Friday, June 11, 2010

Aren't Ceiling Fans Supposed to be Easy?

I'll admit it, I'm guilty of perpetrating this lie, and I've had it perpetrated on me. Ceiling fans are easy to install. Really, they are, in a perfect world, with the perfect house and the perfect fan. I've made that comment "Oh, you could put a nice fan where that ceiling light is, it'd look great! It's easy, you could do it in less than an hour". Why do I keep saying this to people when I know it to be untrue? Because I want to believe. I've installed numerous ceiling light fixtures and ceiling fans, and very few were zip-zap-done (as Wino says). Here's the basic zip-zap steps: 1) turn off the power at the breaker, not just the switch! 2) remove the existing fixture. 3) install the new base plate. 4) hang the motor and connect the wires. 5) install the housing cover, blades and light kit. 6) turn the power back on! Voila!

But this is how the ceiling fan install went in the master bedroom: 1) turn off power, ok, that was actually easy because I already knew which breaker it was. 2) remove existing fan. pretty easy, just awkward, and I had to be good and save all the bit and pieces since I'm giving it away to be reinstalled elsewhere. 3) install new base plate. Well, this fan has a massive base plate since it's a flush mount and covers the motor housing. That's all fine and good but the electric box installed in the ceiling is crooked and tilts down 1/4" past the drywall on one side. With the base plate installed, that edge hanging down becomes a 1" gap. So I remove base plate then the electric box to investigate. The hanging plate is installed quite securely to a beam spanning the joists. I decide it'll be easier to cut the hard plastic electric box. Down to the garage, attach a block of wood to the end of the box so I've got something to keep my fingers safe. I drew a line and cut about 3/8" off the front with a chop saw. Reinstalled the box then reinstalled the base plate. Phew! 4) hang motor and connect wires. This one is easy, there's plenty of wire coming from the ceiling (not always the case) and it's 14/3 meaning it's a little thinner, easier to manipulate and there's two "hot" wires, red and black, one for the light and one for the fan. With the wiring done, the motor was to be installed next. I pushed it into place but, WTF, the screws for the base plate are too long and prevent the motor from being screwed to the base tightly. Unacceptable. Undid step 4. Found a little hacksaw in the tool box and proceeded to cut 1/8" (yup) off the bottom of the screws. Remember, I'm using the footboard of the bed frame as a ladder and have little resistance while trying to saw off the screws that were quite close to the ceiling already. Grrr! At this point I made an executive decision to take a break and run errands. On my return, steps 4, 5 and 6 went as expected although it did take longer than I thought it would. The instructions on this fan were actually really good but the illustrations of the install steps were dark, indecipherable photos and useless.

Installing a ceiling fan/light is easy, really it is. The challenge is fixing the work of those who have gone before you. Even a new house has no guarantees about what's under and behind fixtures but the good news is, with patience, a few trips to the hardware store and some problem solving creativity, that ceiling fan will go up and look beautiful.

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