New Light Fixture

OK, it’s been another action-filled Saturday around the Collins house again.  We accomplished a bunch of random small jobs, but I’m only gonna tell you about one of them.  We hung a new light fixture in our entry way. It took us quite a few hours.

Now, most of you are probably thinking, “Reuben, hanging a new light fixture is a 10 minute job!!! What took so long?”

“Our house is 100+ years old.  That’s what took so long.”  Since the house is so old, nothing is ever as easy as it’s supposed to be.  We knew this was going to be an awkward kludge of a job before we started, though.  I forgot to take a before picture, but here’s a photo of what we saw right after we took the old light down:

WTF is that?  OK, here’s what you’re looking at:  The house originally had gas lighting, so that threaded nub in the middle of the photo is an abandoned gas line.  The metal piece up in the ceiling is a retrofit piece that attaches to the gas line, and the armored electric cables attach to it.  The big problem with this setup is visible in the next photo:

This mess of wires and the abandoned pipe all extend below the ceiling.  In new construction, all the wires fit up into a box above the ceiling.  This is a problem since all new light fixtures are designed to fit flush against the ceiling.  The most common way around this problem is to install a new box that sits below the ceiling to contain this mess.  Here’s the one we took off:

Using a box like this works fine, except that it’s ugly and these boxes only come in a couple sizes – and none of the lighting fixtures designed to work with these boxes are very attractive.  To really do this project correctly, you’d have to cut out the gas line and install a box.  In this case, it would probably involve removing the entire ceiling in this portion of the house.  We’d have to chase the armored cable through the ceiling to replace it all.  You really don’t want to start disturbing old cloth covered wire unless you can replace it.  We weren’t up to the challenge this weekend.

So here’s the part where loyal readers like Inspector Reuben will begin shaking their heads in disgust.  Since they don’t make boxes the size we wanted, we just made our own, out of wood (shriek!!!):

I just took a chunk of wood about 3/4″ thick, cut a 6″ hole out of the middle, and screwed it into the ceiling.  The new light fixture sits snug against the wood and the hole in the middle provides enough room for that hot mess of wires.  Also, since the light fixture we wanted didn’t come with a pull cord, we had to install our own:

OK, here’s the finished product:

Ultimately, I’d give the project about 5 out of 10 stars.  The pull cord doesn’t pull as smoothly as we’d like, and the square is a little more awkward than we initially imagined (we thought about making it round, but I didn’t trust my ability to cut a smooth circle with a jigsaw…).

Anyway, since we’re creating fire hazards in our house and all, we also installed four new smoke detectors.  We used to have some, but they all got removed during our home renovations, so we’ve been without them for 6 months:

Anyway, that’s it for now.

What did you do this weekend?

10 comments to New Light Fixture

  • Reuben – it was more like hysterical laughter. Very ingenious of you, and it does look nice. Just a thought – how about putting a metal box inside the wood? Also, you might want to install an AFCI circuit breaker on that circuit for an added level of protection.

    Good job with the extra smoke detectors.

  • @Inspector Reuben – metal box inside the wood… metal box inside the wood… hmmmm… that's actually a really good idea that I hadn't thought of.

    Knowing that you read this blog has made me think twice about a few things. "What would Reuben Do? What would Reuben do?"

  • Not bad old houses are always a can of worms

  • @Inspector Reuben – also, I'm not sure if "hysterical laughter" is a comforting response to my home improvement posts. I might prefer disgusted head shaking. I know I'm doing things wrong… but hilariously wrong????

  • I wish you guys were for hire…..we have all sorts of projects but no idea how to do them. Did either of you have home improvement knowledge before, or are you learning as you go?

  • @The Frandsens (the entire family) – We don't have any idea what we're doing. We didn't when we started, we don't now. We're just making stuff up as we go.

  • What you're doing really isn't hilariously wrong – it's just the way you describe it that makes it hilarious. That's what makes your blog entertaining.

  • @Katie – thanks for the link. I had never been to that site before, so I'll be spying on all my neighbors for sure. You live in south MPLS, yes? Maybe you should send me your address and I'll look up your house.

  • I thought maybe you'd be interested in this website.

    It's the city of Minneapolis' Nosy Neighbor site. Type in your address (or any other in the city) and you get all sorts of information about your house and theirs. It provides a little more history about your house and could help you with your home improvement projects in the future.

  • I will over facebook.