I'm preparing to hang a ceiling fan fixture in a bedroom. I need to remove an old ceiling light's electrical box and brace first, however I don't see how I can remove them. The brace has limbs which sit underneath the joists and above the ceiling plaster and it feels like they might be screwed into the joists. There is a bit of lateral wobble to it so I don't want to reuse it for the fan fixture. (also because it'd be attached on the underside of the joists)

Here are some pictures: enter image description here enter image description here https://i.stack.imgur.com/QzHZe.jpg

How do I remove it? Or should I secure it somehow and reuse it for the fan? The fan fixture is 26 lbs. My house was built in 1946 and I suspect the brace is original.

[update] I was able to use the RozoZip, though I wasn't able to get as close to the joists as I would have liked. But after widening the hole with a file I installed the new box and brace.

2 Answers 2


If the brace is loose, you're going to have problems with vibrations sooner or later. The braces that I see these days look a lot sturdier, so I'd recommend replacing it.

If you have access to a Roto-Zip (or similar tool), a metal-cutting wheel should make short work of the original brace, just cut it off near the joists so there's less to worry about.

It looks like the original brace is bowing the drywall down a little at that spot, so look into a new-work brace that can adjust for different thicknesses of drywall: just break off that tabs that allow it to be installed with 5/8" drywall because they'll interfere with the pieces of the original brace, and mount it so the edge of the box is flush with the surface of the drywall. Be careful to keep any wiring away from sharp edges you might have from cutting the old brace.

If that's not going to work, install an old-work brace in the spot; look for one with a larger junction box (the one I linked to has a 2 1/8" deep box) so that you can mount it above the original brace and still have the edge flush with the drywall.

  • @ryan: since you have a Roto-Zip, another option would be to remove the old box only, patch the hole in the drywall, cut a new hole a few inches to one side using a drywall bit, then mount an old-work brace in the opening. The down side is that your light would be in a slightly different position, which might look odd if the new position was far enough off-center in the room to be noticeable.
    – Niall C.
    Jun 5, 2011 at 3:43
  • I have a Roto-Zip from a previous home project. I was hoping I wouldn't have to go that route but I suppose it makes sense. The fan mfr suggests a 4" x 2 1/8" deep box. I had planned on fastening a box to a 2"x4" and then screwing the board between the joists. Like link The ceiling actually isn't drywall. Its an older kind of plasterboard that's a bit harder than drywall. It also has some sort of metal lath inside. When I used my roto-zip to carve out space for a medicine cabinet it would sometimes generate sparks.
    – Ryan
    Jun 5, 2011 at 3:54
  • I think I'll go with your first suggestion since it wouldn't require any drywall work. See my response to B Mitch. :)
    – Ryan
    Jun 5, 2011 at 3:55

If you're comfortable with drywall work, I'd consider cutting out the drywall between the two joists, maybe 12-18" wide. It looks like there's already an edge on one side you can use. This way, when you install the patch, you can make the hole fit the box tightly to reduce the air leaks into the attic space (I'm assuming this is an attic). You'll also have an easier removal of the old and install of a new box.

But if you're not comfortable with drywall installation, then Niall C's suggestions are the way to go.

  • I actually hate installing drywall patches. I'm terrible at taping and feathering and all that, plus the surface of the ceiling has some texture to it which I'd just mess up. But thanks for the suggestion!
    – Ryan
    Jun 5, 2011 at 3:55
  • 1
    I actually hate textured ceilings. It's usually done be someone that's bad a taping and feathering the mud to hide all the imperfections. :)
    – BMitch
    Jun 5, 2011 at 12:02

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