Kitchen Cleaned – check
Cabinets Painted – check
New Hinges – check
New Handles and Pulls – check
Light – that’s next
So when I started my DIY lighting project in our kitchen, there were things we were just going to accept for now, things we were going to modify and things that just had to go. As far as lighting and its layout, the existing kitchen had natural light provided by a sliding glass door and garden window. It had a single, yes single pot light above the sink and right next to it a panel of four, yep four, fluorescent lights – the kind found in elementary schools with matching whibbly whobbly yellowed panels covering them and cased in yellow stained oak frame. It also had a ceiling fan and light combo straight from Green Acres and an industrial track lighting strip featured in 80s office settings.
Upon assessment, based on aesthetics and budget, here is what we came up with for our DIY electrical and lighting plan. First, the ceiling fan-light combo and the track lighting were so covered and caked in years of dirt, grime and grease that we elected to not clean them. Electrical and water don’t mix and short of a full fledge complete submersion baptism in bleach water, these were not coming clean. Not to mention, aesthetically they were ugly in my opinion with respect to the feel of the room I was designing. Country and 80s office don’t go in a transitional modernized kitchen in my opinion. So they were going. We decided to replace the ceiling fan and cap the track junction box.
The pot was fine so it would stay as is with only cleaning needed. The fluorescent lighting was more of a project than I wanted to take on…i.e. more money than I wanted to take on at this time. So I had to work with it and modify it to be the prettiest ugly stepsister at Cinderella’s ball.
Turning a Sow’s Ear into a Silk Purse
Okay so maybe not a silk purse but my fluorescent panels are definitely going to be the prettiest ugly stepsister. Here’s what I did. Since the wood color did not go with the palette I was creating, it needed to change. I thought about staining it (more to come on staining in the future). But being that it was on the ceiling I could just see me getting TSP and stain in my hair, on my face and more. So painting it was. So like the cabinets, I sanded the wood, this time by hand with 100 grit sand paper. I primed and painted them white using a sponge tip brush. It goes on smooth without any brush strokes showing.
My husband did the leg work on the panels. He knew from his architecture world that there were “prettier” panels. He was able to find this industrial and modern grid in a cool white-ish clear shade that let light shine through. The two panels were around $40 including tax. I used the existing panels as templates to cut the new ones to size. Using a utility knife, I cut the panels and wedged them in place. We are still trying to decide on cool or warm light but other than that, I think they came out okay.
Getting off Track: DIY Electrical Removal
The track lighting was next. The toughest part about this was getting it down as the lights had been fused in place with solidified grease and dirt. Unfortunately, they were right over the screws that held it in place. This was a two person job. Bring in my cohort…aka mom. After turning off the electrical, we hammered each light enough out of the way that we could remove the screws. I untwisted the nuts connecting the wires. Then I capped each wire with a new nut and inserted them into the junction box. For now, I capped the junction box with a simple industrial steel plate that, believe it or not, you can’t really see it. It blends.
Green Acres Out the Door: DIY Lighting
That brings me to the ceiling fan. My goal was to find an inexpensive replacement that featured dark wood, brush nickel (preferred) or polished chrome with a more modern feel to it. What I found was a great fan, perfect size and perfect price at Lowe’s!
Whenever I install electrical fixtures of any kind, I always read the directions completely first! I am reminded of an old MASH episode where Hawkeye and Trapper John were trying to disarm a bomb. Col. Henry Blake and Radar are reading them the instructions one line at a time. “Cut the blue wire.” They cut. “But first…” then the bomb explodes. (You should see if you can find it on You Tube…it’s hilarious) So always read the directions fully before starting. I make sure every part that is supposed to be included with the fixture is included. There is nothing worse than being half way through a project to discover you are missing a critical piece. Then I gather everything I need and a few things I think I might. Then and only then do I shut off power to the entire house. I know most people say you can just turn off a section but I’m a chicken when it comes to electrical. Big yellow stripe down my back. My theory is if there is no current, then there is no frying Danielle. Somehow I think my husband would be sad (after he stop laughing of course) if he got a call saying, “Sir, your wife is in the ER she appears to be missing her pants and her hair is standing on end. She claims she was changing a ceiling fan out?” So as I try to avoid embarrassing “I Told You Sos”, I turn the whole house off.
Now it’s simply a matter of following the directions. There are a couple of things I have learned.
- Have a friend there. Not only just in case you do fly off your ladder from a spark but because when you are working with things hanging from the ceiling, it’s always nice to have someone to help you hold or hand you things. Pretty much an essential in my book for DIY electrical and lighting.
- Some muscle is always nice and often needed. There are wires that have to be maneuvered and pushed into place and sometimes it takes a strong push to do it. Junction boxes are small and shoving is sometimes the only real method of getting wires where they need to be.
- Make sure your nuts are the right size for capping and connecting wires. Also, once twisted in, give the wires a gentle but firm tug. If the come out, then they are not in tight enough. If they don’t, you’re good.
So I got all my lights the way I wanted them for now in my temporary dream kitchen and I didn’t croak from my DIY electrical and light projects. Always a good thing in my book. And I think it looks pretty good.