I plugged the very last hole in my ceiling this weekend with a big fat fan. Hurrah! Take THAT, PG&E. A few things I learned along the way:
- CEILING FANS. Installing your first ceiling fan is hard. Installing a ceiling fan after that, not so much. Installing an expensive ceiling fan after having installed a cheap one is even easier because it comes with all kinds of helpful things, like a hook to hold the motor up near the ceiling while you, lonely installer with only two hands, connect the wiring. The hook also supports one end of the 25lb motor while you tighten the screws on the other side.
My boss told me more expensive fans are easier to install but I did not believe him. Oh me of little faith.
- LIGHT FIXTURES. Installing a mere light fixture after installing ceiling fans is a cakewalk.
- ATTICS. Attics are dirty. And hot. And lack proper walkways and lighting. But if you are installing a ceiling fan, you MUST go up there to inspect or install extra bracing to support the weight of the fan. If you do not, the fan WILL come down one day and squash whatever (or whomever) happens to be below it at the time.
- DRILLING. Never stand directly beneath your drill when drilling into the ceiling unless you want plaster dust stuck to your by-now sweaty face, neck, upper chest, and in your bra.
Tip: Drill a hole in the bottom of a disposable plastic drinking cup and insert your drill from the bottom when drilling into the ceiling. The cup will catch any falling debris and keep the dust under control. (Gotta love that Amy Matthews and the DIY Network.)
- TOO LONG IS BETTER THAN TOO SHORT. Never shorten anything - not chain, not wires, not anything - until you are completely finished and know FOR CERTAIN you do not need that extra length.
- CHAIN LINK. Opening and closing chain links is an exercise in frustration. I found a site that told me to hold one end with pliers (after protecting it with a towel so you do not damage the finish), then insert a screw driver into the other side and use leverage to bend it up or down. This worked, sort of, but I could not get it open quite far enough to fit easily over the big ends to which I had to attach it nor could I quite get it closed back perfectly with no gaps. Bother.
- REMOTE CONTROL CEILING FANS. These suckers are a nightmare to install because the receiver, extra wires, and J-hook all have to fit into the tiny canopy at the ceiling with virtually no wiggle room. The bracket is only about the size of the ceiling opening and can edge up into the opening if you are not careful, making it hard to get the canopy aligned with the mounting screws that are now practically embedded in the ceiling.
Also, many (all?) of these fans are ONLY operated by the remote, i.e. no pull chains, so if the remote goes out, too bad. Or as in my case, if you cannot get it to turn on when you finish installation, you have no way to determine if it is a problem with the remote or the power connections without taking it all apart again.
If I was going to have to take the GODDAMN fan apart one more time it was going back to the GODDAMN store. (See #10 and do as I say, not as I do.)
- DRY FIT. Do as much as you can on the floor first. Dry fit anything that inserts into another part to find out BEFORE your neck is kinked and you have lost all blood flow to your fingers whether you need to maneuver around any protruding objects or wrap the wires a certain way to get everything to fit properly.
- GOT POWER? Verify the fixture has power before putting on the pretty parts, like fan blades and glass shades, so you have less to take back off if you have troubleshooting to do.
- PATIENCE, PATIENCE, PATIENCE. Patience is not only a virtue, it is a requirement when installing ceiling fixtures, with or without a fan. Take your time. Take breaks. Stay hydrated and have your party beverage of choice available when the job is done.
I cannot express how immensely gratifying it is to install ceiling fans and light fixtures myself. To someone who does this sort of thing all the time, that may seem silly, but I have a new skill now. I feel empowered and motivated and, um, OW…since when do I have muscles THERE?
Good thing I have a hot tub.
Have you installed any ceiling fixtures? Got any tips or stories?