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There are great products that make a contractor's life easier as far as fan and fixture placement is concerned. Whether you're doing new construction or retrofit "old work," there are box options that make installs easier. And some of them keep the drywall guys from messing with you.

Hang a Fan or Fixture Wherever You Need It

Steve Maurer, IME
There are great products that make a contractor's life easier as far as fan and fixture placement is concerned. Whether you're doing new construction or retrofit "old work," there are box options that make installs easier.

And some of them keep the drywall guys from messing with you.

One thing you'll need to know beforehand is the weight of the fan or fixture to be installed. The box and its support system will need to be robust enough to prevent load failure. Sometimes the box will have a range rating that depends on the device to be installed.

For example, a box may be rated for a 200 pound fixture, but only a 70 pound fan. Part of the reason for that is the potential for vibration and movement when a fan is in operation. Make sure you account for that.

Some ceiling boxes have similar models that are either mounted directly to a joist or on brackets fastened between them. If a joist isn't placed where you need it, precise alignment is still possible.

One example is a box specifically designed for hanging fixtures and fans in cathedral ceilings. The box itself is designed for sloped ceilings of up to a 45 degree angle. Another model has adjustable rails to mount the box between joists and slide to the location you need to center it on.

We're all pretty familiar with bracketed boxes for hanging devices in old work retrofits. You need that extra support to handle the weight. But what about retrofits for wall sconces? Often there's not enough room for a standard box.

When obstructions exist behind the wall, like pipes or close walls, you'll need a thinner box. When getting ready to install some wall sconces in our entryway, I found some handy 4" low-profile sconce boxes that were thin enough to handle the tight spaces. The box had adjustable wings that sandwiched the box to the drywall.

One box did have some piping behind it. The wire entry, a built-in NM connector near the edge of the box, made it easy to rotate it to avoid any crimping issues.

On new construction, you'll often need to satisfy local codes for protection against air infiltration. There are ceiling and wall boxes that are flanged and gasketed to serve that purpose. They seal tightly to prevent airflow into the home. Additionally, the NM cable connectors come with gasketing material already installed.

They're available in round boxes for ceiling fixtures and in 1- to 4-gang rectangular models for switches and receptacles.

Even round ceiling boxes for retrofits can be purchased with the built-in vapor barrier.

If you're working with a drop ceiling, it can be challenging. But there are t-rail mounted boxes that ensure your device is mounted securely.

Something handy for new construction is an adjustable ceiling box. It mounts directly and securely to the ceiling joist with a heavy duty bracket. An always accessible adjustment screw lets you set it correctly after the drywall is installed. That way any device mounting hardware is sure to be flush with the ceiling, no matter what.

For switches and receptacles or other wall boxes, there's also an adjustable model that is super easy to use. A bracket mounts it to the face of the stud, either horizontally or vertically. You start by setting it for a 1/2" wall thickness. Once the drywall is installed, the still visible adjustment screw is used to flush up the box.

What if the homeowner or builder changes their mind and wants a thicker wall? That's not an issue as the box is adjustable for up to a 1-1/2" wall.

These days, most of the boxes used for home construction will be of a non-metallic material. This helps ensure that they won't corrode or rust away because of the elements or any other damaging conditions.

That said, steel boxes are still available in many configurations for us old school installers.
Photo courtesy of Arlington Industries, Inc.
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