Ceiling Fan : How to tell if wobble caused by loose box

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Old 05-28-13, 08:09 PM
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Ceiling Fan : How to tell if wobble caused by loose box

We have a plaster ceiling with no attic access. I was told by the guy who sold me the ceiling fan that if the electrical box doesn't move when I tug on it then it should be secure enough to install the fan. I could indeed jiggle the box but it only moved upward very slightly, maybe a half an inch maximum and only on one side. Well the fan is installed (flush mount) and it does wobble slightly, although it isn't making much noise. Is it possible/probable the box is more loose than I thought since the weight of the ceiling fan is probably more force than me just pulling on the box? I can move the fan from side to side a little. Is that normal or is that indicative of a loose ceiling fan? Should I take it down and try additional screws through the mounting bracket directly into the plaster? Or is it possible the box isn't the problem? Is slight give normal or should the box be completely immobile?
 
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Old 05-28-13, 08:51 PM
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Welcome to the forums!

I was told by the guy who sold me the ceiling fan that if the electrical box doesn't move when I tug on it then it should be secure enough to install the fan.
That was not good advice. Not only does the box that a ceiling fan is supported by have to be securely mounted, it has to be rated to support the weight and vibration of the ceiling fan.

I could indeed jiggle the box but it only moved upward very slightly, maybe a half an inch maximum and only on one side.
Even following his advice, that is movement. In addition, 1/2" of movement in a mounted electrical box is a huge amount.

Well the fan is installed (flush mount) and it does wobble slightly, although it isn't making much noise.
A well-mounted and well-balanced ceiling fan should not wobble at all. My test is to watch the pulls on the ends of the switch chains. If I see any movement at all in those, I start troubleshooting.

Is it possible/probable the box is more loose than I thought since the weight of the ceiling fan is probably more force than me just pulling on the box? I can move the fan from side to side a little. Is that normal or is that indicative of a loose ceiling fan?
That is indicative of a box that is not securely mounted. It is probable that the box is not well mounted and that it is not a ceiling fan box.

Should I take it down and try additional screws through the mounting bracket directly into the plaster?
No. Your plaster ceiling offers no structural support. You should take the fan down and replace the box with a ceiling fan box.

A box made for a ceiling fan has two threaded posts, or two heavy-duty ears with matching holes in the back of the box, that accept 10-24 machine screws. It will also say "Rated for Fan Support" or " Rated to Support Fans up to 70 lbs, and Luminaries up to 150 lbs.," or something like that, stamped into the inside of the box. If the box in your ceiling only has a pair of ears that accept 8-32 screws, it is rated to support a luminaire (a light fixture) that weighs 15 pounds or less and doesn't move or vibrate.

We have a plaster ceiling with no attic access.
That doesn't matter. If overhead access was required for working on electrical boxes in ceilings, there would only be ceiling boxes under accessible areas. All of the work you need to do can be done while standing in the room where the fan is.

Take the fan down and post some pictures of the box, if you can. (See How To Include Pictures.) Indicate or describe which side moves and which side doesn't.

It sounds like your existing box is side-mounted to one of the ceiling joists. If so, you may need to cut the mounting bracket between the box and the joist to remove it. Or you may be able to drive it up into the ceiling enough to remove the mounting. The information you give us about the sxisting box eill help us focus our advice on the best way to replace it.
 
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Old 05-29-13, 04:14 AM
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If your installation is next to a ceiling joist you can use one of the boxes as shown below. Regardless, the box must be solidly supported by your framing members. Read all Bill had to say in his post.

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Old 05-29-13, 10:37 AM
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That's a cool box, Larry!
 
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Old 05-29-13, 02:16 PM
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These and saddle boxes are virtual lifesavers when installing ceiling fans close to ceiling joists.
 
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Old 05-29-13, 02:28 PM
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Thanks for your replies (I am the thread-starter). I am not home to dismantle the fan and take a photo now but I am almost positive this is not a ceiling fan box as I have lived in the house since I was a child and purchased it from my parents 20 years ago and am sure there was only a light fixture there before I installed the first ceiling fan maybe 15 years ago. The box is metal and square and there were at least two screws that went straight up into the box, including one in the middle that was bigger. It sounds almost definite I need to get the box out and replace it with a ceiling fan box. The decision now is can I do it myself or just stimulate the economy by hiring an electrician!
 
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Old 05-29-13, 03:17 PM
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Get an estimate from an electrician. Set that money aside out of your checking account. Let us help you with the installation. Take the left over money and take your family out to eat We're here, and we're good.
 
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Old 05-29-13, 07:34 PM
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The box is metal and square and there were at least two screws that went straight up into the box, including one in the middle that was bigger.
Interesting. That sounds like a 1900 box (a 4" square box) with a plaster ring. If so, it will probably have to be replaced, but show us a picture of it and let's go from there.

Larry just posted the promo. We can help you do this.
 
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Old 05-30-13, 04:05 AM
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I failed to list a link to the ceiling box. You may have to order it online, but it is available at the box stores. Madison Electric Products Smart Box Adjustable Depth 75 lb Ceiling Fan Support / 50 lb Light Fixture Support-MSBFAN at The Home Depot
 
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Old 05-30-13, 07:47 AM
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Smile

Thanks guys. I look forward to your help. I plan on dismantling it either tomorrow or Saturday morning and posting photos.
 
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Old 06-01-13, 07:08 AM
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Ok. Original poster here. Here is a picture that I hope helps you fine people help me. I do have additional pictures but they are very similar. I should correct earlier posts of mine. The box jiggles a little but does NOT move 1/2 inch.
 
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Old 06-01-13, 07:42 AM
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It has come down to one thing. The box is not fan rated. No matter that it may or may not wobble. You cannot attach a ceiling fan to the ears of this box alone. Can you see a rafter through any of the holes where the cabling comes in? I have a feeling this is a spanner box and you are in the middle of a span.
 
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Old 06-01-13, 08:03 AM
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I can't see anything through the holes of where the cable comes in. I put my finger through the empty hole on the same side of the box where one of the cables comes in and it's just air back there. I have removed the three visible screws and doing that only took off little pieces of hardware from within the box. The box itself still seems secured somehow but I have no idea how.
 
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Old 06-01-13, 09:57 AM
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The screw in the middle was likely the primary thing holding it. Now the plaster is holding it. If you don't have have access from above a thin flat blade chisel or screwdriver and careful chipping along each side may be your only solution. First though I'd score around it as deep as possible using a Dremel tool and extra heavy duty carbide discs. It will take patience and lots of disks. You might even try a jigsaw and one of those toothless carbide blades.
 
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Old 06-01-13, 11:28 AM
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Once/if I get this older box out, is the next step going to be something I can accomplish myself or is it time to call the electrician?
 
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Old 06-01-13, 11:54 AM
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I got the box out. THis is what remains behind. Is this one of those expanding support brackets or what ever they;re called?
 
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Old 06-01-13, 11:57 AM
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Size:  22.5 KB Here is the box I took out.
 
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Old 06-01-13, 12:16 PM
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Yep, an expanding old work fan box.

 
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Old 06-01-13, 02:53 PM
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Is this one of those expanding support brackets or what ever they;re called?
That looks like a support strap for an ordinary electrical box, If it's just a flat strap you need to cut it, remove it, and install one of the old-work fan-rated ceiling boxes with the expandable bar that Ray posted a picture of.
 
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Old 06-01-13, 04:22 PM
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If that is a framing member above the spanner, there won't be room to put in a bar type support. Depending on the height above the opening to the framing member, he may be able to insert a standard fan rated box and fasten it directly to the framing member. Thoughts??

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Old 06-01-13, 04:33 PM
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I thought it was the angle of the shot making it appear closer then it was but you may be correct. If they had room for the old box and hanger it seems there would be room for the new hanger and box.
 
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Old 06-01-13, 07:36 PM
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I don't see a joist in the picture and I still think we're looking at a flat support strap. If that's the case, one of the OP's greatest challenges may be getting that piece cleared away well enough to set the new spanner where it needs to be.

We'll see.
 
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Old 06-01-13, 10:10 PM
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Well gee maybe I need glasses. Now that you mention it what I thought was a joist appears to be a flat board across the hole.
 
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Old 06-01-13, 11:11 PM
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I thought you already had glasses! Yeah, I think that's the bottom of a subfloor we're looking at.
 
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Old 06-02-13, 04:13 AM
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What's holding the subfloor up? No framing members if that's the case. I think it is a flat 2x lumber used to span between framing just for this box installation. Like you say......we'll see.
 
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Old 06-02-13, 09:30 AM
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OP here. I'll try to resolve some of the questions you helpful guys seem to have. This ceiling is on the top floor of our house and there is no attic above although if you took down the ceiling their would be a triangular area of "air" above the ceiling and the actual roof since the roof comes to a peek. I shut off the electricity and felt around through the hole. It is definitely the brace/strap (whatever you call it) from the old light fixture box. There is a wood beam/joist within an inch of the side of the hole so I suppose there are two options: 1) Try to cut out the old strap and replace it with a new brace/box and 2) side mount to the joist after enlarging the hole in the plaster a slight bit. Your thoughts? What tool do I use to cut out the old strap?
 
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Old 06-02-13, 05:34 PM
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What you see above the strap is simply old insulation (looks and feels like a paper bag).
 
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Old 06-02-13, 07:28 PM
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I shut off the electricity and felt around through the hole. It is definitely the brace/strap (whatever you call it) from the old light fixture box. There is a wood beam/joist within an inch of the side of the hole so...
Could you tell how the strap is secured to that joist? Can you reach to where it's secured to the other joist (it may be less than a foot away)?

If that strap is secured to the joists with slotted wood screws, you may be able to back the screws out with a screwdriver. That would be the best solution.

I suppose there are two options: 1) Try to cut out the old strap and replace it with a new brace/box and 2) side mount to the joist after enlarging the hole in the plaster a slight bit. Your thoughts?
If you try cutting it with a Sawzall, the strap may just get stuck on the blade and move up and down with that. Besides that, if you do manage to cut it, with either a reciprocating saw or a pair of bolt cutters, you will still have the two ends of it screwed onto the joists, right where your new hardware needs to be mounted. That is, the short piece of the strap will have to be removed (plus widening the hole) for you to install a side-mount box, and both pieces will have to come out to install a box with a brace.

If you can't remove the existing strap, ends and all, you could try shifting the hole the other way. Rather than moving it closer to the joist, could you move it about 4" either way parallel to the joists? Would the cables still reach if you did that? Would the new box still be reasonably centered in the room?

What tool do I use to cut out the old strap?
Don't worry about that unless there's no other way to remove it and cutting it will let you get all of it out of the ceiling.
 
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