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An attic view from above the ceiling of an installed fan brace and fan box with a Romex cable entering the rear of the box.

Repairing or Replacing a Ceiling Light Electrical Box

Dear Mr. Electrician: How do I repair a ceiling electrical box?  I removed the hanging ceiling light fixture in my kitchen and found that the ceiling light electrical box appears to be very loose.  Since my new light fixture weighs 18 pounds (double the old fixture) I am nervous about replacing it.  The existing ceiling light electrical box seems to be mounted on one side to a joist or something, which I cannot see.  Any suggestions? Answer: If it is a metal box, you may be able to strengthen its support by drilling a couple of screws through the side of the box and into the joist.  The box may have been originally installed using nails into the side of the joist.  They could have pulled out a little.  NOTE: Text links below go to applicable products on Amazon.com Repairing a Loose Ceiling Electrical Box Turn the power off to this circuit.  Remove the fixture mounting bracket by taking out the 8-32 screws holding it in.  Without disconnecting the wires that are inside of the ceiling light electrical box, pull them down and away from the sides of the box. Drill 2 or 3 holes using a 1/4" or 3/16" drill bit through the side of the box close to the ceiling joist.  DO NOT drill into the joist.  Screw some #10 or #12 long sheet metal screws with fender washers through the holes into the joist. I'm not sure what screw length you will need but you want to have at least 1" of screw in the wood.  Probably 1 1/2" or 2" screws would work.  I recommend using hex head or Phillips pan head screws and a drill or impact driver to drive the screws in. If the existing ceiling box is plastic and it appears broken, replacement is your only option.  Use an old work ceiling fan box and brace for replacement. Ceiling Fan Box Installation The alternative to the above repair is to remove the box entirely and install a ceiling fan brace and box which will provide plenty of support.  Since the box is loose already, you may be able to pry it away from the joist completely using a small pry bar or a very large screwdriver. Before you begin to remove the existing ceiling light electrical box, you must tag the wires so that they can be reconnected together properly.  You can use colored electrical tape or labels with numbers for this.  You must undo any electrical wire splices and then loosen the clamps or remove the locknuts on connectors and remove them from the box.  Next, twist the box around until you are able to pull it through the existing hole without doing too much damage to the ceiling.  Buy a fan brace and box kit for retrofit and follow the instructions for installation. There is a side mount fan box and bracket available in addition to a fan brace that expands between joists.  If the joist is right at the edge of the ceiling hole, I suggest the side mount...