First time poster. I feel like I have researched everywhere and not found the answer I am looking for. I've called a few manufactures of ceiling fans who didn't have any answers either. I began searching the web and came across this website. I don't see any existing articles on this topic yet however.

My problem. I'm in a old rental unit that had a broken ceiling fan. The landlord is lazy but approved me replacing the ceiling fan myself. I've done about 6 before in a new house environment. However, what I ran into was I removed the existing ceiling fan and went to install the new one. I found that the existing junction box mounting screw holes are 2 and 3/4s(2.75) inches apart and the bracket from the new ceiling fan(Hunter) is about 3 and 1/4(3.25) inch apart and can adjust wider but not narrower. I did a lot of research and this does not seem to be a measurable characteristic on the data sheets. Hunter ceiling fans say all their fans are that way these days. The old ceiling fan does not have a make or model visible on it that i can tell. Seeing as how this is a rental and an old one at that, I do not want to replace the junction box.

My question is does anyone know if there are brands of ceiling fans out there that have a mounting bracket that can accommodate 2 and 3/4s(2.75) inches or an adapter kit that would help? I have attached a picture of the old bracket that fits(top) and the new bracket(bottom) that does not. Unfortunately, the new ceiling fan does not fit in that bracket either though. As you can see in the old one, it has a more accommodating screw sliding space for smaller junction boxes.enter image description here

Thanks in advance!


4 Answers 4


If your box is that small it is almost certain that it is not a fan rated box. If it is not, then the box MUST be replaced with a fan rated box.

Sorry, but even with approval, someone unlicensed, uninsured, and unqualified SHOULD NOT be doing electrical work in a place that they rent. This is a perfect example; something as "simple" as changing a ceiling fan turns into a project since the box has to be replaced, and in an older house this can be met with issues.

  • 2
    This is one of those great situations where parts are made incompatible on purpose to prevent people from installing a fan in an unsafe box. I'm sure there's not any adapters because of this too.
    – JPhi1618
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 13:40
  • Is this a case of the code having changed over the intervening years; or was the old undersized bracket something a previous idiot hacked up to mount a fan somewhere that originally only had a light? Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 15:54
  • 1
    This simply isn't always true. The size of the fan rated box has no bearing on how well it holds up a fan - that would be on the bracket outside the box. If you have installed a lot of older fans you often have to buy a special bracket to mount them to new boxes - because they have narrower bindings. I have seen and used a similar bracket to what OP needs to hang sconce on a smaller box. Also every city I have lived in allows you to change out your own fans and lights so I would cool off on the CAPS unless your advice is correct. Remember this is DIY not hire an electrician.
    – DMoore
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 16:17
  • Yeah here is what I found today. In California we have Home Depot and Lowes. Competing large scale hardware stores. Home Depot carries Hunter brand Ceiling Fans and Lowes carries Harbor Breeze. The Hunter brand has 3" and larger brackets, Harbor Breeze carriers 2.5" and larger. All I needed to do was purchase the Harbor Breeze fan and the bracket fits right in there.
    – jloco
    Commented Nov 5, 2015 at 1:33
  • 1
    Changing out a fan is easy labor, and this is not codeenforcement.stackexchange.com, nor hireapro.stackexchange.com. You may be able to fashion some sort of support bracket that you could lagbolt to an adjacent stud, or you could modify the bracket or box that does not fit, so that it does. Or drive screws at an angle into the sidewalls of the box. (Especially if you don't own or care about the place.) The most proper way would be to make the landlord demolish and rebuild the building for your new fan. But DIY if you like, and especially if the owner said it was ok! Commented Jan 12, 2016 at 23:54

In most cases it isn't that the box is too narrow, it's that a cover was installed to narrow it on original installation. In other words the 4 inch box is covered by something like a TP331 narrowing it to 2.5 inches. If it is, just drill access holes perpendicular to the existing mounting holes, and mount to those newly exposed screw terminals. You will be screwing directly into the octagonal box and forgoing the TP331, but the cover is generally not needed and difficult to remove completely. You may need longer screws though.


enter image description here

  • Thanks for this answer! Took me so long to find and I found these in all the bedrooms of my house. So much easier to just bypass than remove. Commented May 31, 2020 at 14:38

First check to see if the new bracket actually fits in the hole for the electrical box, not including the fact that the screws don't line up. Second, it would be better to replace the box with one that is fan rated, but assuming that you don't care about this:

You can either attack the old bracket with a hack saw or buy 2 pieces of 1" x 1/2" x 1/16th metal and drill 2 holes in it. Screw the pieces of metal into the old screw holes. Now attach the bracket to outer screw holes. Assuming your metal pieces are thick enough, they won't bend, and if you use a thread locker, hopefully your ceiling fan won't fall, or at least not until you move out.

  • 1
    Assuming you don't care if a fan pulls out of the ceiling onto your head/kids/pets, then this is a good solution.
    – JPhi1618
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 16:53
  • The previous fan seems to have worked fine. Assuming that the new fan is similar, this is a reasonable low-cost solution.
    – gbronner
    Commented Nov 4, 2015 at 17:11

Just ran into this problem installing a new fan in an older house. Read the posts above and decided to find the ceiling stud. I bypassed the junction box and went right into the ceiling stud with four long wood screws - two on each side. Worked perfectly!! No wobbling, no noise no nothing. Its as sturdy as can be. I could hang 100lbs on that bracket. The fan is only 20 pounds - so its definitely doable without having to change out a smaller older fan junction box to install a newer Hunter fan. Also it was a sloped ceiling so I couldn't use the new fan triangle bracket and ball. So I used another bigger bracket and round ball but the cover plate didn't match up to the screw holes on the other bracket so I placed paint stick sized shimmies between the ceiling and the bracket till the holes matched up. Again perfect!! :)

  • 1
    Good point -- people forget that mounting ceiling fans directly to structural members is an option. Commented Oct 7, 2018 at 3:47

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