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I purchased a ceiling fan (this model) to install in my house's top-floor bedroom. I assumed that all I would need is a fan-rated retrofit brace and ceiling box (example) to replace the inevitable builder-grade box.

Once I got around to removing the existing ceiling box and peeking inside, things got a bit more interesting. Instead of attic joists and insulation, I found myself looking into an empty space, about 8 inches tall, with a second ceiling above it. My house underwent a full remodel under previous owners in 2005; I think they decided to install a second drop ceiling rather than deal with asbestos remediation in the existing popcorn ceiling. So my actual ceiling structure looks like this:

enter image description here Through my limited vantage point (sticking a cell phone into the box hole and peeking around), I can see thin metal beams running across the ceiling. The visible ceiling drywall is screwed to these beams. The beams are about 2 inches tall, and are not structural - I can push on them with my hand and feel a bit of flex. The old ceiling box was hung from these beams using a metal brace, and that was OK for a 10 lb cheap light fixture that was previously in place, but I don't think this is appropriate for a ceiling fan.

I am now wondering how to best go about installing appropriate support for the fan, without tearing up the visible ceiling or extensively messing with (presumably asbestos-laden) old popcorn ceiling. I found one product that is designed for a tiled drop ceiling that may also work here (link) - the idea being to go into the attic, nail a brace across two ceiling joists, and hang the box from that brace, while also expanding the side struts to make contact with the drywall support beams for lateral stability.

My questions are:

  1. Is this an appropriate product for my fan installation? Are there others I should look at?
  2. Any tips for actually installing something like this, and aligning the ceiling box, the hole I will need to make in the old ceiling, and the brace, and getting the box to be at the right height? I am concerned that the product I referenced assumes that for it to be adjusted to the installation site, a whole ceiling tile can be removed, creating lots of working space. I don't have that luxury - all I have is a drywall hole that is large enough for an octagonal box.

Many thanks!

  • That device seems great, but I'm not sure how you'd install it through a 3-4" hole. – Tester101 May 17 '17 at 11:43
  • Do you have access to the attic above? – Tester101 May 17 '17 at 11:44
  • I do have access to the attic above. I would prefer to minimize the amount of cutting of the (old) ceiling because of asbestos, but it is an option. I share the concern of not being sure how to actually make this device work through the hole - it would be a great option otherwise. – Inverseofverse May 17 '17 at 14:30
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I'm not sure how acceptable this is, but it should work.

enter image description here

  1. Install a brace in the attic between two joists (metal or wood should work).
  2. Do your best to drill a straight hole, right where you need it, up through the upper ceiling and the brace you put in place.
  3. Install the ceiling box brace between the metal drywall supports.
  4. Drill a hole through the brace and the junction box.
  5. Install threaded rod, nuts and washers as specified in the image.
  6. Attach the junction box to the to the threaded rod.

Getting this all lined up is going to be a bit of a challenge. You could drill a bit larger hole through the upper ceiling, to provide a bit of wiggle room. Just do your best to contain the dust, and make sure you wear a respirator. It's only going to be a little bit of asbestos, but it's still best to avoid breathing it.

The threaded rod should provide adequate support for the fan, and the brace should prevent any side to side movement introduced by the fan. You'll want to use a metal junction box, or any box that is designed to support a ceiling fan from a brace.

You might want to use some jam nuts and/or loctite, as well as bend over the top and bottom of the all thread or install cotter pins. Just so the vibrations don't loosen anything up, or cause the all thread to unthread.

WARNING: This is a hairbrained idea that was conceived before my morning coffee. Proceed at your own risk.


Another option might be to install the junction box in the upper ceiling, then hang the fan down through the lower ceiling with a downrod. However, you'll have to find a way to mitigate any side to side motion caused by the fan. A rubber grommet in the hole in the lower ceiling might work.

  • Just to add another caveat here: You might want to make sure you're using a heavy-duty fixture box (i.e. a Carlon Superblue) or a metal box. I'm not sure this can work with just a basic blue box, since you're going to need to box to support the weight in a non-standard way. – Machavity May 17 '17 at 12:37
  • @Machavity Good point. I just assumed a metal box was being used, as that's typically what's sold with the ceiling fan braces. I'll make a note in the answer. – Tester101 May 17 '17 at 12:41
  • I've considered an allthread-based option like you describe, but couldn't figure out how to make it work. The problem is in your step 4. The expanding brace I have, and all other designs I've seen, is based on a rod that is twisted to match size, and a box that hangs from it. It is not possible to drill a hole through the brace without hitting the expanding mechanism and breaking it. I could forgo the brace and suspend a metal box from the rod directly, but then I don't have any way to control the side movement. – Inverseofverse May 17 '17 at 14:34
  • W.r.t. option of install the junction box in the upper ceiling, then hang the fan down through the lower ceiling with a downrod" - I am similarly concerned with still not having a good mechanism to mitigate the side motion. I don't think I would be comfortable with a rubber grommet replacing solid bracing of some kind. – Inverseofverse May 17 '17 at 14:36
  • @Inverseofverse You might be able to offset the brace or the threaded rod, so that the threaded rod doesn't have to go through the brace rod. I'd keep the threaded rod centered in the box, and move the brace back or forward enough to not interfere with it. – Tester101 May 17 '17 at 23:43

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