Ceiling fans need to be attached to ceiling joists in order to be safely and properly secured. Drop ceiling increases the distance between the ceiling boards and ceiling joists. On the surface, this makes it seem as if ceiling fans are not compatible with drop ceilings, which would be a real pity because this style of ceiling is popular and has many advantages.
Happily, you don’t have to choose between one and the other. There are ways to install ceiling fans safely in drop ceilings, and these methods have come a long way in recent years, making the process a lot simpler.
Ceiling fans can be installed in drop ceilings. Downrods can be used to span shorter distances between the joists and ceiling boards. Specialized kits can be used to support the ceiling fan in a drop ceiling.
Best Method Is to Use a Kit
Ceiling fans can be installed onto a drop ceiling in various makeshift ways. People may have their own way of doing the installation. Most commonly plywood and other materials are used to strengthen and reinforce the area that the ceiling fan is attached to.
That was until kits came out that were designed specifically for these installations.
As ceiling fan installation kits moved to the forefront, installers transitioned from their own home remedies for the installation in drop ceilings to using the kits.
There are some variations of ceiling fan installation kits, including box-grid systems (amazon link).
What Is in the Kit?
These kits come with several different parts. If one knows the parts in a kit, they can make their own “home kit” by going and purchasing the necessary parts separately.
The table below describes what comes in a kit, why those parts are included, and links where such parts can be purchased on their own so a home kit can be made.
|Item in a Kit||Purpose of Item||Make Your Own Kit|
|Electrical Box||Houses the wires from the fan and ceiling. Provides structural support and takes some load of the weight. Required.||Purchase here (amazon link).|
|Support chain||Secures the box to the structure that is being connected to (normally a joist). Bears the weight. Required.||Purchase here.|
|Mounting Hardware||Fits between two ceiling joists. Can come with an electrical box attached. Required.||Purchase here (amazon link).|
|Saf-T-Cap||Protects wires/bolts from debris. Normally comes with a box. Not required, highly recommended.||Purchase here (amazon link).|
|8-32 thread bolts||Fastener for cover plate (which covers the box) and lightweight fixtures. The type of bolt used will depend on the ceiling fan and its weight. Required, but varies by need.||Purchase here (amazon link).|
|10-24 screw||Same as above but used for heavier fixtures. Required, but varies by need.||Purchase here (amazon link).|
|1.25 inch wood screw||Used for connecting the mounting hardware to the joists. Required.||Purchase here.|
|Turnbuckle||Allows the user to adjust the height of the ceiling fan. Not Required.||Purchase here.|
|U-Bolt||Used for fastening the support chains to joists. Required.||Purchase here.|
Can You Install a Flush Mount in a Drop Ceiling
If the installer is using a kit, then yes, a flush mount can be installed in a drop ceiling. This is because you are not relying on the presence of a downrod to span the distance between the ceiling joist and the ceiling boards.
How to Install Ceiling Fans in a Drop Ceiling
The installation for ceiling fans in a drop ceiling may seem like an intimidating task. However, the simple list below will offer the basics for what needs to be done. For more detailed instructions, you can check out this great forum post.
If you have purchased a kit, refer to the instructions provided in it for how to properly install the different parts.
- Begin by deciding where you want the fan to be. Try to leave some buffer room from the ceiling grid.
- Ideally, the box will hang in the hole without any side support, and the support chains will go off at about 45° angles. Vertical is also ok.
- Assemble the box and mounting hardware.
- Dry fit the assembly to make sure there won’t be any interference with the support chain or anything else within the ceiling (pipes, ducts, etc.).
- Next, outline the box on the ceiling tile to mark where your cut will be made. A tight fit is best.
- Remove the ceiling tile and begin installing the mounting hardware, box, and support chains.
- Adjust the cables so that the box is suspended and aligned with the hole.
- Slowly apply some weight to the fixture to be sure everything is secure.
- Once satisfied with box placement, run electrical and replace the ceiling tile.
- Hang the ceiling fan.
Alternative for Smaller Gaps
In cases where the drop ceiling isn’t significantly lower than the framework, a kit may not be needed to install the ceiling fan.
Instead of using a kit, one could use a ceiling fan cross-brace along with a downrod. In such a case, the ceiling fan is not directly anchored to a joist.
A ceiling fan cross brace is a metal tube that goes in between two joists and has a bracket that can connect to a box. The cross brace is screwed into the joists on either side of it. A downrod can then be used to help stabilize the fan.
When installing a cross brace, refer to the manufacturers instructions regarding how much weight can be supported. Being able to support 50 lbs is common.