Weekend Project

For a long time now Sharron and I have been dreaming of a ceiling fan in our bedroom.  Our house was built in the 70′s and the style at the time was to not put ceiling fixtures in the master bedroom, or so we’ve been told.  So we knew ahead of time that we were going to have a few challenges just to get this project off the ground.  1 – Figure out a way to mount a fan mountable electric box into the ceiling.  2 – Get electricity to that spot.  3 – Figure out how to utilize the existing wall switches OR run new cable to those positions.

Saturday morning, I climbed up in to the attic to do some investigating.  (NOTE:  To access the attic, you have to use a step ladder and then twist yourself OVER the shelves in a closet before using ONLY your upper body strength to pull yourself up)  I found the cabling for the 2 existing wall switches pretty easily.  I did not find any live circuits though.  What we discovered is that the outlet that was being controlled by the wall switches is where the electricity was coming from.  This was either a good thing or a bad thing.  We weren’t sure at the time.

Our next stop was the Connecticut Lighting Center to see if they had any better ceiling fans than Home Depot or Lowes.  We quickly discovered that the quality of the fans was MUCH better than at either of the BIG stores.  We also quickly decided we really liked the Minka-Aire Delano II with nickel finish, so we bought it.

We headed to Home Depot to get the ceiling box kit we’d need.  The fan sales man told us we would need a brace kit, but instead should mount a 2 x 4 between ceiling joists.   We ended up buying 2 different electrical boxes for ceiling fans in just to make sure we’d got one that worked.  We also bought 50′ of new electrical wire (2-wire, 14 gauge) and a wire snake in case we needed it.  When we got home, we discovered that the 2 plastic electrical boxes we’d bought would be of no use as the directions for the ceiling fan specifically stated NOT to use plastic boxes.  Back to Home Depot we went…

While back Home Depot, we changed out minds and decided that we would get the brace kit instead of trying to simply find the right electrical box.  What we didn’t realize at the time though is that the space between our ceiling joists is 22″ and not the standard 16″…

Once home, it was time for me to go back up into the attic.  What I quickly discovered was the 22″ space between the joists.  While I was measuring and preparing to cut a hole in the ceiling, Sharron was quickly doing some math to determine if we’d need that additional support or not.  According to her calculations, the brace kit would support 70 pounds at 16″ and 35 pounds at anything greater than 16″.  Our fan manual stated that the ceiling should be ready to support 50 pounds of weight…

During all of this time, Sharron and I had also been trying to work out a good circuit design.  We make many many many drawings of how it would work.  Before calling it a day on Saturday, we had come up with what we thought was a good solution.  Just to give you an idea of what we started with, here is what the circuit looked like:

Initial Electric

Sunday morning we got up bright and early.  Sharron and I had decided that we would need to close the space between the joists to 16″ in order for the brace to work.  Luckily, we already had 4 existing 2 x 4 scraps that were of the right length.  I grabbed a drill bit and some screws and took it all up in to the attic with me and proceeded to install them.  It took me longer than I would have liked, but I was able to take advantage of an existing 2 x 4 that runs through the middle of the attic for added support.  When it was done, we were ready to install the brace again.

I needed a break from the attic, so I came down to discuss our electrical situation again.  For breakfast that morning, we had gone out to pick up something quick and also to stop at the hardware store.  Sharron smartly suggested picking up a live wire sensor.  Looking at the directions for the new fan switches and at our home improvement book, we were able to come up with a new new plan (yes, 2 new’s) for how the wiring should work.  I had found a wire in the attic that was live that I could splice in to and run it to the fan and had done so.  Looking at it for this new new plan, I realized that I’d made a horrible error and that there would be no way for the switches to break the circuit.

We took a break for a quick lunch and I took a shower.  I had thought I was done up in the attic, but after we’d discovered this latest circuit limit, we again had a dicussion regarding how the electricity should flow.  We determined that it should work like this:

Final Electric

This plan however, required that I head back up into the attic to run the splice together the black wire from the electric in portion of the plan to the black wire in the existing 3-wire that runs between the 2 switch boxes.  This would run electricity in from the circuit breaker to switch 1 via the black wire, from switch 1 to switch 2 via the red wire, from switch 2 to the fan via another black wire and from the fan back out via the white wire thus completing the circuit.  This plan calls for the electrician to ignore all white wires except for the one that connects directly from the circuit breaker to the fan.  I’d never seen an electrical plan like this before, but, that was what the directions called for.

When I was done up in the attic, we had these wires sticking out of the electrical box in the ceiling:  1 black, 2 whites and 2 grounds.  1 white would be ignored completely, so I capped it.  The others all tied together into the fan.  Sharron graciously went to the circuit breaker to turn it back on to see if we could get it to work.  I initially tried turning each switch on separately.  This did not work for either switch.  Sharron suggested, smartly, that I turn them both to on…SUCCESS!  The fan turned on immediately.

I took a quick break and fed Parker his dinner.  Sharron worked on getting some of the other fan pieces staged to be put in to place.  When Parker was done eating, I returned to help with the installation.  We made quick work of the rest of the process and were able to get the entire thing up and running:



The first picture is what it looks like when it’s operating and for comparison, the second picture is what it looks like at rest…which is what we needed when we were done.  We started clean up of the project at around 8:50 PM on Sunday.  We both took Monday off of work.  :-)

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