Archive for November, 2011

Basement Task Lighting

The remodel trudges on and we’re ever so slowing getting the electrical wrapped up on our end. Cutting holes, pulling wire, stapling, adding junction boxes, wiring up lights, etc. Then when the electrician gets done with his test hopefully we’ll see his face again so he can help us hook everything up and look over our work. Only then can we get the underfloor electrical inspected and put the floor back down. If the electrician doesn’t start showing up after his test I might have to take extreme measures like kidnap his dogs until he does. There are only so many excuses a person can take before they snap!

Anywho since Flannel Man and I work opposite shifts we do most of the small tasks individually at night after work (his “night” starts at 2 am). At night it’s just me and the dog. She needs to be in the same room as me at night to see what I’m doing…you know to supervise for consistency. The other night after cutting in some ceiling boxes I decided to take a self portrait with the dog because there is always a lack of pictures from these individual work nights. Most of them turned out blurry or dark but for the first one worked out. It just makes me laugh.

Let’s take a closer look at what’s all going on in this photo shall we?


What a great little summary of our lives right now! It’s not all doom and gloom like my last post might have sounded. We’re still having fun just more antsy to get things done.

With all of the basement recessed lights in we still had some task lighting to figure out before we could get the basement electrical inspected and close up the floor. The alternating recessed lights look great and give a nice even amount of light. We’re very happy with the look and the amount of light they put out. It’s like night and day with the new recessed lights vs. the two old flushmounts that were lighting this space before. But this is going to be a multifunctional space so task lighting will be beneficial and add another dimension to the lighting scheme in the room.


The first area that is going to have task lighting is the desk that will be built-in to the nook under one of the windows. On our current desk I use a desk lamp and it works well but I also have a much larger L-shaped desk right now. With the limited surface area that can fit in this nook I wanted to go with some overhead pendant lights that don’t take up any desk space. The pendants will be right in front of a big window so I don’t want them to be too big or take up much visual space. We also want a bit of an industrial feel to this room so I’m leaning toward a clear glass shade or a more industrial wire cage shade.

Schoolhouse Electric, Lowell

Hudson Valley 8001

For now we just cut in the electrical boxes and wired up a nearby light switch. The electrician wanted take a short cut and consolidate light switches putting it on the other side of the room near the sink or the entrance. But I didn’t want to have to walk across the room everytime I used the office lights. That is beauty of assisting the electrician you can put things wherever you want them as long as you can make it work. We’ve had plenty of time to do minor changes like that with him taking the month off.


Another area we want task lighting is what we’re dubbing “the reading area.” Very creative right? This space will have either a daybed or banquette similar to a window seat sans the actual window. It’s a nice spot to curl up and read a good book because it gets a lot of natural light in the afternoon from the patio door and has a view of the back yard. But it’s not deep enough to do much else without impeding on the traffic flow. There I wanted to have two armed sconces on either side of the daybed that switch on individually by hand. This part of the floor above was not tore up and with the manual switching thankfully it wasn’t needed. There is an outlet on that wall we’ll be able to pull the power from and with a little drywall patching we can easily add those later. I’d love to get some sconces like these in the space:

Hudson Valley 4721


Finally, there is the Awkward (with a capital A) sink area. As I explained previously this area is going to become our utility sink…well actually that is how we use it now and we’re going to keep it that way. It had its own ugly flushmount light and switch but the light was a few feet behind the sink. So when you turned it on and stood in front of the sink it created a big shadow on the whole space. After tearing up the floor above we saw that the beam took up almost the entire soffit above the sink which explains the strange light location. The beam is very big and covers almost the entire countertop so the best place to put task lighting would be recessed into the soffit. The lights could stick out below the drywall but anything more than an inch or two and I would hit my head on it when I lean over the sink. It’s a tight area!

Ever since we bought the house I had had a plan in my head for this area. Line the soffit with either recessed or non-recessed puck lights tied together on one switch! Imagine the nice triangular rays of light hitting the back wall which will someday be covered in a pretty mosaic tile…sigh. It would be cheap and easy. But nothing is ever as cheap or easy as you’d hoped. The distance between the bottom of the beam and the drywall was just shy of 3 inches. As I explained my idea to our electrician and our local the electrical supply company they both thought it would be easy to find a recessed light that would work in the space. Upon further investigation it wasn’t. Everything that is that shallow is made for kitchen cabinets and is only rated to be mounted on or in cabinetry. I couldn’t find a single puck light rated for drywall. Which seems crazy considering I was even looking at fixtures that were flushmount to the underside of the drywall out in the open! But after talking to a few lighting companies they said they get too hot for drywall applications. I could only find one fixture that was UL listed for drywall and it was a very expensive mini LED recessed light. So we went back to considering all kinds of ugly and unconventional options like a track light on the front of the soffit, recessed lights a few feet behind the sink with gimbal trims, and battery operated lights. We even considered removing the bottom part of the soffit and replacing it with stained wood but we thought that would look strange with the rest of the soffit continuing on across the hall in all drywall. With the batrooms now over this area putting a light back where the old one was wasn’t even an option anymore because there is now a duct there. After agonizing over the decision for weeks we bit the bullet and just bought the LED lights. We knew we’d never again have the floor above open for access and without that we wouldn’t be able to wire anything to the soffit space where we really wanted the lights to be.

It took weeks for them to arrive because they are a new product that is custom made for now. At least that extended lead time coincided with our missing electrician. When they came I was initially a bit bummed. They didn’t look like they were worth the outrageous price we paid for them. You could see each of the three LEDs inside and the lens looked small compared to the trim size. But I gave them the benefit of the doubt and we installed them anyway. Installation was didn’t exactly go as planned…

    Late one Sunday night I marked out the evenly spaced lights and put a nail in the center of each one and thought:

    How luck am I that I didn’t hit any of the 2×4’s above! Maybe this is going to work out after all.

    Then I put in another nail on each edge of the 2” holes we had to cut and hit not one but two 2×4’s.

    Bummer. Now what?

    So I moved each light in an inch.

    If they are all evenly spaced the distance from the side walls doesn’t matter.

    Hit two more 2×4’s.

    Duh! OK I’ll just space them out instead.

    Hit a 2×4 on the first hole.

    For the love of…

    So I go back to the original layout and Flannel Man offers to help by somehow fitting his hand under the beam from the floor above. A lot of yelling and confusion ensues.

    “Which one can’t move?”

    “This one?” *knock, knock*

    “And this one can move left?” *knock, knock*


    “My left or your left?”

    “Mine. And the far one can move over the width of my middle finger.”

    What the? “Can you convert that to inches?”…

A few scratch pieces of paper full of quick calculations later and I realize there is no combination where the lights can be evenly spaced. So we take the layout that is the closest to even and learn to deal. No one but me will notice right?

The lights are low voltage so we had to find a space for a transformer that was accessible too. Originally, we thought we could put it in the wall above the light switch or even all the way down into the back of the cabinet below but the easiest location ended up being in the ceiling of the reloading room. So Flannel Man ran 14-2 wires for each light individually across the basement bathroom ceiling and into the unfinished reloading room. Then another 14-2 back to the switch in the wall. This turned out to be much easier than daisy chaining with the tight clearances. We had to add a junction box to gang everything together first because the transformer barely has enough room for one wire much less four. (Note: You have to read the specifications for your transformer carefully though to make sure you can have that much wire between the transformer and the lights. If it’s too far away you’ll lose too much to line loses and the lights will be dim.)


When everything was up and running Flannel Man switched the lights on for the first time and I’m pretty sure I heard a chorus of angels. It was heavenly. Perfect! Exactly what I had envisioned! The lights look so much better lit than they did when I first took them out of the package. I couldn’t be more happy with them.

Look at all of that light! The soffit went from being an eye sore to useful. This is no longer the dark little corner of the basement no one wanted to use.

Note the old light location on the left.

Getting new wiring to this switch was a real pain because this wall lines up with another wall below. But somehow Flannel Man managed to fish a new wire down there using the existing wire.

The new lights almost transformed the space. And the only reason I say “almost” is because the extreme mess and ugly orange countertop below.

Just keepin’ it real people.

Seriously though aren’t those beams of light on the back wall awesome?! Imagine this area being a concrete countertop with a big single basin stainless steel sink, a tall arched pull down faucet, a glass mosaic backsplash that runs up the whole wall, and new distressed white cabinets below. Won’t that look great someday?!



P.S. For anyone else looking at the Juno mini LED lights these lights we went with the 2 1/4″ MD1Ls in the 3000K temperature, flood optic, and white finish. I wasn’t kidding when I said these things are custom made! We considered the gimbals but they stuck down from the ceiling slightly and cost more. Plus we didn’t think we’d ever really adjust them. The 35 degree angle of the flood gave us just the right amount of light on the back wall so a gimbal wasn’t needed. You can find a lot of great detailed lighting calculation info here. For the transformer we got the 60W white one but later found out we could have went with a slightly smaller size for only four lights. There was almost no price difference between the transformer sizes so we didn’t bother to return it.


The Dark Obstacle Course I Call Home

Living through a remodel has been interesting to say the least. It all started with a huge hole in the floor and mortar dust everywhere. Back when we were excited about this remodel and progress was quick. But it’s only gone downhill from there. Now we’re living in shambles and progress has slowed to a halt. If we can ever bribe our electrician back into returning to the “jobsite” I’ll let you know. Let me describe the state of our house right now.

We’re parking outside because both the garage and the shed are full of stuff. In one stall of our garage is the green drywall, cement board, and plywood. In the other is the pile of old stuff we wanted to give to ReStore but they wouldn’t take. In front of the storage shelves there is the main bathroom tub and toilet, lighting for both bathrooms, the massive tile saw I bought off Craig’s List, and other random tools. There is no clear flat path to the vehicles outside so maneuvering and stepping over things is required. Bringing in groceries is especially fun.


Similarly our screened in porch is where we’re storing a wide array of 2×4’s and massive pile of regular drywall. Probably not the best spot seeing as we never got around to covering the drywall with a tarp and it’s rained a number of times since we moved it there but nothing has gotten wet yet. **crosses fingers**

Inside the kitchen island is covered in full size floor plans and elevations I drew in CAD. The outlets in the island are littered with extension cords to power the many areas we don’t have power. They create a nice tripping hazard in the busiest room of the house.


Underneath the overhang of the island is our electrical storage area. It looked like this for 0.2 seconds before we realized we need to buy twice as much stuff.


The dining room looks like an episode of “Hoarders.” It started out looking organized (below) but it’s since spiraled out of control.


The living room only has half of a floor right now so the couch and chair are not directly in front of the TV. Sitting this close to the TV just can’t be good.

The room has no electricity so one of those kitchen island extension cords powers our TV and the floor lamp in the corner. If you want any light you have to climb over this maze of stuff to reach it. In an attempt to organize things I put all of our screws, nails, caulks, and foams on the built-in bookshelf.


The other half of the living room, master bedroom, and two former bathrooms have no floor, electricity, or insulation. The massive hole in the attic where the chimney was is dumping cold air into the space like it’s a walk in freezer. We tried to cover up the space by laying batt over it but we need to get that drywalled stat!


We tried to keep the study and guest bedroom nice by leaving the carpet in there for now. The idea was we could close the door and forget that our house is a mess but for all our good intentions it hasn’t really worked out that way. The attic access hatch is in the study closet so that room is also cold, full of tools, and littered with small pieces of debris people bring in on their shoes walking back and forth. We also ended up storing the boxes of our bathroom stuff in here because it makes things easier to find if they are kept out of that black hole that is our dining room. In the guest bedroom where we’re sleeping right now we put the boxspring and mattress on the floor because our four post bed frame would take up too much space. Both of our nightstands and dressers are also crammed in here.

It looks nice in these pictures because this was our first day of moving in here. Right now the freshly washed pile of laundry is on the floor because I haven’t taken the time to fold it yet and there is no good place to put the clothes anyway. Living out of a stack of boxes in our closet sucks. You can never get the same number of clothes back into the box as there was orginally because things got shuffled around. Then you’re left with a pile of boxless clothes and the only answer is to wear those first so they can spend their days in the laundry basket instead of on the floor or the top of the dresser. Plus with the cold weather I had to dig out some warmer clothes and now I have two big bins of winter clothes blocking Flannel Man’s dresser. I need to take control of this situation soon!


Then there is the basement…you know the only place we have a working bathroom…which has no electricity and tools scattered all over the floor. Down there we’re also storing all of the tile, grout, sink, faucet, showerhead & valve, towel bars, shower curtain rod, and mirror. The new recessed lights are in and wired up but the power for this space is feed from above (aka. our master bedroom) so our electrician jerry-rigged up a temporary solution. He wired the basement power to an end of an extension cord so that we can plug it into one of the extension cords from our kitchen. So to turn on the basement lights you have to balance your way across the open floor joists until you to the temporary piece of plywood laying loosely on top of the of floor joist next to the wires. Make sure you don’t step on the ends of the plywood or you’ll be falling through the floor! Then you turn around and tightrope back to solid flooring, go down a flight of stairs and find your way through the maze of tools and storage in the basement to the bathroom. Needless to say we rarely use the overhead lights because it’s such an ordeal for something as simple as turning on the lights! Instead we put a desk lamp on the floor with an extension cord to the unfinished side of the basement where we still have power. It works OK. Just enough light to keep you from stubbing your toes but as soon as you turn the corner to the bathroom it’s still pitch black. Luckily, the basement bathroom is on it’s own breaker so we always have lights in there. Taking a shower in the dark would have been horrible!


To make things even more interesting we have booby traps hanging from the ceiling for you to smash you’re head on. The remodel style recessed lights need to be able to pull out in case you ever need to access the wiring. The electrical inspector needs to see them hanging from the ceiling and we were having a hard time getting the flimsy feet to hold them in place without really pounding them in. We were afraid if we did that we wouldn’t easily be able to get them back out for the inspector so we had to leave them hanging from the already low ceiling. It’s hard to take a picture with no lighting but they are directly in front of the door when you walk into the basement and in the hall to the bathroom (bathroom door on the left).


You have to plan ahead when you think you might have to go to the bathroom. Because the “holding it” dance is pretty hard to do when you’re running down a flight of stairs and feeling around in the dark for a desk lamp. We were so spoiled before with bathrooms on the main floor and light switches!

Then you get to the bathroom. Ah yes the baby blue bathroom. I know the color doesn’t sound as offensive when you consider we used to have an avocado and harvest gold bathroom. But at least those bathrooms worked when we bought the house. The only thing working in the basement bath when we bought it was the faucet.


Both the toilet and the shower were broken and they had been for some time. Not wanting to waste money on replacing fixtures that we’d tear out in a few years when we gut the bathroom we attempted to fix them for the time being. A whole toilet replacement kit and a shower valve piece later and everything was up and running. The only problem: they weren’t running very well. When you flush the toilet you have to hold the handle down for a good 7 seconds before the bowl is empty. Very annoying. The shower valve well that’s a barrel of fun each morning trying to solve the where-is-the-right-temperature-water puzzle each morning. I feel like Goldilocks. You see when you turn on the shower it’s always either too hot or too cold. So you adjust the dial but the water temperature doesn’t change adjust again still the same temperature. Repeat 5 more times, get frustrated, and crank the dial all the way to the end where the water is scalding/freezing. Then repeat the process only in the other direction. Eventually find the ¼” of space on the dial where the water is actually mixed. Rejoice and finally take your shower. The best part is this ¼” of mixing area isn’t always in the same spot. Here’s a very simple diagram showing you what I mean:


So there you have it the truth about living through a remodel and it’s not glamorous. I think I’ve had more stubbed toed, bruised shins, and hit heads since we started this remodel than I’ve had in my life before this remodel. It could be worse though we could have no shower and be showering at a gym or be living in a 400 sf garage.

This is the story of two twenty something newlyweds who are learning to adjust to life in their first house, a 1973 fixer-upper.
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