Is there a decent way to mount a ceiling fan between joists that are 28” apart without tearing apart the ceiling? I don’t have access from above.

I looked into the expanding bar hangers that I can pass through a 4” hole but they only expand up to 24”.

Perhaps I can pass through a 2x4 with top-flange joist hangers on the ends to sit across the joists? I wouldn’t be able to nail them in from the top though.

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    Why are your joists 28 in. apart? I've never seen a residential situation like that even with engineered trust joists. – isherwood Mar 15 '20 at 23:56
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    Try measuring the perpendicular direction, you might have assumed that the joists are originated differently then they are and then measured to some blocking which, when close to the normal distance, confirmed your thoughts – Ack Mar 16 '20 at 0:26
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    It’s a pretty old building (1920s) with plaster and metal mesh lath and wood strapping in the ceiling. I’m not sure why the joists are 28” apart but I just measured it after trying to use one of those expanding bars and coming up way short. – mark Mar 16 '20 at 1:41
  • Yes, try measuring the other way. Also, would it bother you to have the ceiling fan off-center or what-have-you somewhat? – ThreePhaseEel Mar 16 '20 at 2:19
  • Sounds like you only need 4" can't you just screw a 2" block to each end of the bar and fit it up into the hole so it compresses out to the joist space? – Fresh Codemonger Mar 16 '20 at 5:14

I had to install a light fixture over a pool table in a situation very similar to this. The fixture had to be centered over the table and between joists with 26" space.

I cut a 2x4 23" long and two pieces about 5" long. I centered the two pieces on each end forming a "T" and screwed them in with some 3" deck screws. I pre drilled two holes at each end of the two smaller pieces for fastening into the studs and fitted each hole with a 3"deck screw. Now comes the tricky part. I cut a 10" hole in the ceiling and was able to fit the framing between the joists and centered the 2x4 and was able to screw the screws in with a ratchet screwdriver. I fished in some Romex and installed a fan box. I used the cutout from the hole to make a quick patch and then installed a 12" fan medallion which cover the hole (see below).

enter image description here

They come in many styles. Hope this helps


reach up through the hole and screw 2" of wood to the side of each joist (or twice to the side of the most distant joist) use self-drilling screws (eg, chipboard screws) use screws with square or hex drive.

If you're able to get an electric driver up through the hole that would help, else you'll have tired wrists by the time you're done.

you probably want to start the screws and before passing the wood through the hole.

Now there's surfaces close enough to fit your expanding bar.

  • Screw blocks to a joist a foot away through a 4" hole? I don't think so. :) I've done a lot of challenging jobs in my day and that just doesn't sound like it'll happen. – isherwood Mar 16 '20 at 13:39
  • @isherwood As much as I respect your extensive experience, I'm surprised at your comment - if I were facing this problem I'd at least give this a try. I have an 8" long square drive bit and a smallish impact driver, might just be able to reach 12" away through a ceiling box hole pretty easy. – dwizum Mar 16 '20 at 14:28
  • @isherwood, nailing is another option, but in my opinion screwing is easier, nailing is very slow when you can't swing the hammer properly. I have 1" long square bit and a 4" long ratchet wrench (too cheap to buy an palm-sized electric driver) but yeah reaching through the hole with a straight extension is another option. – Jasen Mar 16 '20 at 19:15

I would move the fan mount over so that you can attach it and the electrical fixture directly to an existing ceiling joist. To achieve that you will have to make a new hole (which from your numbers is probably less than 14 inches). Then assuming there was an existing electrical box at the current location you can use short wiring to jumper the AC power and switch connections from the existing box over to the new location. Afterwards you can cover the existing electrical box with a white painted cover.

I have had to do similar things in the past. In one instance I wanted to replace the lights in a room that used to be swivel shaded accent lights in front of a closet. I was installing a new LED fixture that I wanted in the approximate center of the room. In another situation just a couple of days ago I was replacing an old garage door opener. The original electrical receptacle in the garage ceiling was placed such that it was directly over the top of the opener rail. (Previous opener was installed at an angle and always pulled crooked on the door and I was correcting that as well). The fix was to add a new electrical box on the same joist but positioned a short distance away so the opener power cord was not in the path of the door opener chain. A white blank cover plate hides and secures the existing electrical box which now serves as a simple junction box.

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