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I’m replacing an older existing ceiling fan in our home hat was built in 1997, located in Corydon, Indiana. We’ve lived here for 4 years. When I removed the existing ceiling fan, I️ noticed there was no outlet box, the wiring is simply staples to the ceiling joist and the fan itself was screwed into the joist. I’ve replaced several ceiling fans but this is the first time I’ve come across an installation done this way without an outlet box. I am concerned this may not be code and may pose a safety concern. The wire can be pulled down 2-3 inches.

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    Fans require not just an outlet box, but a very special fan-rated box designed to cope with the vibration. You notice every cheap consumer grade ceiling fan wobbles? That. Look for a ceiling fan rating stamped on the inside of every box. Obviously the previous homeowner was fond of putting fans where they were not meant to be, so you may have others on non-fan-rated boxes. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Dec 16 '17 at 17:28
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Indeed this is a code violation and shows that some previous cowboy owner or DIYer installed it in an inappropriate manner.

To get this right you would have to install an electrical box rated for hanging a fan mounted in the ceiling. The box should have a built in or applied cable clamp to secure the wire.

If you have access to the attic area above this ceiling the best way I've used to secure the electrical box in place for hanging a fan or heavy lighting fixture is to cut several pieces of wood that span across the ceiling joists as shown in the picture below. The top piece is screwed to the upper side of the joists and the lower piece is screwed to the upper piece. The lower piece is typically part of a 2x4 ripped for width and sits on edge under the flat upper 2x4. After careful measurement and cutting the two pieces can be pre-assembled before installing over the electrical box hole.

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Add box, retain fan mount

The actual fan mounting scheme the installer used is actually OK -- a fan mounted directly to a joist is going absolutely nowhere. The problem, though, is the lack of a box to house the splices in, which is indeed a Code violation. I'd use an offset (single sided) saddle-style box in this case due to the proximity of the joist (image provided as an example only):

single sided saddle-style fan box

Note that with this style of box in your retrofit-type application, you may need to mount it off-center on the joist somewhat to allow it to "nestle" in under the existing fan mounting bracket.

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You could install a fan-rated pancake box.

What you would do is

  1. Mark along the drywall where you want the box to go, centering the middle holes over your joist
  2. Cut the drywall out
  3. Put a clamp on your wire and knock out one of the holes on the pancake. Attach the clamp to your pancake
  4. Attach the pancake to the joist
  5. Mount the fan to your pacake
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  • A pancake box would likely interfere with the existing fan mounting means, which is fine to leave as-is. – ThreePhaseEel Dec 17 '17 at 1:28

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