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I have a bathroom with one light fixture centered above a double sink. I would like to convert this to two light fixtures.

There are two areas that make sense for new junction boxes now. I don't really like old-work boxes. In one section, I can hit a stud right next to the opening. In the other case, I have clear access to both studs but I'd need a brace (similar to the ceiling fan braces between joists).

My issue is that circular boxes and braces seem to be meant for ceilings (and joists) rather than walls (and studs).

The boxes themselves have Ceiling stamped in them. Is using ceiling boxes/braces in a wall allowed by code? I could not find any marketing materials or code that they are allowable for wall use versus ceiling even though intuitively they'd feel strong enough.

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  • Can you tell us what it is about old-work boxes that you don't like. That knowledge may help us better help you.
    – FreeMan
    Sep 29 '21 at 13:28
  • @Freeman I am probably overthinking things here. They just seem.. so flimsy.
    – jglouie
    Sep 29 '21 at 14:47
  • Ceiling-rated boxes can be used for walls, just not vice versa (in some cases, like fans).
    – TylerH
    Sep 29 '21 at 14:53
  • As noted in a comment below, I've got plaster & lathe walls, which means the interior surface is... rough... I've installed quite a number of 2-gang, old-work boxes for switches and outlets and have never had issues. TBF, I've not hung any light fixtures off of them, but, frankly, the many-times-a-day hitting a switch or the somewhat-frequent-plug-unplug of an outlet probably puts more stress on the mounting than just hanging a fixture that's only touched to replace a bulb (LEDs close to never). Cut the box in carefully and you'll be fine.
    – FreeMan
    Sep 29 '21 at 15:14
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Like @FreeMan stated, I can't imagine it being a code violation. I have used them for heavy wall mounted fixtures and never had problems with inspectors.

Just curious why you don't like old work boxes. I agree the square ones fit weakly into the walls with just tabs on the top and bottom but the round ones have the lip that goes all the way around the box and you can get a real tight, strong fit with the three screw tabs. You can even get them with an attached hole saw that cuts a perfect hole like the one below. They can really make the installation go quickly. Just a thought.

enter image description here

FYI, for the location right next to the stud there, there are boxes with angle screws for easy mounting.

enter image description here

(Not endorsing any products)

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  • Agreed. I don't like old work boxes for things that will be heavily handled by users: some receptacles especially ones not meant for a single appliance, some lamps especially ones with pull cords. But in other situations they can work well.
    – jay613
    Sep 29 '21 at 13:19
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    Oooohhh... I like that one with the built in hole saw! I've never seen that. Of course, with my plaster and lathe walls... :(
    – FreeMan
    Sep 29 '21 at 13:27
  • "the square ones fit weakly into the walls with just tabs on the top and bottom" Are you referring to the ones that just fit in the wall, or the ones that have self-rotating tabs you tighten with screws? The latter are really quite snug/firm.
    – TylerH
    Sep 29 '21 at 14:07
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    @jay613 If regular use works the thing loose then you didn't tighten the screw down properly to begin with (and that's an easy fix, just remove the faceplate and tighten), but I agree this solution would be more secure.
    – TylerH
    Sep 29 '21 at 14:53
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    @TylerH I was referring to the ones with the rotating tabs only because they have the two tabs on the top and two tabs on the bottom and nothing on the sides whereas the circular ones have the "tab" all the way around the box. Cutting the square hole carefully is a must.
    – JACK
    Sep 29 '21 at 15:07
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IIUC, you want to install a ceiling mount "box-on-a-bar" in your wall instead of in the ceiling. Something similar to this:

ceiling fan mounting bracket
Image from Lowes.com. This is an old-work box, but it'll do as an example


I can't imagine that this would be a code violation, however, I don't know code well enough to confirm that. Wait for others to confirm.

Having recently put a few of these in to hold up ceiling fans, I'd suggest that the biggest issue you'll run into is that the bar is round and that the box, no matter how tightly you crank down the screws, will want to rotate around the bar and point somewhat down instead of straight out.

When you put up drywall around the box, you'll be able to straighten it out and support it on the edge of the drywall, but then the drywall itself will be taking some of the weight, and could, over time, end up somewhat damaged. This damage would be hidden behind the cover plate of the light, so it wouldn't be really obvious. Depending on the weight of your lights, though, you may end up with the lights sagging through the drywall much sooner than you'd expect.

morning coffee kicks in... OTOH, an "old-work" box is completely supported by the drywall, so if that's sufficient for installing a light on the wall, this one, which spreads some weight to the studs, should be more than sufficient.

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    OP should say more about why an old-work box is inadequate for the situation and what stresses he anticipates on the fixture. Depending on the design of a fan bracket, it may or may not resist twisting or lateral forces, as you suggest. It may only resist pullout forces well. So you hang a 30 pound sconce with a pull cord (to use a silly example) a fan bracket may be no better than the wallboard alone. And if the only criteria is "I don't like old work boxes", and the answer is "you're relying on the wallboard so use whatever you want" ... it's not a hugely useful question or answer.
    – jay613
    Sep 29 '21 at 13:24
  • fair enough points, @jay613. I do wonder where the old-work box dislike comes from...
    – FreeMan
    Sep 29 '21 at 13:26

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