Wonky wiring and a pair of pendant lights

At some point today, an electrical inspector will knock on my door. (Hopefully. It’s one of those “sometime between 8 and 5 things”). It’s been awhile since our electrician was here, but I’ve been putting off the inspection because my day job was requiring me to be in the office. I finally got a break at work and am working at home today, so the inspection can happen. I also finally got my fingers in gear to tell you about this update.

Matt and I had upgraded from the boob light in the kitchen to a school-house pendant some time ago. The fixture wasn’t in the right spot, though. It was off centre with the island and a single pendant didn’t look quite right.

Single school-house pendant over the kitchen island

I had ordered a second pendant back when we installed the first one (February 2014), but I didn’t want to tackle adding it on my own.

When we had the electrician here to move the light switch in the master bedroom, I had him relocate the existing kitchen light and add the second.

The wiring in this house is wonky. When the electrician took down the first pendant, I remembered exactly how wonky. There was no box to house the wiring. Instead, the fixture was attached to a couple of plates that were screwed to the drywall, and the wires–which wasn’t the right type either–just stuck out from a hole in the ceiling.

How not to wire a light

Obviously, it wasn’t right, but Matt and I had installed our new light anyways, knowing that we’d hire a professional to fix it soon. Well, soon turned out to be more than a year, but better late than never, right?

I was surprised when the electrician hypothesized that there was another light somewhere else in the ceiling. A close look at the drywall showed us a patch that I had never noticed. When he climbed up into the attic, he discovered the light (disconnected, thank goodness). This one had a junction box. It also still had the socket lamp holder attached to it. The light had just been turned so it pointed into the attic and not through the ceiling. What were they thinking???

Light fixture in the attic

The electrician drilled two new holes, inserted two new boxes and ran the new wires–and did all of it properly.

Wiring pendant lights over the island

I was happy to have a professional electrician fixing all of the mistakes. I was also happy that he was the one crawling around in the attic, not me. I like my DIY, but I’ve learned where to draw the line. Things that are beyond my skills or just plain unpleasant (and this hit both of them) are a clear time to call in professional help.

If you’re in the Guelph, Hamilton or tri-city area, I highly recommend Agentis Electric.

Electrician going into the attic

I did patch the hole in the ceiling on my own though (but I haven’t painted it yet). And here’s the finished product: pair of pendants, properly positioned–and properly wired–over the island.

School house pendant lights over the kitchen island

How do you decide when to bring in professional help? What’s the wiring like at your house? Do you have any light fixtures lying around just waiting to be installed? How do you handle lighting in your kitchen?

Lighting fail

Have you seen the Barometer light from Ikea?

Ikea barometer floor lamp

I love its traditional form. I really wanted it for the basement. In fact, I wanted it so badly that I braved Ikea on Dec. 27 to buy it.

Ikea during Boxing Week. Oy vey.

We have a corner at the one end of the couch that needs a lamp. When we set up the basement, Matt put an old round wooden crate from his grandfather as an end table and stuck one of our garage sale brass lamps on top.

Wooden cheese crate as a low end table

I love the crate, but the lamp has always bugged me. The table’s short, so the shade sits right at the arm of the couch. The metal in the rest of the basement is shiny chrome or closer to oil-rubbed bronze. The brass just doesn’t work.

Unfortunately, the Barometer doesn’t work either.

Ikea Barometer light

I mean, it’s pretty. The silver finish works. The height works… kind of. It’s a good task light if I was going to be sewing or reading in that corner of the couch. However, my usual activity when sitting on the couch is watching TV. We need a lamp that sheds just a bit of light so the basement isn’t lit solely by the glow of the TV.

The light that the Barometer sheds is closer to an interrogation. Just looking at this picture hurts my eyes.

Ikea Barometer light

We tipped down the shade, slid the light farther away from the couch, adjusted the arm. We just couldn’t make it work. No matter where we sat, we were squinting from the Barometer’s glare. 😦

So back to Ikea I went, this time to brave the returns desk. That’s nearly as much fun as shopping on Boxing Day + 1.

And it’s back to the drawing board on the basement lamp. Honestly, I think Matt had the right idea. As wonky as the low lamp looks, it gives the light we’re looking for. Now just to find something better than the brass.

My spin on a clothespin light

A lot of people had compliments for the clothespin light fixture in the laundry room.

Clothespin light in the laundry room

I can’t take credit for the idea or even the execution. I was inspired by this light from Young House Love.

I followed their tutorial pretty closely, and it was super easy. However, I did one thing differently and learned a couple of lessons along the way. I thought it might be helpful to share.

First the lessons.

I chose to do the same zigzag pattern that John and Sherry did. In their tutorial, they mention alternating squares. However, what they didn’t say is that they also skipped a row of wire between each row of pins. If you look closely at the pictures in the YHL post, you’ll be able to see the pattern. Skipping every other row gives a comfortable amount of space between the pins so that they lay at a nice angle all the way down the shade. And this makes the great pattern on the ceiling when it’s lit up.

Clothespin light fixture

And talking about laying at an angle, in the YHL post, Sherry emphasized that it’s important to have an even number of squares around the top to maintain the pattern all the way around the shade. However, she didn’t talk about how many squares there should be from top to bottom. I nearly trimmed the bottom row of mesh off my shade because I had an empty row of squares. However, if I’d done that, my bottom row of clothespins would have hung straight down while all the other ones sat at an angle. Having an extra row of wire at the bottom holds the pins on the angle. So, while you want an even number around the shade, you want an odd number from top to bottom.

Clothespin light fixture

And now for what I did differently.

My light is closer to a flush mount than the YHL pendant. I used an old single socket lamp holder that I had lying around as the actual light. You can’t get more basic than that. Or cheaper. (Or, let’s be honest, uglier).

Keyhole light fixture

It took me a little while to figure out how to attach the shade to the light. I didn’t love the cup hooks on the YHL fixture. My solution was to run two pieces of wire loosely across the top of the shade. I then looped each wire around the screws in the lamp holder. It’s pretty much invisible, unless you’re standing directly underneath the fixture looking up.

Clothespin light fixture

The YHL light used 320 pins. Mine has 288. The final dimensions are 64 squares around and 17 from top to bottom. The overall dimensions of the drum shade are 11 inches high by 14 inches in diameter.

I love that I have a light fixture made out of clothespins in the laundry room. Even better, I love how it looks. Thanks John and Sherry for the inspiration.

Have you ever made anything out of clothespins? Have you made your own light fixture?

Linking up to #DIYLightingChallenge

Foyer lighting options

At the start of the week you saw my attempt at a new light fixture for the foyer.

In the comments, you agreed with my feelings that my DIY fixture wasn’t quite right for the space.

Here are two of the other lights I’m considering as replacements.

The first is this hexagonal fixture. It’s a slightly updated version of the chandelier I bought at the thrift store.


  • The design and the shape are a bit unique. I’ve not seen many fixtures like this around.
  • It’s the right size and height for the foyer.
  • It has three bulbs, so it should cast a decent amount of light.


  • The metal is black, and the other lights on our main floor are oil rubbed bronze. I’d rather not mix my metal tones in this space, and I don’t think this piece can be painted easily.

Here’s my second option. I’d been considering a lantern-esque fixture, and this one is an attractive option.


  • The metal on this light is antique bronze, which is closer to the ORB of our other fixtures.
  • The lantern design feels a little bit country to me, perfect for a farm.


  • I’m concerned this fixture might be a bit too small to carry the whole foyer.
  • With only two bulbs, it won’t shed as much light as the first fixture or my DIY option.

I have a hard time spending more than $100 on light fixtures (I know, I know, I’m super cheap), and both of these options come in right around this price point.

Let’s put it to a vote.

Please feel free to suggest another option, if you’ve seen something that you think would work better.

Does anyone else struggle with finding good lighting? How do you feel about mixing metals?

DIY light fixture (fail?)

I have another thrifted light fixture makeover for you today. Remember this beauty from my thrifting post?

1980s light fixture redo

When I was in the checkout line at Value Village, the woman ahead of me said, “What a great find! So classy!”

I said, “Oh, thank you.” In my head I was thinking, “Are you insane? This light is completely 1980s. It will look nothing like this when I’m done.”

My plan for the foyer was to replace the giant ceiling fan with a small chandelier covered by a simple drum shade.

Here was my chandelier.

1980s light fixture

Here was my drum shade.

Vintage lampshade

It was vintage lighting fest over here.

I took apart the light, took apart the shade, merged the two together and spray painted everything oil-rubbed bronze.

1980s light fixture redo

I shortened the shade and added a new fabric cover.

1980s light fixture redo

Then I installed it over the stairwell.

Crooked drum shade

Hmmm… not quite what I envisioned. As Matt said, “Woman, what were you thinking?” I stood there and laughed.

Then I got out my glue gun. A couple of daubs of glue held the shade a bit straighter.

Foyer light fixture DIY drumshade over a chandelier

I’m still not sure if this is quite what I envisioned. The inside looks a bit rough in some spots, and the ribs of the shade show through when the light is turned on.

1980s light fixture redo

Another layer of fabric on the inside might solve both of these issues, but it would also lessen the light. This light is much brighter than the ceiling fan that was there before, which I like as our foyer tends to be a bit dim.

I’m content to live with it for awhile until I make up my mind. Either way, it’s an improvement over the fan that was there when we moved in and the pigtail that we wired up when we were painting.

I’d love to hear your to opinion. Do you think this is a #DIYfail or #victory? Have you ever made over a light fixture?

Vintage cut glass lights

We’re all familiar with the way too common boob light. Now meet the nipple light.

(A really bad picture of a really bad fixture).

Ugly 80s light fixture

This light graced the main bathroom.

Honestly, the light fixture is the least of the problems with this bathroom, but it really bothered me. It was painted, rusted and had absolutely no personality.

Browsing Value Village one day, I found a perfect replacement.

Value Village light fixture

At first glance, you may not agree that this is the perfect light, but let me show you the other lighting in the bathroom.

Vintage cut glass pendant lights

I’m sure your first reaction is not unconditional love for these lights (mine wasn’t), but they’ve totally grown on me since we’ve been living here. Sure they’re vintage. They’re a little bit rusted in a few spots. But they have personality. The shape of the shades is pretty unique and the glass, in my opinion, is just plain pretty.

Cut glass hanging light fixture

The cut glass on my thrifted fixture was a much better match than the nipple light. What wasn’t a match was the pseudo brass base. It took me three attempts to find the right colour of spray paint. ORB was way too dark. Pewter was too bright. Rosemary (what kind of a name is that for a metallic spray paint?) turned out to be the closest. It’s a silver with some gold undertones. It’s still a bit light, but it’s close enough.

Cut glass light fixture

Here’s how the lights look all together and lit up.

Vintage cut glass light fixtures

I love the patterns the cut glass makes on the ceiling. It’s a bit of prettiness that distracts me from the rest of the ugliness in the bathroom.

Alright, let me have it. What do you think of my lights? Are you a cut glass fan or are they too vintage for you?

Wee-wee-wee all the way home

You might think from the title of this post that we are adding some little piggies to the farm. However, the opposite is actually the case. We are getting rid of some pigs… pigtails that is.

Pigtail light fixture

Most of our lighting in the basement is still pigtails—much to Matt’s annoyance. The conversations go something like this. “You can’t say the basement’s done until it’s all done. Including light fixtures.” Finding the right light takes time though, so rather than choose the wrong fixture, I’m fine to live with pigtails.

Matt, not so much.

However, in my defense, I bought the lights for the long room nearly six months ago. They’ve been sitting in their boxes stacked in the corner beside the shop vac for just that long. Yes, I could install them myself, but under the division of labour in our marriage, Matt is the electrician.

Well, the electrician finally got fed up with the pigtails and decided to send those little oinkers packing.

Replacing pigtails with flush mount ceiling light fixtures

Better, right?

Obviously, it’s still not “done” (the absence of furniture and art, the unpainted closet door, and the shop vac still in the corner kind of give it away), but baby steps, people. Or maybe piglet steps.

How to install pot light trim

The end stage of a renovation involves a lot of little tasks: put on the cover plates, caulk the trim, touch up the paint, clean and dust everything. One of the little to-dos on our list was to put the trim on the pot lights.

My post on how to install pot lights is one of the most frequently accessed posts on the blog. But it’s unfinished. The housing for the pot light is just one part of the fixture. The other part is the trim, which goes on after the ceiling is finished.

Without the trim, the pot light looks a bit rough.

Pot light without trim

Our trim-less pot light

The first step in installing the trim is to wash a summer’s worth of drywall dust off of them.

Pot light trim in the sink

This step may be optional for some installations.

The trim should be made up of three pieces: the baffle, trim ring and spring or hook.

Pot light trim spring

This spring connects the trim to the housing

Step one is to attach the hook to the baffle. There should be little holes in the narrow end of the baffle specifically for this purpose.

Spring attached to pot light baffle

The end of the spring without the loop should be hooked to the baffle.

The next step is to connect your baffle and trim ring.

Putting trim on the baffle

This is probably the simplest step. Just slide the the trim ring over the baffle.

Remove the light bulb, so that you can reach into the housing. If necessary, adjust the height of the socket so that your bulb is recessed as much or as little as you want.

Adjusting the socket in a pot light

Loosen the wing nut, and the metal socket will slide up and down. Tighten it back up when the socket is positioned where you want.

To connect the trim, insert the baffle into the housing, stretch the spring and hook it into the cut out on the pot light.

Pot light trim hooked in place

On our pot lights, the cut out looks like a candy cane

I found I was able to reach into the housing and hook the spring by hand. If your hands aren’t as small as mine, needle nosed pliers may come in handy.

Screw the light bulb back in and admire your trimmed pot light.

Pot light

All done!

The trim reduces the brightness of the light somewhat and directs it downwards. I may adjust the height of the bulbs if we feel we need more light once we’re using the basement.

However, for now the pot lights are bright enough for me to admire our nearly finished basement. Is it weird that I stood there for nearly five whole minutes on the weekend just looking at the rooms and remembering how far we’ve come?

Lighting love

If you’ve been following along for a little while with our renovation saga, you’re familiar with some of the lighting that we started with in the basement: ceiling fixtures mounted on the walls, a ceiling fan recessed up into the joists. As you can probably imagine, I have a bit of a need for new lighting.

With the Barn Light Electric giveaway making the rounds of the blogosphere, I saw an opportunity.

Once I was browsing the web site, however, I was seduced. I was sidetracked. I decided I can live with bare bulbs and pigtails in the basement.

But I absolutely positively cannot any longer live with this.

Green and faux wood ceiling fan

The green and brass and faux wood ceiling fan in the living room.

Wouldn’t this be a fun replacement?

We have a beautiful big living room with lots of natural light, wonderful vaulted ceiling, great rustic beams and a stone fireplace (that admittedly could use a bit of work). In the middle of all that, we have a huge, horrific green ceiling fan.

Living room with fireplace

This is never appropriate.

Barn Lighting has tonnes of great options that will satisfy my need for a pretty, polished, traditional aesthetic that’s in keeping with our rustic country setting. We have an actual barn on this property. We should choose a company with “barn” in its name.

Once I was focused on the main floor, it was easy to line up other lighting options.

Barn Light Electric Mystic Seaport Chandelier

Mystic Seaport Chandelier (in dark brass) to replace a distinctly non-country chandelier in the dining room.

Barn Light Electric Mayfield Semi-Flush Ceiling Light

Two Mayfield Semi-Flush Ceiling Lights (in old bronze) to replace a pair of  unfortunate boob lights in the hallway

Barn Light Electric School House Pendant "The Brevard"

School House Pendant “The Brevard” (also in a bronze finish) to replace a flush mount fixture over the island in the kitchen–a pendant is much more appropriate and will balance the space nicely.

While I need the Outer Banks Chandelier for the living room, I just want the Halstead Semi-Flush Ceiling Light. I’d put it in my sewing room to replace yet another boob light.

Barn Light Electric Halstead Semi-Flush Ceiling Light

Or I’d put it in the bathroom to replace a weirdly located globe that’s straight out of 1989.

Halstead is not really country and it’s definitely not rustic, but oh it’s pretty.

Do you have some lighting needs of your own? There’s still time to enter the Barn Light Electric giveaway.

  1. Look around online at Barn Light Electric and pick lights you’d love to own.
  2. Feature your lighting picks on your personal blog, and link to the lights if you can!
  3. Copy/paste these rules at the bottom of your blog article so others can enter.
  4. Once your personal article is up, you must email your blog link to: marketing@barnlightelectric.com to be qualified to win.

The contest ends Monday, July 2, 2012. If you don’t have a blog, but do have need of beautiful lighting you can still enter. Find out how by reading the Official Rules.

How to install a pot light

The original lighting in what will be the TV area of the basement consisted of four pot lights, two ceiling fixtures mounted on the walls and one ceiling fan recessed into the ceiling so that it didn’t decapitate anyone. These three different sets of lights were controlled by three different switches in two different locations.

The main room before

The original lighting in the basement.

We decided to keep just the pot lights, so Matt took apart the ceiling fan, and my Dad pulled out one of the wall-mounted ceiling fixtures while I dealt with the other one. We removed the boxes and wires running to each of the lights as well as the switches that controlled the ceiling fan and the pot lights. Then we reconnected the pot lights into the switch that originally controlled the ceiling fixtures.

Everything was working well, but we felt we needed a little more light, so we decided to add an extra pot light in the middle of the ceiling.

Apologies for the quality of the following photos. So many circuits are off in the basement due to the electrical work that we don’t have very many lights. We have construction lights set up, but they’re a little harsh. I played around with some new actions in Photoshop, but I can’t tell whether they made things better or worse.

Potlights in the open ceiling

Our original four pot lights

Electrical work can be intimidating, but installing a pot light is a very straight forward job that can be completed in about a half an hour, even by those of us that are not licensed electricians. We did have a lot of other issues with the electrical in the basement, and for those we hired a professional electrician.

Here’s my pot light installation method, complete with lots of photos (of varying quality). Note that in the tutorial I’ve assumed that the wire that is going to be feeding your new pot light is already in place.

1) Turn off the electricity to your light. In this house, none of the circuits are labelled, so our usual method of finding the right one is to turn on the light (or plug something in) and have one of us watch it while the other person flips the breakers until we find the right one. Then we label it!

2) Determine where you want your new light. I used the oh so scientific method of tying a piece of twine to each of the existing pot lights. Where it crossed was the centre.

Using twine to find the centre

3) Now onto your light.

Pot light

Some pot lights can be installed in a finished (drywalled) ceiling. However, this type of pot light has to be installed where the ceiling is open.

4) Pop the cover off the wiring box to reveal the wires.

Preparing your pot light for installation.

Cover on (left). Cover off (right). I also cut off the push-in connectors because I’m used to twisting the wires together instead.

5) Now attach the pot light to the joist. For my light, this meant adjusting the brackets, or bar hangers, so that they were the right length to span between the joists and then nailing the bracket into the joist.

Installing a pot light bracket onto the joist.

For reference, holding the light in place while taking a picture is not the easiest. A third hand, or better yet a second pair, would be helpful.

6) Take a break because your husband has arrived home, and he brought dinner.

Pot light housing installed

Pot light housing installed. Time for dinner.

7) If necessary, trim your feed wire to the required length and strip back the casing to reveal the individual wires. The easiest way to do this is to use your side cutters to snip a little split in the casing, just enough so that you can access the ground wire (the copper one). Grab the ground wire with your pliers and pull to rip the casing. You want to remove the casing for about 6 inches so that you can access the black, white and copper wire. Once your casing is ripped back far enough, clip it off with your side cutters. Strip about a 1/2 inch or so of the plastic coating off of the tips of the black and the white wires. I usually do this with a knife, as though I’m peeling a vegetable.

Removing the casing from wiring

Remove the casing from the wires by pulling on the ground wire. For reference, the ground wire is pointing up to the right, the black and white wires are pointing down to the left and the empty casing is pointing down in the centre.

8) Knock out one of the round metal covers (coincidentally called knock-outs) on the pot light housing. I used my awl to bend it up and then wiggled it back and forth until it snapped out. The wire isn’t supposed to float loose in the hole, but the pot light didn’t come with any clamps or conduit, so I pulled one off of an old electrical box and put it in the hole.

From left to right, removing the knock-out, the clamp that will hold the wire in place and the clamp installed.

9) Insert your feed wire into the pot light and clamp it in place.

Feed wire inserted into the pot light

Sorry for the slightly blurry photo. The plastic casing should be just inside the pot light housing.

10) Connect your feed wire to the wire in the pot light: black to black, white to white, ground to ground. Twist them together with your pliers and cap them with marretts.

Connected wires in pot light housing

You don’t have to get fancy with different coloured marretts. These are simply the two I had on hand that fit the wires properly.

11) Once everything is securely connected, tuck your wires back into the housing, put in a light bulb and flip the circuit back on to test your light.

New pot light

It works!

12) Put the cover back over the wiring area. Make sure the light is positioned where you want it on the hanger bars. There’s a screw that you tighten into the bar to lock the light in place. Stand back and admire your handiwork.

Five potlights

Let there be light!

The five pot lights look great, and throw a sufficient amount of light. I initially thought we might need some wall sconces or extra lamps, but I think the pot lights will work well for us.

Oh and you might want to take down your measuring twine, unless you really like it as a decorative element.

ETA: The final, final step in installing pot lights is installing the trim, which I did after our ceiling was drywalled. I’ve posted my instructions of how to install pot light trim.