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I recently purchased in a house built in 1939. The electrical boxes and wiring have been replaced, but the ceiling support bar holding up the box looks original (i.e., flat steel bar attached to the joists). Can this support the new 45 lbs chandelier I want to hang?

The following picture (NOT from my house) is an example of my situation, but I do not have access above the ceiling like the picture.

ceiling support bar

  • Was there a ceiling fan or chandelier hanging from this box previously? Is there a fixture stud present in the box? – ThreePhaseEel Mar 18 '15 at 2:42
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    Not sure how long the requirement has been on the books, but National Electrical Code requires ceiling boxes for luminaires to hold at least 50 lbs. – Tester101 Mar 18 '15 at 2:51
  • This box is in the center of the dining room ceiling. There was a chandelier previously hanging on it. It was cast iron weighing about 20 lbs. The box is well secured to the support bar with a large bolt in the center. I hung the new chandelier one week ago, but not all of the crystals. Currently, it weighes about 35 lbs and no problems so far. I have another 10 lbs of crystals to hang. Do you think it is safe to hang the remaining 10 lbs? What I don't know is how well secured the support bar is to the joists? Should I be concerned? – Stephen Mar 19 '15 at 18:57
  • If you don't know, assuming it isn't properly secured and installing a replacement bar screwed into the joist sides would be the safer bet, unless you're willing to open up the plaster and see whether/how it's secured to the joists. I'm not sure whether i'd risk it. – keshlam Jun 30 '15 at 2:16
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If the support is as you illustrated, the weight is being held by screws through the support and vertically into the ceiling joist. The load is being held up by screws pointed upward. The strain is downward. All that is holding up the weight is the wood around the threads of two (or maybe four) screws.

In general, wood screws do best when the load is shear (perpendicular to the direction of the screw). Pullout loads are especially vulnerable in older wood that may be deteriorating over time and getting powdery. 1939 is not so old comparatively, but this situation is not ideal.

You might want to consider a replacement box and support that wedges between two joists such as this one. On 16" centers, they are rated for up to 150 lbs and 50 lbs. on 24" centers. For fans, they are rated for less (70lbs. on 16") because of dynamic stresses.

ceiling box

These can be inserted in a 4" hole.

 Images and links are for illustration only, not an endorsement of goods or sources.
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You are probably right, but double-check your box!

If your box has a ceiling stud present, then it should support the weight it is listed for (often 50lbs, but check the markings on the box!) as per NEC 314.27(C):

(C) Boxes at Ceiling-Suspended (Paddle) Fan Outlets. Outlet boxes or outlet box systems used as the sole support of a ceiling- suspended (paddle) fan shall be listed, shall be marked by their manufacturer as suitable for this purpose, and shall not support ceiling-suspended (paddle) fans that weigh more than 32 kg (70 lb). For outlet boxes or outlet box systems designed to support ceiling-suspended (paddle) fans that weigh more than 16 kg (35 lb), the required marking shall include the maximum weight to be supported.

Where spare, separately switched, ungrounded conductors are provided to a ceiling-mounted outlet box, in a location acceptable for a ceiling-suspended (paddle) fan in single-family, two-family, or multi-family dwellings, the outlet box or outlet box system shall be listed for sole support of a ceiling- suspended (paddle) fan.

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I would add a 2x4. Run it across your joists, screw into joists, and then a couple of screws through your box. You just need a scrap 2x4 and long screws. I wouldn't rely on nailed up box to support 45 pounds for an extended time, really it looks like drywall is holding it up right now.

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No the box and support system is not rated for 45lb Chandelier. Because you do not have access to box, you can cut a little bit bigger hole and remove the old box and support system. Then install a Retrofit Ceiling Fan Saf-T-Brace. UL listed to support lighting fixtures 150 lbs. or less on 16 in. centers and 50 lbs. or less on 24 in. centers; supports fans 70 lbs. or less.

If the hole is to big for the new chandelier canopy then install a ceiling medallion to hide the hole then install the chandelier.

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