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.


9 Responses to “Basement Task Lighting”

  1. 1 Wawa November 17, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Those lights above the sink look AMAZING. I can see the concrete and glass mosiac now. Well…as long as I cover up the orange with my hand anyway.

    And every time you talk about your electrician I have to giggle because we have the exact opposite situation with ours. We’re holding him up because we need to finish the bathroom before we can move forward with the rest of the wiring upstairs. (we have to demo our only current working bathroom to finish – and progress on the downstairs bathroom is like molassas in january righ tnow) He messages me about 3-4 times a week to ask how it’s coming along.

  2. 4 Robin November 17, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Perfect! Progress what progress? Demo everything quickly then live with the mess for months? Use boxes of screws as decor on your bookcases? Yeah. That’s why when our electrician first came over he asked “How long have you been living like this?” Even a seasoned pro things it’s a mess!

  3. 5 Mike @HA November 17, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    Those lights look GREAT! I’m starting electrical in a couple weeks so I’ve been gathering supplies. This makes me excited.

  4. 6 Sara @ Russet Street Reno November 17, 2011 at 8:53 pm

    The lights look fabulous! It was worth all the trouble.

  1. 1 Our Remodel: Now with More Electrical and Bonus Insulation! « 3 acres & 3000 square feet Trackback on December 29, 2011 at 5:02 pm
  2. 2 2011: A Year in Pictures « 3 acres & 3000 square feet Trackback on December 31, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

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

%d bloggers like this: