to drill tiny pilot holes for the screws after using my awl.

An impact driver or a drill, with a hex or Philips bit and a bit extension holder, is used to drive the screws into the wood joist.  The screws are too long to be driven in by hand.

A ceiling fan mounting bracket attached to a ceiling-installed side mount fan box
A ceiling fan mounting bracket is attached to a ceiling-installed side mount fan box.

With the plastic cable connector installed in the fan box, the wires can be brought into the box as it is positioned.

I use a nut driver to tighten the nylon insert anti-vibration nuts onto the bracket attached to the side of the joist.

Arlington Industries Steel ONE-BOX™ (Model FBS1423) is a side mount ceiling fan box that can be easily retrofitted into an existing ceiling
Arlington Industries Steel ONE-BOX™ (Model FBS1423) is a side mount ceiling fan box that can be easily retrofitted into an existing ceiling

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There are also PVC plastic ceiling fan side mount boxes that are good for retrofitting.  They do not have the same weight load ratings as some metal boxes.

A plastic side mount fan box with the screws ready for mounting
A plastic side mount fan box with the screws ready for mounting

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