How to install a ceiling fan where no fixture exists

A ceiling fan is one of those things that you just don’t realize how convenient they are until you have them for a while. After you realize this, you want them in every room of your house. If you wish to install it in a room you already have a ceiling light fixture it is a piece of cake .

Ceiling fan installationBut what to do when in the desired room there are no fixtures?

With a little bit of skill, you can install it yourself. You will need to decide where to mount it on the ceiling, find the closes power source, get the wires from it to the fan location, install the fan brace and electrical box, switches, and connect all the wires.

Sounds like a lot of things to do, but actually it can be fairly straightforward if you have some basic skills. So here it is, how to install a ceiling fan where no fixture exists.

How Much Does It Cost To Install A Ceiling Fan Where No Fixtures Exist?

Installing a ceiling fan can be rather inexpensive if you are capable of doing it yourself. So let’s do a quick bill of materials for it. Let’s presume that you already have a fan bought and paid for, so we can exclude it from the calculation. We will use the prices at Home Depot.

Quality braces with metal electric boxes you can find for as little as $20 or as much as $150. You will probably need around 15 feet of wire, maybe up to 20 feet depending on how big is your room. We recommend to buy 25-feet bundles, and they are from around $25 for 14 gauge and $35 for 12 gauge wires.

Quality wall boxes go from $3 for a 2-gang unit or $4 for a 3-gang. Fan control switches, for a decent quality with 3-step fan and an on/off light switch, prices go from around $20 and can go up to $100 for Wi-Fi enabled switches. Check out our recommendations for ceiling fan wall control switches here.

When we sum up these numbers, we see that installing the fan by yourself can cost you from just shy of $70 to almost $300, but if you need an electrician to help you install it, add another $50 - $70 for that too.

Step by step guide to install a ceiling fan where no fixture exists

Choose The Location

The best location for a ceiling fan certainly is the dead center of the ceiling. But it may not be the best one. Whether it is an attic or another floor above the room, your ceiling has the construction of parallel joists in it right behind the rock sheets.

You will need to cut a hole in the sheetrock, so you will need to be careful to cut it between them. These joists, because they are a load-bearing element, will give you the place to attach the ceiling fan brace that will carry the weight of the fan.

How big of a hole you will need depends on the design of the particular brace and electrical box you will use. Most braces come with a box, so compatibility is not an issue. The best place for cutting the hole is in the middle between two joists, and marking the cut is even simpler. Just place the electric box on the ceiling and trace it with a sharpie.


Find The Power Source

A ceiling fan needs some electricity to run, so you will need to find some power source to connect it to. If your room has a wall switch you are in a perfect situation. You will have to expand it from a 1-gang switch box to a 2 or 3-gang box, depending on the fan switch type you wish to use.

Before you start working anything with or around the live wires you should make sure to flip the circuit breaker and to check whether it is a 20 or 15 amps breaker. You should never touch live wires or even work around them. To make it extra certain, you should test the wires or power outlet with a voltage tester.


Run The Wires

Whether you have easy access to your attic or not, or there is another floor above your room, this part can be either very easy or very tricky. In the best-case scenario, with an accessible attic, all you need is to bring the wire from the power source to using fishing tape or a similar homemade contraption and drag it through the hole you have cut in sheetrock.

Absolute worst-case scenario, if you have a floor above the room, you will need to cut multiple holes in the sheetrock and drill a hole through every joist between the wall on which will be switches and the location of the electrical box for the fan. In this case, it may be best to look for help from a professional.

Something of a situation in between would be if you have a floor above but the ceiling joists run perpendicular to the wall where switches will be located, or you can’t access the attic. You will need to cut two more holes above the switches, both in the wall and ceiling sheetrock, to make it easier to fish the cable, first up the wall and then through the ceiling.

Also, keep in mind that if the breaker you are running the fan of is 15 amps, you will need 14 gauge wires, but for a 20 amps breaker, you will need 12 gauge wires.

Blue wire on a ceiling fan

Install The Brace And Electrical Box

For this step, you must consult the installation manual for the particular brace you are using. There are many different designs and installation procedures.

This step is also where you can make the annoying error of purchasing a separate brace and electrical box. It’s better to buy them as a set, you will be certain that there will be no issues with mounts alignment, screws, or lack thereof.

You must follow the instructions to a tee (we know how tempting it is to just try and figure it out yourself)! The brace serves to dampen any potential vibrations from the fan and also to carry its weight, which can easily be well above 20lbs.

It is critical that the brace is properly and firmly connected to the joists. You should also avoid using plastic electric boxes, especially if your fan is on the heavier side and get proper heavy-duty metal boxes. This will be required for mounting the fan’s bracket to and therefore the fun, so you need to ensure it’s sturdy enough to take the full weight.


Install The Fan And Switches

Depending on the make and model, there are several ways that the fan bracket can connect to the electrical box, and how the fan mounts. The mounting points on the box and bracket are standardized, and it boils down to just connecting them together with provided screws.

When you have done so, you should tug a bit on the bracket to see whether everything is tight and secure.

To connect the wires to the fan you should also carefully follow the wiring diagram provided in the instructions. If you are not feeling competent enough, you should hire or ask for advice from an electrician.

Connecting the switches is fairly easy if you understand the main principle of parallel wiring and that you must switch the hot wire. Switching the hot wire simply means that the switch must be on it. Technically you can switch the neutral wire, but that is a dangerous situation where your fan will be under power even when switched off.

We highly recommend getting the advise of an electrician if you are not comfortable doing this step yourself.

Conclusion

Hopefully we’ve helped guide you on how to install a ceiling fan where no fixture exists.

It’s not the most difficult process if you have the right tools (even better if you have access to an attic space above), but care should always been taken when dealing with electricity and installing a ceiling fan yourself, so call a professional if you’re unsure.

Also be sure to take a read of our article “are ceiling fans safe”  to make sure you’ve done everything necessary to keep you and your family safe around your ceiling fan.