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In the course of doing some other work, I came across this poor installation of a ceiling fan. This was done when my house was originally wired by "professional" electricians, and presumably inspected under some version of the NEC, while being constructed in North Carolina in 1987-88.

enter image description here

As you can see, they simply lag-screwed the fan to the ceiling framing (a piece of 2x8 between two joists). The fan canopy trim (removed for photo) encapsulated the wiring from underneath, but above it was directly exposed to the wood and virtually in contact with it. A 14/3 cable was passed through a hole in the 2x8.

Obviously this is an egregious code violation and I must install a fan-rated ceiling box. But I'm not sure how to connect the fan to the box. Its mounting system is very different than the usual ball-and-socket system I've see in recent years. A pin between two brackets (sticking up from the fan housing) holds a rubber bushing of sorts. A u-bolt type thing (kinda like an upside-down "omega") wraps under that bushing and is lagged to the wood.

I could:

  1. Just screw the u-bolt into the fan box as usual, except the spacing between the lag screws is 2-1/2" which won't match holes on any fan box of which I'm aware (probably will use Raco #295 "pancake" box).

  2. Remove the fan, screw the box to the wood, and then re-attach the fan just as it was before, with the lag screws passing through holes I'd drill in the box. I believe that with metal boxes it may be acceptable to have metal passing from the inside to the outside of the box. OTOH, I'm making a modification to a listed box.

  3. Hope the manufacturer can help me with an old-stock mounting bracket of some kind. But the fan is 30+ years old. It's one of those old Hunter ones with a heavy cast-iron housing, so I hate to simply replace it.

  • Before taking this photo I removed another cable, a 14/2 that was connected to the 14/3 and fan, and was left, live, loose and uncoiled in the attic; they did bother to wrap the end with electrical tape, as they also did the wire-nut on the hot connection to the fan. – RustyShackleford Aug 3 '19 at 5:12
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    After 30 years what do you expect the manufacturer to do? It’s way out of warranty & they are not normally responsible for installation.... – Solar Mike Aug 3 '19 at 5:12
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    So, redo the job to code - you obviously know what the code is so you can do it properly - can’t see the point of your question here, seems like a rant. – Solar Mike Aug 3 '19 at 5:18
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    Relax, Mike. The point of my question is how can I attach this old fan to a fan-rated ceiling box ? Speciifcally, if the ideal #3 fails, is #2 code compliant, or is there some box or bracket that will address #1 ? – RustyShackleford Aug 3 '19 at 5:27
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    I think that's about how it was intended to be installed. I had one like that in my dining room. I don't know about the code back when it was originally installed, but I'm thinking that it was enough to have the wires tucked into the canopy trim piece. It must have been fairly common back in those days, I'm guessing. As long as nothing is exposed, the metal hook doesn't poke up through the wood on top, and all the wires are taped up properly and away from the mounting hardware, I don't imagine it's too much of a problem. – Greg Nickoloff Aug 6 '19 at 17:53
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TL;DR: That is a Hunter Original Hanger Bracket, which consists of a rubber bushing and U bolt rocker assembly. Your option #2, drill box and attach through, is the correct installation: you just need a drillable box.

That hanger design is (a) meant to work with an outlet box and (b) to be mounted directly to the joist. Huh? How does this work? Here is an image of the original installation instruction:

Hunter Hangar Bracket installation

Per those instructions, the installer is meant to drill through the box, attaching the lag screws into the joist behind the box. Modern boxes may not accommodate that drilling, but I believe an older Bell round box would work:

Bell round outlet box

If you want this code compliant for today, you can't alter the box, so you can't install this as it was meant to be: thus replacing the fan is the only compliant choice. If you want something safer, but not modern code compliant, hunt down a vintage box or have one fabricated or "just make one work": the important points safety-wise are (a) getting the wires in a box and (b) securing the fan to the joist.

Those are solid fans. I would keep it if possible.

Note I am not affiliated with either of those eBay sellers linked to the images.

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    This is pretty much what I did. Actually a standard metal fan box from big-box store had the two holes almost exactly in the right place for the two lag screws. I bent the u-bracket a wee bit and filed the holes out a little and it worked fine. Oh, and since I had access to the attic, I used through bolts, Grade 5 no less, to make sure the fans stay up there; thing are heavy and a lot of movement (less if they're well-balanced, of course). – RustyShackleford Jan 2 at 4:09
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    So I'm pretty close to code-compliant, not having altered box (much). I also photo-documented the whole thing, so in the unlikely event an inspector ever gives me grief, I can say "look what you let pass when the house was built, and how much better it is now". Not that I'm worried; inspectors around here don't seem to take pride in being dicks, contrary to what appears to be the case elsewhere. – RustyShackleford Jan 2 at 4:11
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    Excellent @RustyShackleford, thanks for sharing the installation solution. – bishop Jan 2 at 6:04
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How about install a fan plate, remove the center knockout and screw in an eye bolt a little smaller than the size of the rubber bushing. Remove the bushing from the fan and push it thru the eye bolt and reattach the fan to the bushing. route the cable through another hole in the fan plate and connect correctly.

  • What exactly do you mean by "fan plate" ? I'm not sure how this is any better than my #2 (in OP) simply reinstalling those two lag screws through drilled holes in whatever fan box. I guess you wouldn't be modifying the box, since using an existing knockout, but it's really worse, because the eyebolt's shaft wouldn't come close to filling the knockout hole, so there's still exposed wood. – RustyShackleford Aug 3 '19 at 18:17
  • Part of my confusion: now sure how much of a gap is allowed at the bottom of a fan box and the shroud or canopy trim thingy at the top of the fan. It ain't zero, because even in a vanilla installation of a modern fan (with ball & socket hanger) there is a gap. – RustyShackleford Aug 3 '19 at 18:25
  • I'm referring to a fan box. Put a washer with a hole the size of the eye bolt shaft between the box and the framing....not modifying the box and no exposed wood. – JACK Aug 3 '19 at 18:27

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