How to Install a Ceiling Fan

Brown ceiling fan installed above frames

The Spruce / Sara Lee

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 2 hrs
  • Total Time: 3 hrs
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $50 to $400

When outside temperatures rise and your house heats up, you might find yourself on the prowl for cooling methods that are both low-cost and effective. This can be a difficult combination to find. While window unit ACs dramatically bring down temperatures, they also significantly increase your power bill.

Ceiling fans have long been used as a smart way of dealing with rooms that are either too hot or too cold. During hot months, the fan draws air up to the ceiling, preventing warm air from building up near floor level. During cold months, ceiling fans can be switched to rotate in the opposite direction, pushing ceiling-height warm air down closer to floor level. Best of all, unlike air conditioners, ceiling fans do not run energy-hungry compressors, so they cost very little to operate.

Before You Begin

A ceiling fan replaces the existing ceiling light usually located at the center of the room. If you have a ceiling light already, this is a straightforward job. You should be able to work above your head on a ladder for long periods, and you should have basic wiring skills of the level required to install a ceiling light.

Contact your local building department to see if a permit is needed for the ceiling fan installation, for the electrical part of this project, or for both tasks.

At the electrical service panel, turn off the circuit breaker that controls the power running to the ceiling light.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 6-foot ladder
  • Cordless drill with Philips and flat-head screwdriver bits
  • 4-inch hole saw
  • 7/8-inch wrench
  • Stud finder
  • Voltage tester
  • Wire stripper


  • Ceiling fan kit
  • Retrofit ceiling fan brace
  • 4-inch round ceiling box cover
  • Safety glasses
  • Dust mask


For this project, you need a functioning ceiling light. If you do not have a ceiling light, the project is much more difficult since you will need to run an electrical cable to the center of the ceiling. If that is the case, help from an electrician and perhaps professional drywall work may be necessary to complete the project.

Materials and tools to install a ceiling fan

The Spruce / Sara Lee

  1. Remove the Ceiling Light

    Place the six-foot ladder under the light, slightly to the side. Remove the shade and bulbs. With the cordless drill, remove the light fixture but not the wires yet. With the voltage tester, double-check that no wires are live.

    If the wires are not live, untwist the plastic wire nuts from the wire pigtails. Untwist the pigtails. Set the light fixture aside.

    Cordless drill removing light fixture from ceiling

    The Spruce / Sara Lee

  2. Install a Fan Brace

    With the stud finder, locate a spot equally centered between two studs and about six inches from the existing ceiling box. Wearing eye protection and a dust mask, cut a hole at that spot with the 4-inch hole saw. Reach into the hole and clear the ceiling area above the drywall of insulation and debris.


    A ceiling fan brace allows you to mount an electrical box between two ceiling joists without the need to access the attic. When you purchase this item, make sure that it is called either a retrofit, old-work, or remodel fan brace. Any of these terms indicate that attic access is not necessary.

    Insert the separate brace section into the hole, with its legs touching the top of the ceiling drywall. Then turn the brace by hand until the brace lengthens and firmly fits between the two joists. You may need to use a wrench for the final turn to firmly seat the brace between the joists.

    Remove the electrical wire from the old ceiling box and pull it through the new hole. Insert the wire into the retrofit brace's included box through one of the knock-out holes in the box. Attach the box to the brace with the included hardware.

    Cordless drill securing brace section to ceiling

    The Spruce / Sara Lee

  3. Cover the Old Box

    With all of the wires removed from the old box, install the 4-inch round cover plate over the box. These plates are usually white but they can be painted, if you wish.

    Alternatively, if the old box is solely supported by drywall, you may be able to remove it and patch up the hole. If the old box is nailed to the side of a joist, it is difficult to remove without removing a large section of drywall; in this case, leave the box in place and cover it with a plate.

    Cover plate drilled into ceiling

    The Spruce / Sara Lee

  4. Install the Mounting Bracket

    Nearly all ceiling fans install in two steps: First, a mounting bracket is installed on the electrical box, then the bulk of the ceiling fan is slid into place in the mounting bracket. This eliminates the need for holding a heavy ceiling fan motor assembly overhead while simultaneously trying to screw it into place.

    The mounting bracket may be pre-attached to the canopy (the decorative cover). If so, detach the bracket from the canopy, unless otherwise directed by the instructions. Screw the mounting bracket into the electrical box with the provided screws. Make sure that the electrical supply wires (the wires formerly powering the ceiling light) pass through the intended opening in the mounting bracket.

    Mounting bracket installed on electrical box with cordless drill

    The Spruce / Sara Lee

  5. Attach the Fan Canopy to the Fan Motor Assembly

    Slide the fan canopy onto the fan motor assembly. Since this is a ring, this must be done before the fan motor assembly is attached to the electrical box.

    Fan canopy attached to fan motor assembly

    The Spruce / Sara Lee

  6. Attach the Fan Motor Assembly to the Mounting Bracket

    You might need assistance with this part. While standing on the ladder, slide the fan motor assembly into the mounting bracket until it seats firmly. Use the provided hardware to secure the fan motor assembly. Leave the fan blades unattached for now.

    Fan motor assembly attached to the mounting bracket on ceiling

    The Spruce / Sara Lee

  7. Make the Electrical Connections

    Consult the ceiling fan's instructions for wiring details specific to your fan. Hire an electrician at this point if you feel uncomfortable with this procedure.

    Expose wire ends with a wire stripper and twist them together with the wire nuts typically included in ceiling fan kits.

    Electric wire connections twisted together in orange wire nut

    The Spruce / Sara Lee

  8. Attach the Fan Canopy

    Slide the fan canopy upward and screw it into place with the decorative screws from the kit.

    Fan canopy screwed into place with screwdriver

    The Spruce / Sara Lee

  9. Attach the Ceiling Fan Blades

    Your ceiling fan blades may come in two parts: the mount and the blade. The mount is the metal section that attaches the blade to the fan motor assembly. Attach the blade to the mount, then attach both to the ceiling fan. Be precise with this step since any deviation may cause the fan blades to wobble.


    Many new fans have slots for the blades to slide through, and mounting screws to hold the blade in place. This usually means there's less room for error (and a wobbly fan blade).

    Ceiling fan blades attached to fan motor assembly with screwdriver

    The Spruce / Sara Lee

  10. Attach the Light Bulbs and Shade

    If your ceiling fan includes a light component, conclude your installation by adding the light bulbs and the light shade.

    Light component attached to bottom of ceiling fan

    The Spruce / Sara Lee

  11. Test Your Ceiling Fan Installation

    Turn the circuit breaker on again. Return to the ceiling fan and test it.

    Ceiling fan tested with light on

    The Spruce / Sara Lee