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I removed a fluorescent light fixture from kitchen but I'm not sure the work box will support a real light fixture. The work box is round and plastic. The fluorescent light wasn't even held up by the work box, it was attached directly to the ceiling.

I've installed light fixtures before to metal work boxes and its usually replacing another light fixture attached to the work box, so I know they can handle it. For this one I'm just not sure.

Here are pictures of the work box in question:

Pic 1

Pic 2

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The box itself can handle it. The REAL question is, "What is the box attached to?" Is it attached to a stud or just floating in the sheetrock? – ShoeMaker Apr 14 '13 at 12:13
up vote 4 down vote accepted

These type of boxes usually have 1 or 2 screws going through the bottom into a steel bar that spans between ceiling joists.

I think you are correct that this box is not properly supported.

If you have access from above, you can put a support (2x lumber) across to each joist and then screw through the box into the support.

Options from below only would involve removing the existing box and using one of several replacement boxes. Removing the existing box will involve turning off the power and prying the electrical cable loose from its strain relief. From the looks of the box, it should pull down. Fixture weight will determine which one to use.

The heaviest duty box is one rated for ceiling fans. It uses expandable threaded supports that wedge against the joists side to side. This box would be rated up to 50lbs.

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An old work round plastic box has three retractable wings that clamp the box against the drywall. This box is suitable for lighter fixtures, perhaps up to 10lbs. It is very dependant on intact and unbroken drywall for best performance.

enter image description here

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Yeah I think I'm just going to go with a semi-flush light fixture, those are fairly light. – A. Z. Apr 13 '13 at 3:46
be sure to pickup a template if you get the 3 wing version, it needs small clearance holes (1/2") for the wings – HerrBag Apr 13 '13 at 3:54

All ceiling boxes are required to support at least 50 pounds (NEC 314.27(A)), so you can assume the box will be able to support a simple light fixture. Boxes that are designed to support ceiling fans must be labeled as such, and must have a label listing the weight it can support if over 35 pounds (NEC 314.27(D)).

If you look at the box you have, you'll notice a flat bit within the box.

enter image description here

This is designed to sit against a framing member, so the box is likely attached to the member with nails. Your box probably looks something like this...

enter image description here

As others have mentioned, the holes in the back of the box can be used to attach the box to a support. In your box you'll notice these holes are empty, which means the box is not attached to a bracket.

enter image description here


This box should have no trouble supporting a normal light fixture, up to about 50 pounds. It should not be used to support a ceiling fan.

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Maybe I am being too simple. I see holes in the back of your metal work box. Use those.

Go to attic, measure the distance between joists, cut a 2x4 to fit across, screw box in to 2x4, then screw 2x4 into joists. At least three screws to each joist. You could do pull-ups from the light and it only cost 50 cents!

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This is on the ceiling of the first floor of a two story house, makes things more complicated. – A. Z. Apr 14 '13 at 0:28

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