You’re staring at a drywall ceiling that’s never had a ceiling fan on it, and you’re wondering, how do you put it up there? Maybe you’ve already chosen the ideal spot for the fan—but darn it, thanks to using a magnetic stud finder (one that finds screws or nails which shows where the beams are), your cherished spot’s in empty space between the wood beams on the ceiling.
Is it still possible? Yes, definitely!
To hang a ceiling fan without a stud, you’ll need to use a ceiling fan brace and box kit to give a strong anchor point to mount your ceiling fan to.
If you’re not experienced in home renovations, you’re still probably thinking things through and wondering what to tell the handy-person to do. Read this article, and reassure yourself from any doubts.
We’re an affiliate: We hope you love the products we recommend! Just so you know, we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Thank you if you use our links, we really appreciate it!
How to find the ideal spot for your ceiling fan
You’ve probably already looked at multiple new ceiling fans in a home décor store or online, or chances are, you’ve already bought one and it’s sitting on the floor ready to be installed. It’s best to read the instructions first that come with it to figure out where to put the fan on your ceiling.
Usually people prefer the center of a ceiling, which is fine. However, make sure that any doors that open into the room will not bang into the ceiling fan once fully opened.
Even if the blades of the fan can clear the top of the door, it’s best to avoid any overlap—the sight of a fast spinning fan close to an open door will make you nervous!
Also, you may have a ceiling fan with added extras like light shades, light bulbs, crystals etc. As those typically protrude from the ceiling much more than the ceiling fan blades, you’d want to be extra careful not to have the door in the way, no matter how far it’s opened.
Once you find the ideal ceiling spot, mark it with a pencil or a piece of paint tape.
How can a drywall ceiling support your ceiling fan?
The short answer is – it can’t.
Drywall simply isn’t strong enough to support a ceiling fan on its own. Don’t even try it. You’ll need the beams or studs in the ceiling—usually unseen, above the ceiling drywall—to support your ceiling fan.
Let’s also assume there’s no attic above your ceiling, which might make installation easier since you could simply install the fan from above the ceiling, instead of below it, however some people don’t have that luxury.
If you’ve picked a spot to mount your ceiling fan, but it’s in between studs, it’s still very do-able. And how do we find the studs if we can’t see them through the drywall? You would use a stud finder, which uses magnetism to find the nails and screws past the drywall. In turn, those nails and screws locate the studs (the wooden beams) above the ceiling.
You can use common sense to figure out which way the studs run, like left to right, or ahead and behind. These beams usually run parallel to two opposing sets of walls, or perpendicular.
(If your chosen spot is directly under a stud, you can mount the ceiling fan box directly to the beam using a saddle box, which is designed to fit a beam directly—but that’s another article!)
But if you want to install a ceiling fan in between studs, you’ll need to use a ceiling brace and box kit.
Installing the ceiling brace and box
(Caution: always be careful around wires and electricity, unless you have experience with basic handling of wires in a home. It may be best to hire a handy-person to do it for you. If you do wiring by yourself, make sure you turn off the light switch and then test for any live wires with a non-contact voltage tester, or better yet, turn off the fuse for that spot).
The ceiling brace looks like how it’s named—a long, thin piece of metal that has flat sides designed to screw into opposing beams of wood.
The box attached to the brace holds the electrical wires for the fan and supports it, and usually can slide along the brace! This is how you support the ceiling fan; you use the existing wooden studs to support the brace on both sides.
If the studs are more than two feet apart, but not that much more, you could always nail onto more wood planks onto the inner sides to close up the gap intended for the ceiling fan. However, this extra option would require taking more drywall off the ceiling (and replaced later by patching back in), or doing it from above the ceiling, such as through the attic.
Using a thin drywall saw, carefully cut a hole that would match the box in size and shape, typically a four-inch diameter hole. Made sure the cut is at 90 degrees so that you don’t waste any drywall.
You may look at the hole and be wondering – how do you put in that long brace through a four-inch round hole? This type of product was cleverly designed. When you insert that brace through the hole, pointing it away from the beams so it can slide in, rotate it so that both sides of the brace are ready to project onto the wooden beams.
Both sides of the brace should have metal “teeth,” or spikes, that dig into the wood when you twist the bar (as it is expandable). When you twist the brace, both sides project outwards (or inwards, as desired) and lengthen it. Ensure that the metal spikes sink into the wood deep enough to support the weight of the ceiling fan.
Installing the Ceiling Fan Inside the Ceiling Box
From there on, it’s relatively simple. Screw in the box to the brace (make sure you punch out a quarter-sized hole by using a screwdriver to poke out a pre-cut circle on the side; this will allow wiring through). Make sure you pull the wires through before you take the next steps!
Then attach the ceiling fan to the box, and voila! Usually the ceiling fan will come with a mounting bracket and decorative canopy that would cover the entire hole so it’s as if the drywall was never cut!
Hopefully we’ve alleviated some worries about hanging a ceiling fan without or in-between studs. You’re not going to have to rebuild your ceiling or buy any super expensive steelwork, it simply needs a special brace and box.