Upgrade Your Old Ceiling Fan

Cheap fans with phony shiny wood grain and "brass" parts are pretty ugly, and pretty prevalent. Since I couldn't find a great looking replacement that didn't cost a gazillion dollars, and since my fans still worked fine, I decided to just change their look. This project is easy to do and doesn't require any electrical work (unless you want it to). Plan on taking 2-3 hours to tackle the first 6 steps, and another 30 mins to reassemble your fan and turn it on.

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Step 1: Materials

Primer paint
Finish paint
Rustoleum oil based paint or the like
2-3 paint brushes
All purpose cleaner and towels
Screwdriver (flat and/or Phillips depending on your fan)

Step 2: Remove Fan Blades From Motor

I have done two fans. For the first I removed the entire fan from the ceiling requiring me to turn off the power to the fan at the circuit box. While this did allow me to fix a problem with the fan (it's a 3-speed but was only one was working), it made painting the motor housing difficult.

For the second fan I just left the motor on the ceiling. This made painting the motor housing really simple. Removing the fan blades is very easy to do. Seems pretty standard that the blades are attached to the motor by a couple of screws and that's it. Just remove the screws and the blade and connector will separate from the housing.

Step 3: Separate Fan Blades From Connectors and Clean All

Unscrew the blades from the connectors. These screws came out very easily in both my fan projects.

Fan blades get super grimy and dusty, esp if near a kitchen which was the case for one of mine. I used all purpose cleaner and rags and went over the blades a few times to get them clean. Same with the connectors.

Step 4: Put a Primer Coat on the Blades

You only have to paint one side of the blades since no one will ever see the top side. Prime the edges of the blades first and then work a thick coat onto the face of the blade. Any good quality primer will work. I used Zinsser water-based primer.

I did one coat of primer and that seemed to be enough. But two coats wouldn't hurt, and primer paint dries pretty quickly.

Step 5: Paint Metal Parts - No Primer Needed

I used Rustoleum oil-based black satin paint. If you use an oil-based paint wear gloves as the paint likes to stick around. For the connectors I did a nice thick coat with a cheap brush. Even if you splat it on, the paint sorta smooths itself out as it dries and has a spray-paint finish to it in the end, very smooth and even. One coat was all I did, with a little touching up on the finished product. For the motor housing, I positioned a 6-foot ladder on one side of the housing attached to the ceiling and painted one half then moved to the other side to paint the second half. I used a much thinner coat on the housing since I didn't want drips -- that Rustoleum is nasty stuff to clean up.

Step 6: Paint Blades With Two Coats of Finish Color

By now the primer coat is dry enough to do the first color coat. I used left-over water-based latex paint from the paint job recently done in my living room so that the fan blades match my walls. You'll need to do at least two coats if you are going to a lighter color on your fan blades.

Step 7: Reconnect Blades to Connectors, and Connectors to Motor

Wait overnight for everything to dry and then put the fan blades and connectors back together -- reverse what you did in steps 3 and 2. Be careful when handling the connectors because the paint can scratch off pretty easily. Not really a problem later since you will probably never touch the connectors, or if you do it will be with a soft cloth when cleaning.

My fans have two rows of screw holes so that I can choose to use four blades (inner row of holes) or five blades (outer row of holes). I went with four to minimize the fan even more. With the nice white paint you can hardly see the fan when it's on.

Step 8: Touch Up Et Voila!

You may need to touch up your paint job, especially the paint you use on the connectors and motor housing -- it's tough to paint those shiny surfaces thoroughly in one go around. Regardless, I found touch-up to be minimal.

I chose to ditch the horrible glass globes that come with these old crappy fans and invested in these Satco light adaptors. They work like adjustable track lights. I picked these up online for around $12 each, so $72 for enough for the two fans. (I bet you could do something awesome and super cheap with little Ikea light fixtures!) And the six 50w halogen narrow floodlights set me back about $30. But even with these accessory costs, I got two great looking, great working fans for well less than half the cost of one replacement fan.



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    13 Discussions


    2 years ago

    I am doing an extensive remodel of my house. I bought all new ceiling fans and my contractor painted the blades to match the wall paint of each room. When my electrician came to put them up, he refused to saying the factory has the blades' weight perfect and by painting them they will not be balanced and will wobble badly. I have looked on-line and have not seen anyone complain about it or even mention this problem. Has anyone encountered this problem or should I hire a new electrician to put them up?


    3 years ago

    love every bit of this. Question: are the lights glaring with no shade/diffuser?

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    Hi WendieT - I haven't lived in the space where that fan exists for going on 5 years now. If my memory serves, the light was way better without the shade/diffuser. It was much more focused light, more like track lighting, so you can point it at something as well as use it to light the room. I recall the light with globes being very soft and dull. These gave a brighter - but not glaring - light.


    5 years ago

    Was it hard reattaching the fan blades? One of mine came loose and we had to take it off but were having a really hard time putting it back on..any suggestions?


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I really like the idea of using the adjustable lights - great idea.
    Just wondering....did you have any problems having unbalanced fan blades after painting them? I ask this because getting fan blades to balance properly (not having fan "wobble") has always been a problem for me. Adding paint to the blades might potentially add to that instability. Of course, that can be solved by rebalancing the van by using small attachable weights.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

     it looks great at night. Replacing the old glass "shades" with the new adjustable spotlights gives a much better room light. And being able to position the lights -- on the wall, on the floor, on the dining room table... -- makes the fan a lot more functional. There's really know flicker at all. I have two of these fans in my living room/dining room -- large room -- and they really look great. No regrets having done this project!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    You forgot some step:
    1) Add some knive to each blade
    2) mount it on your truck
    3) hope zombie come!

    1 reply

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

     Ha! You should def pursue that version and post it to Instructables. 


    Just a guess, maybe forgot the 'before' picture after starting the project..  I've got 3 different ceiling fans in my house.  I don't do a lot of planning or fore-thought before jumping into a project, and usually afterward thinking I should have taken some pictures.  Documentation has never been a strong point for me, but plan on doing an Instructable sometime.


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

     Hi there - there is a "before" picture available. On the intro page, scroll down to just under the big photo of the finished fan and there's a thumbnail you can click that will pull up the photo of the original fan. 

    I agree about documentation. I realized after finishing the first of two fans that I should have documented. So glad I had a second fan project to do - though I didn't start documenting that one until I was pretty much done. Whoops!


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

     I think my intro page is a bit confusing - sorry! My fan started out as a 5-blade fan that is brown faux wood and faux brass. On the intro page there is a picture of it -- scroll down to just under the big photo of the finished 4-blade fan and click on the thumbnail to see the original. 

    I wanted to minimize the fan as much as possible. Since my fans offer the option to use only 4 blades or to use the full set of 5, I opted to switch from the original 5-blade format to the 4-blade format in the finished project. I do not notice any difference in air circulation with the 4-blade format.