Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How to install recessed lights

If you are in the middle of a long bathroom reno that has left you without a shower, I recommend that you embark on a side project and install pot lights in your kitchen. I mean, the whole house is already a mess, so why not wreck the kitchen too.

In my defense, the idea popped into my head when we were tearing up the subfloor in the bathroom, exposing the kitchen ceiling, which got me to thinking... while we're in there, why not upgrade the kitchen lighting. So, when my poor brother-in-law arrived to help us, or shall I say, to replace the bathroom floor, I brought up my crazy idea for kitchen pot lights, and he was very helpful. Turns out that our kitchen ceiling has been dropped 13", covering up an original tin ceiling. Quel dommage! But, there must have been a leak in the original bathroom, because the tin ceiling below the old tub is all rusted out and curled up. But the rest of it is in mint condition. Alas, we are not about to tear out the dropped ceiling now. All we want is some pot lights, dammit!!

This inspired a trip to the horrid big box stores, commencing the debate: PAR20 vs. GU10? Which type of bulb should we choose? Both are halogen. Both have a non-dimmable CFL energy efficient bulb alternatives. I read widely on the internet and could not decide which was better. (Please comment if you have anything to share on the PAR20 / GU10 debate.) It seems that the Europeans & Australians are far ahead in energy efficiency than we North Americans, due to their higher energy costs. I found out that they have a Megaman GU10 bulb that is dimmable, but have not seen these in Canada yet. Hopefully these will soon be available here.

The fixtures sat on the floor for weeks while we made small advances on the lighting each week, between bathroom reno jobs. First thing was to determine the placement of the fixtures. This required the use of a stud finder, to avoid the ceiling joists. Lots of careful measurement and finally we had the marks on the ceiling. We drilled some small pilot holes and put a fine wire up into the ceiling to make sure that there was sufficient space in each location. Only one proposed hole was too close to the joist, so we had to modify all the locations, so they were evenly spaced.

We sat on this for a week, to ensure that the placing was correct. The following weekend, we used the template to trace the proper sized circle for each fixture, and I directed Dan in cutting each circle with a drywall saw. We protected the cupboards and contents with some old striped sheets. Then we pulled some 14/2 cable from one hole to the next. We were almost out of time before sunset, but there was still time for a quick coat of ceiling paint. Robomike was here, working on the bathroom, and shaking his head in disbelief at us. Poor guy was trying to get to the table saw in the back yard, which required passing thru the kitchen/painting zone. When he was done his day of work we fed him some mediocre delivery pizza because the kitchen was covered in sheets, but he didn't complain (to us).

A week passed with no progress, but this weekend there was a big push. I did some last minute internet research to confirm that GU10 was still the way to go, and at 5 pm on Sunday, we started to put the cans in the ceiling. The electrician on Mike Holmes said that those inexpensive big box recessed lights bug him, and now I know why. They are tiny and it is hard to fit all the cables in there. Plus, they don't come with the strain release connectors, so you need to buy them separately. The instructions are very poorly written and poorly translated, so you really have to read them over a few times to try to figure out what the hell they are saying. But eventually, I figured it out, and by 10 p.m. on Sunday -- we had pot lights in our kitchen. Every morning and every night, we are thrilled with our new kitchen lighting.

Watch out. Once this bathroom is done, will the dining room lighting be next?

1 comment:

Sandy from T-Town Georgia said...

Thanks for the input I will be doing this myself since I'm building a new home the contractor wants a crap load of money to install them so I have no choice but to do it myelf...