Pilates Have Nothing On Ceiling Fans!

The kitchen project continues, and yes, I am aware that it started in November. It took a week after our return for Honey to get out of ‘holiday mode’, and back into ‘home reno’ mode again. The countertop has been templated and arrives in 15 days (professional installation). To Honey’s relief her new cupboards passed the ‘level’ inspection and there are only a few minor additions to the structuring required. There is still much to do but the countertops do mark a certain positive point in the project… we are past the half-way point!

I have kept my involvement to only certain parts of the overall project. One of which is described here. This took place early in the renovation, it might explain why I am not required to be involved on a more regular basis. My task was to install some switches and a new ceiling fan…

Monday morning shortly after first light I started with the switches. The first step once I have assembled the tools I will need and have my DIY music playing loud enough to drown out my Tinnitus, is to go down to the basement and shut off the power. Twelve steps down to the panel and twelve steps back up to the kitchen. I take the switch plates off, remove the old switches circa 1950, and install the new ones and I have changed out the switches in just over an hour. Before closing everything up I turn the power back on and make sure that everything works. 12 down… power on… 12 up… everything is perfect and all the switches are working perfectly… 12 down… power off… 12 up. I wrap the switches with electrical tape and mount them in the box, new face plates on and one last check. 12 down, 12 up, flip the switches on… everything works… elapsed time about 90 minutes… time for a smoke.

12 down… 12 up… and I’m ready to start the ceiling fan. Let me say in advance that I hate installing ceiling fans. I have had to do a few over the years and not once have I come away from the experience feeling good. I get frustrated, I curse and I almost always hurt myself. There are only two good ways to install a ceiling fan, 2 guys with 2 ladders or pay someone else to do it. Neither of these options were available to me this day so I opened the box for the new light and started by reading the instructions.


I have learned over the years that even though I put my man-card at jeopardy saying this, instructions are very handy. Now-a-days they make them idiot proof, they come with pictures and large flash warnings at each step reminding you to make sure the power is off!! I spend another hour assembling the new fan, it is more elaborate than the current fan (which works perfectly fine but is the wrong colour) with 3 separate housings. I then spend the next 20-minutes staring at the old fan on the ceiling trying to convince myself that this is a good idea and I can accomplish the task without assistance.


The first step is to remove the old light. Once I do this I am committed. At this time of year, I am working with less than eight hours of usable daylight and as I stood looking at the old light half of it was gone. I got out my 6 ft ladder and up I went, screwdriver in hand. 4 steps up to the ceiling and started to remove the old fan and lights. Unscrew bulb… 4 steps down… place bulb on ply-wood counter… 4 steps up… unscrew 2nd bulb… 4 down, 4 up… last bulb… 4 down, 4 up… remove first light shade… 4… you get the picture. The old light has 3 bulbs and glass shades as well as 5 fan blades, each requiring individual attention. 11 trips up and down the ladder!


Finally, I reach the part I dread, the motor. My shoulders are already stinging from having to undo 22 screws with my arms extended above my head. Motors are heavy, even ceiling fan motors, and to add to my impending agony will be the need to hold up the motor with one hand while I undo the connections with the other! And I’m half-way up a ladder!!! I get the casing off and slide it down exposing the motor housing and ceiling mount bracket. I take a breath, and start to undo the screws that hold the motor in place, one hand on the screwdriver and one hand holding the motor. I need to hold the motor in place so each screw can be removed easily, the weight increasing with each screw’s removal. Finally, it comes free, I ease it down pulling out the wires so I can gain access to the safety wire that is installed on the joist above the electrical box. I get the wires separated enough to see the safety wire screw. I look at the screw holding the safety wire in place and down at the screwdriver in my hand. Of course, it is the wrong-headed screwdriver! I can see the right one sitting on the counter 3 feet below me!!

I knew he was here all along, he’s never very far, but I figured that since the switches had gone so smoothly that maybe he was just going to leave me be. But no… Murphy sat on the counter patting the screwdriver I required with that stupid grin on his face.

“Miss me?” it said.

“Asshole.” I replied as I made my way down the ladder, holding the motor above my head as I stretched my arm and willed my fingers to grow a ‘titch’ longer. My fingertips touched enough to ease the tool into my grip and I quickly climbed the 4 steps and rested my elbow on the top of the ladder giving some relief to my screaming shoulder. I know that the safety wire is meant to hold the weight of the motor but this is an 80-year old house and I don’t trust anything. I undid the safety wire screw with more difficulty than should have been and my language became more colourful. Finally, it came loose and I made the 4 steps down to the floor and put the fan motor down. My left shoulder giving an immediate sigh of relief. Time for another smoke break.

I remove the new fan from its box. The process for putting in a new ceiling fan is the exact opposite to what is previously described. This time I start with the motor and safety wire and finish with the bulbs. I check to be sure I have the right tool in hand and climb 4 steps up the ladder. Resting the motor on the top of the ladder, I part the electrical wires and try to get the screw for the safety wire into the previous hole. There is not enough room for me to reach it with my fingers, so I place the screw on the screwdriver and stab up towards the joist. I grab the motor… down 4 steps… retrieve the screw from the floor… grab an extra screw… up 4 steps. This time I start with the screw already on the screwdriver, guiding it towards the hole. Good thing I brought an extra screw. Down 4 steps… retrieve both screws… up 4 steps. Third times the charm, I get the screw in place. I attach the safety wire and place the motor temporarily into its mounting bracket. Temporarily because I still have to wire it up but first, I need to read the instructions. 4 steps down.


Attach copper ground to box, blah, blah… White to white, blah blah… Black to black, blah, blah… simple as pie… up 4 steps. What do you mean ALL THE WIRES ARE BLACK??!!! There is no white wire at all!! Why didn’t I notice that when I took the old one out??? The wires I am connecting to are circa 1950, they didn’t do coloured wire back then! I rack my short-term memory and convince myself that when I dismantled the old fan, the white wire was connected on the right. I slide the motor free of its mount and extract the wires I need from the ceiling, black to the left, other black to the right. Holding the motor in my left hand, I loosen the ground screw in the box and connect the ground wire from the motor with my right. I then place the motor back on its mount. There is enough of a gap for me to have access to the electrical wires so I can connect them.

I make the connections. There is no way for me to check to see if I have made the proper decision. It seems that this new-fangled fan has three stages, motor, fan blade spindle attachment, then lights. The switch to turn anything on is attached to stage two! Down 4… Up 4… attach the fan blade spindle. Simple plug-in connections and I attach stage two to stage one. Down 4… down 12… power on… up 12… pull chain on spindle… nothing… pull chain again… nothing… curse… turn wall switch to light on… Eureka!!! Spindle is turning!! 12 steps down… kill power… 12 steps up… 4 steps up… I remove the spindle… 4 down… 4 up… and I secure my connections to the motor. I push the wires up into the box and tighten everything associated with the motor into place.


I’ve already attached the spindle once, so it is simple. Down 4… Up 4… spindle attached and secured… down 4… The last thing to do is attach the light fixture. I go to retrieve it… What’s that?… I’m looking at the cover plate for the motor… Up 4… light off… down 4… Up 4… blade spindle off… down 4… get cover… Up 4… attach cover to mount and ceiling… Down 4… spindle pick-up… Up 4… spindle attached… Down 4… Now, where was I? Smoke break!

I attach the fan blades and finally, the last stage. I take the light fixture from the box and notice the blood running down my arm. When did that happen? I’m not surprised that I am bleeding. This is quite common when I am around tools, I have a flair for getting minor cuts. It is a bit disconcerting that I don’t notice the pain when the injury happens but I shrug it off, assuring myself that I would notice right away if the whole hand got taken off. I clean off the blood, and make sure the cut has stopped bleeding. Wouldn’t want to get blood on the new fixture… I would never hear the end of it. Up I go, light in hand. The attachments are easy, just plug them in to the corresponding plug on the spindle and then attach the whole thing together. Up and down four more times and lights are in. There’s no point in putting on light cover until I check to see if the fan is operational. Down 12… power on… up 12.


I flip the switch. Murphy is rolling on the floor laughing his Impish ass off. “Asshole!!!” No blades turning… no lights shining… Sweet FN All!!! I am dejected. I know what I need to do next. Everything will need to be checked and to do this the whole thing needs to come apart. I want to cry! Up 4…

With Murphy always near I know that the last place I will get to in this process, is bound to be where my problem is. I start at the top with the motor rather than the bottom with the light. Sure enough, when I pushed the wires back in the box after testing it, one of the black wires had detached itself. I fix the connection… replace the cover… I felt that cut… down 4… down 12… power on… up 12… turn on switch… Hallelujah… and there was light!!! Up 4… light cover in place… Down 4… light a smoke, stand back and admire my handy-work.


I am proud of my construction ability, not everyone can do what I do. The instructions said that installation should take two hours. I stretched it out to two days!!! (I ran out of light before I had tested the spindle.) My thighs and gams ached from the stair and ladder climbing and two of my three cuts required a Band-Aid. But ultimately the job got done, everything works and has since November. With the counters arriving in the next two weeks, Honey and the Genie have been at it with every free moment and maybe, just maybe, the whole kitchen will be done by… maybe September??







1 Comment

  1. //

    Oh wow! I can really relate! I laughed out loud at this one! Beautifully done, buddy, beautifully done!

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