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My new home is almost done being built, and one of the extras I asked for was for two of the rooms to have junction boxes in the ceiling suitable for hanging a ceiling fan in the future.

The light fixtures haven't been installed yet so I can see inside the junction boxes but can't really distinguish between the braced boxes and the regular boxes. The attic is extremely limited access so I want to avoid crawling around up there to look for a brace.

Is there a quick or easy way to distinguish between a junction box that is able to carry the weight of a ceiling fan safely versus one that is not? I could just take their word for it but they haven't had a very reliable track record so far when it comes to following through with my requests even when they tell me they will do it.

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

If the box was installed recently in accordance with National Electrical Code (NEC), the box should be labeled if it's rated to support a ceiling fan.

NEC 2008
314.27 Outlet Boxes.
(D) Boxes at Ceiling-Suspended (Paddle) Fan Outlets. Outlet boxes or outlet box systems used as the sole support of a ceiling-suspended (paddle) fan shall be listed, shall be marked by their manufacturer as suitable for this purpose, and shall not support ceiling-suspended (paddle) fans that weigh more than 32 kg (70 lb). For outlet boxes or outlet box systems designed to support ceiling-suspended (paddle) fans that weigh more than 16 kg (35 lb), the required marking shall include the maximum weight to be supported.

If it's not labeled, the box is still required to support at least 50 lbs.

314.27 Outlet Boxes.
(A) Boxes at Luminaire Outlets. Boxes used at luminaire or lampholder outlets in a ceiling shall be designed for the purpose and shall be required to support a luminaire weighing a minimum of 23 kg (50 lb). Boxes used at luminaire or lampholder outlets in a wall shall be designed for the purpose and shall be marked to indicate the maximum weight of the luminaire that is permitted to be supported by the box in the wall, if other than 23 kg (50 lb). At every outlet used exclusively for lighting, the box shall be designed or installed so that a luminaire may be attached.

If the box was installed before this code was adopted; or in an area that does not follow NEC, you'll likely have to cut/drill some exploratory holes to determine if the box is properly braced.

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I am in the United States so yes the NEC applies. I also doubt that the ceiling fans I purchased are more than 50lbs. Thanks for your help! –  maple_shaft Nov 28 '12 at 15:24
    
Just a note. In the quoted text (and throughout NEC) "outlet" is not the same as "receptacle". –  Tester101 Nov 28 '12 at 15:31
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@maple_shaft The brace on a ceiling fan box is to deal with vibration and oscillation from the fan; just because your fan is lighter than 50lb doesn't mean you can safely use it in a regular box –  Niall C. Nov 28 '12 at 16:18
    
@NiallC. Of course... I will have to check and see what was installed and report back –  maple_shaft Nov 28 '12 at 16:55
    
@maple_shaft: What did they install in the end? –  unforgettableid Apr 17 '13 at 20:56
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