Correcting DIY Done Wrong

A few days after moving into our house, my daughter posted a video to social media*, showing the ceiling fan in her new bedroom, ready to spin right off the ceiling. All the other ceiling fans were high-end fans that were competently installed, so the home inspector and I took it for granted that this one would be, too. 

Not so, apparently.

After watching the fan in action, I made sure she knew not to use it until I could get up there to fix it, and last weekend, I finally got that opportunity.  I could tell by the wobble that it wasn’t braced properly, so I bought a retrofit ceiling fan brace on one of my many visits to the home center this month. 

Yesterday I took the fan down to take a look. Sure enough, the fan was mounted to a standard old work ceiling box, which was mounted to … lath.  

That’s right, just lath. And when it first started wobbling, it looks like Handy Andy grabbed some spare stranded wire and looped it around the fan mount to keep it hanging. And what did he attach that tether to? Lath. The same lath that was supporting the ceiling box.

Along the top of the picture, you can barely make out the two fender washers held up by blue concrete screws, which were holding either side of the tether around the fan mount. What, no bailing wire? No duct tape?

I disassembled this safety hazard and installed the ceiling fan brace. Reaching up into the ceiling, I was relieved to find reasonably-spaced rafter ties. positioning the ceiling fan brace was by far the most time-consuming portion of this job. 

Since the drywall ceiling covered the original lath and plaster ceiling, the box that came with the ceiling fan brace didn’t descend low enough to hold the mounting hardware at the right height, so I returned to the home center for a solution. I found an octagonal extension ring that mounted securely to the ceiling box at just the right depth. It held the fan mount securely too, so I was back in business. The fan now spins without the threatening wobble. 

While I was at the home center, I picked up a 60 watt-equivalent LED bulb that was on sale. Since this room is in a converted attic, I figured a cool-running light source might be good. The ancient incandescent bulb burned out shortly after we moved in, anyway.  So far I’m a fan of the Cree LED bulbs. I’ve installed some of the daylight bulbs in my basement workshop, and they’re nice and bright. We’ll just have to see how they perform over the long term.

* While I doubt that any sort of parent-shaming was intended, it was a surprisingly effective attention-getter, regardless. I just hope my wife doesn’t catch on to this strategy.

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