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The metal electrical box says it's "Acceptable for fan support when secured with 10-32 screws provided".

The box has 2 black screws (sheetrock screws?) in the middle that are screwed to some piece of wood above it. The screws are 2.5-3" long but I don't know how thick the wood is they are screwed into. This is between finished floors so I wouldn't have access from above.

The ceiling fan I am installing is 16lbs in weight.

Fan Instructions
Fan Product Page

How should I verify that this box is secured strong enough for a ceiling fan?
Or, how can I make it more secure?
-- Should I replace the black screws with 10-32 screws?

Thanks!

enter image description here

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  • Welcome to Home Improvement! Great first question. While you're waiting for an answer, please take the tour and browse through the help center to learn how this is different from regular discussion forums and how you can get the most out of the site. – FreeMan Jun 15 '20 at 12:20
  • What was hanging from that box? How heavy was it? If it was near enough 16 pounds, you know that it will support the weight, but a spinning fan does add plenty of vibration and movement to be concerned about. You should replace the screws, though. – FreeMan Jun 15 '20 at 12:23
  • A small light was originally connected to that box. – benny Jun 15 '20 at 12:37
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Okay, stop. The 10-32 screw requirement is for the lower screws which attach the fan to the box, not the upper screws which attach the box to the wood. You can see the holes that the 10-32 screws go into, in those tiny squares to left and right of your photo.

It's entirely possible those squares do something clever, like capture a nut. But they are designed to do a good job taking a 10-32.

I don't know if the kit comes with special, hardened #10-32s. Suffice it to say I bet you haven't lived for years with this mess on your ceiling, so the magic screws probably secured the old lamp. Go get them back. If that means digging in the trash, let that be a lesson not to throw away things before the job is done.

Other than that, what makes them "magical" is probably their carefully chosen length.

DO NOT REPLACE THE DRYWALL SCREWS WITH 10-32

The 10-32 requirement doesn't refer to those!

These screws need to be strong enough to carry 16 pounds and the box. Drywall screws will do the job, but I would convert to deck screws (a wee bit thicker) if they are the same thread pitch.

Lay the screw threads so they touch, and see if the threads have the same spacing. Oh yeah, feel free to unscrew one of the drywall screws at a time to evaluate it - not both at once. The stiffness of unscrewing it will also tell you something about how thick the wood is. If it gets easier as you back it out, that tells you the wood is pretty thick.

Alternately, I would pre-drill small holes in the two remaining locations, and fit the deck screws there. You must pre-drill! The deck screws will certainly go in if you don't pre-drill, but they will likely also split the wood right down the line of the screws - and then none of the screws will have any gripping power at all.

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  • Looks like the fan does come with screws that go from the fan mount to the electrical box. I'll try to locate the old/original screws previously there (yes, I haven't been living with this mess :) ). I see your correction on the screws. Got it, thanks. I'll find better screws than the black sheetrock ones. Ok, will add 2 more screws in the empty spots too. Thanks! – benny Jun 15 '20 at 17:11
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    @benny normally 2 screws would suffice. The only reason to use all 4 is if you don't trust the 2. So either update the sheetrock screws or add 2 more, no need to do both but DON'T SPLIT THE WOOD lol! – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jun 15 '20 at 21:29
  • Thanks for your feedback! I ended up replacing the 2 existing screws with some stronger ones. I didn't want to add 2 more for concern of splitting the wood – and it feels solid as-is so I didn't want to push my luck. And yes, I did throw out those 10-32 screws but was able to find them in the trash! I've now got the fan installed and working. Thanks! – benny Jun 25 '20 at 11:02
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First of all, those drywall screws are not "10-32", use what's specified or something similar.

Secondly, you don't know what's supporting the wood that the box is attached to. Get up into the attic and inspect it to make sure it's secure.

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    While I agree with the recommendation 100%, the OP does indicate that this ceiling is "between floors" so he can't get into the attic to see what the wood is. – FreeMan Jun 15 '20 at 12:22
  • To be honest, though, in my youthful ignorance (long before there was an internet full of helpful advice), I hung more than one ceiling fan box with drywall screws and they've not fallen off the ceiling in the 25+ years since. I'm not recommending that it be done, but it's not necessarily a recipe for instant disaster. – FreeMan Jun 15 '20 at 12:25
  • OK. I'll replace the screws. – benny Jun 15 '20 at 12:38
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    And the 10-32 screws are the screws that would attach a fan bracket to the electrical box. – JACK Jun 15 '20 at 12:44
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    Ha! Excellent point, @JACK. jwh20 & I both missed that minor detail. 10-32 would be a machine screw thread, wouldn't it... :) – FreeMan Jun 15 '20 at 12:56
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Look at all the parts that come with the fan and read the instructions.

The newer Hunter fans with sealed bearings (not oil bath) come with special engineered wood screws for the fan bracket which are designed (strong and long) to go into a ceiling joist. If your fan has those, then they would go through two holes in the box or outside the box. The box itself would then not be bearing any weight.

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  • Good point! Just checked the instructions... looks like they want to mount the fan bracket to the electrical box. fan instructions – benny Jun 15 '20 at 17:00
  • What brand and model is this? I would expect there to be instructions for attaching to a proper fan box (which has the needed machine screws available) and different instructions for attachment with rated wood screws into a ceiling joist. The reason for the latter is to allow safe installation of the fan where there is a junction box rated only for a light. I have installed Hunter fans using this latter method and have found that the recommended pilot holes are on the small side. I found that thread lubricant greatly eased the driving of the wood screws. – Jim Stewart Jun 15 '20 at 17:24
  • It is a Hampton Bay Hawkins II 44" Model #YG204C (homedepot.com/p/…) – benny Jun 15 '20 at 17:25
  • The metal electrical box in the photo says it's rated for a fan (with the right screws)... but do I trust how well this box is secured is what I'm a little cautious about. – benny Jun 15 '20 at 17:27

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