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Setting Up Shop: Table Saw Upgrade Part 2

Posted by on July 21st, 2014

“Let’s start over.”

That’s what I said to myself a couple of days ago.  In case you missed it, I built the top to my table saw work station out of 2x4s.  I was planning on building the rest of it out of 2x4s too and while I was reasonably satisfied with the results so far, I DID run into some warped and twisted boards.  That’s going to happen when you work with framing lumber.  It’s just the way it is.  It’s not intended for tight tolerances or fine furniture.  It’s for framing houses, which is why it’s called framing lumber.

The same day I published last week’s post I got an email from one of our awesome subscribers, Rick.  I could tell right away Rick knows his stuff.  Rick was honest, experienced and suggested I not use 2x4s for this project since my intention is to make a fairly accurate table saw station.  Accurate cuts are obviously important and having a table top made from 2x4s doesn’t help.  Rick suggested I use planed and cut hardwood boards instead.  Planed hardwood boards, like maple or oak, will be much more stable and less prone to warping or twisting and will therefore provide a much higher quality product.

As soon as I read Rick’s email, I knew he was right, but I dithered.  I was telling myself that I already spent around $20 on 2x4s and I’m sure it would turn out okay.  I was lying to myself.  I kindly replied to Rick that he was right, but I had already purchased a whopping $20 worth of wood and I didn’t want to invest in the hardwood upgrade.

I’m also stubborn.

After thinking about it for a few days, I realized that I MIGHT actually have enough leftover plywood from some previous projects that I could build the entire table over again.  After all, I had only built the top and it probably only took me an hour.  I checked my inventory (my giant pile of scraps on the basement floor) and sure enough, I had enough for maybe 80% of the table.  Okay.  I could do this.

Let’s start over.

If you’re not a regular woodworker or are just getting into this sort of  thing, plywood is actually more dimensionally stable then hardwood and MUCH more stable than 2x4s or framing lumber.  The reason is it’s a board made from thinner laminations of hardwood where the grain alternates directions from one layer to the next.  Consequently, it’s much less likely to suffer from twists, cups or any of those annoying features that is common in framing lumber.  Plywood is perfect for shelves, cabinets and all sorts of carpentry projects where stability is important (like my garage shoe organizer).   It’s also cheaper than hardwood.  Not quite as pretty, but cheaper.

So big thank you to Rick for reminding me that it was worth taking the time to do this project correctly.  I owe you a beer.

Anyway, I re-built the top out of plywood.  You probably can’t tell from the photo, but it’s a much better product.

table saw workbench 2

This is pretty much where we left off last time.  I then cut out the melamine for the work surface.  The open area is where the table saw will be located.  I didn’t permanently install the melamine yet since it would just get in the way during the rest of the build.

table saw workbench 1

Now for the legs.  Just a couple of plywood boards with pocket screws.

table saw work bench legs

I topped them off with a couple of small plywood pieces for the wheels.

table saw work table legs wheels

Flipping it back over, I threw on some cross braces, which is where the table saw will ultimately be located.

table saw workbench 3

That’s it for this post.  In our next post I’ll finish the build and setup the fence.

Ever start a project over after realizing you could’ve done better?  Leave a comment below and explain yourself.  


Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects. Tagged in ,, , ,

Setting Up Shop: Table Saw Upgrade #1

Posted by on July 13th, 2014

If you’ve been following along lately, you know that we’re knee deep in our home office renovation.  In our last post, we discussed the work we’ve done to date and what work was coming soon.  We’re starting the second half our office project today by upgrading my main workshop power tool, the table saw.  For what it’s worth, you can expect a lot of workshop posts and videos in the coming weeks.

Here’s my current table saw, a Hitachi.

hitachi table saw

What I like about it… It’s a great table saw.  It’s powerful, it’s lightweight, portable and it’s perfect for most DIY projects.  (By the way, on our Tool Recommendations Page, I recommend the Bosch model instead since it permits dado blades, whereas the Hitachi does not.  So, if you are in the market for your first table saw, consider the Bosch over the Hitachi.)

Now for what I don’t like about this saw and frankly, contractor saws in general.  It’s not such a great cabinet saw, which means it’s not ideal for cutting big plywood sheets.  It’s a bit undersized, so larger pieces of plywood tend to be more of a challenge than I’d like.  The table will move or wobble slightly when I place a larger sheet of wood down on it and it doesn’t have much of an outfeed setup.  For long pieces of wood I have to walk around the back of the saw and pull the piece through once it starts hanging off the back.  I’m sure that’s pretty common for people who use these types of saws, but it’s not ideal nor is it very safe, folks.  It also only allows cuts up to around 24″ or so, which also isn’t great for wide cabinet parts.

While I’d love to buy a full blown cabinet saw, those are pretty pricey and would really only be worth my investment if I opened up a cabinet shop (not interested).  Here’s an example of what a cabinet saw looks like:

grizzly table saw

This is a Grizzly brand table saw (affiliate link).  Now THIS is a cabinet saw.  You can click the link to see how much it costs, but it’s close to $2k.  My hitachi was around $300.  Yeah.  Not interest in spending that sorta dough.  Eventually, I plan on buying one way down the road, but I’m not in any hurry.  These saws have powerful motors and huge table tops.  They are VERY heavy and don’t move a lick when you slap a board down on them.

So what to do?  Well, I’ve decided to make a sort of hybrid table saw station similar to something I saw on New Yankee Workshop years ago.  I’m building a 2×4 framed work table that will feature a melamine top and a more professional Biesemeyer fence.  My Hitachi table saw will then sit inside this workstation and have access to a larger work surface.  I’m going to build this new table to the same height as my workbench, which will be able to act as either an outfeed or infeed table.

Here’s how it’s coming together so far.

Table Saw Upgrade #1

I started the build by measuring the dimensions of my Hitachi taking into account that the mobile base it’s attached to will be removed.  I then took those dimensions, drew some rough sketches on paper and added in some length and width for the fence system.  I start construction on the top frame, since that’s probably the most critical piece.

The sides are 2x4s and the front and back are 2x3s.  A lot of this wood I had left over from our coffered ceiling framing.  I joined the pieces together using pocket screws and liquid nail, but regular wood screws through the sides would work just fine too.

table saw workbench 1

I then flipped the frame over and started adding the internal frame boards.

table saw workbench 2

table saw workbench 3

The large open space is where the table saw will be located.  The rest of the table top will be melamine.  While I haven’t finished cutting out all of the melamine, you can get an idea of what it will look like with the last piece.  I want the melamine to be recessed into the framing, which will make more sense later.

table saw workbench 4

I’m hoping to finish the legs and sub framing later this week.  This quick project will hopefully make the cabinet project much easier.

So what’s your table saw situation?  Do have have a contractor’s saw?  Know anyone with a cabinet saw?  


Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Garage and Tools. Tagged in ,, ,

Get on Board with Our Cabinet Build

Posted by on July 7th, 2014

Happy Monday, folks.  We hope all of our American readers enjoyed their 4th of July weekend!  Lisa and I took the kids over to the USS New Jersey on Saturday afternoon.  It’s the closest Battleship to our home in South Jersey.  I’m a HUGE fan of the Iowa Class Battleships.

Gotta tell you… I was not disappointed.  Tremendous history there.  If you ever get the chance to go on one of the Iowa’s, I suggest you take it.  The USS Iowa is in LA, the USS New Jersey is in Camden,  the USS Missouri is in Pearl Harbor and the USS Wisconsin is in Norfolk.  I’ve been on the Wisconsin before, but if I recall correctly, the tour was limited.  The New Jersey tour is impressive, although the teak deck is in rough shape in some areas.


I’m leading today off with this Navy reference for a good reason.  If you haven’t yet subscribed to our free newsletter, now it the perfect time to GET ON BOARD!  See what I did there?

So we’ve finished most of the work on our coffered ceiling and later this week I’ll be prepping to build the built-in cabinets for our big home office remodel.  Part of the prep work will include setting up my basement workshop and I’m planning on filming a 30-40 minute long episode after it’s all done.  I will also be filming some quick five minute long videos going over each of the power tools I’ll be using for the cabinet build.  If you’ve never used a table saw or a router, this is right up your alley.  I’m also in need of a larger table saw station and a more permanent miter saw stand before I get started.

That’s why this is the PERFECT time to get on board with our free newsletter and follow along with the project as it unfolds.  Building cabinets is our bread and butter and if you’re interested in learning how to make your own, you’re going to enjoy this series.

Subscribe to our newsletter

What I’m going to cover:

1. The Table Saw
2. The Miter Saw
3. The Router
4. The Cordless Drill
5. The Kreg Jig
6. Cabinet Building Jigs
7. Design and Dimensioning
8. Face Frame
9. Cabinet Boxes
10. Assembly
11. Finishing
12. Installation

Sounds good?  Have any questions on the cabinet build process that you’d like answered?  Leave me a comment below and I’ll try to answer it.  Big fan of big ships?  Would love to hear what ships you’ve been on!

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects. Tagged in ,, ,

5 Tips for Better Crown Molding Results

Posted by on June 26th, 2014

I’m relieved to finally tell you that all of the crown molding has been installed in our home office.  It was a bear.  Granted, I still have to putty all the nail holes, caulk the joints and paint them.  I’ll save that work for the weekend.  That’s not the end of the molding in the office either.  Once the built-ins are completed and installed, I still have to install a final piece of wall trim and all the baseboard molding.  However, that type of trim work should be considerably easier to handle.

In today’s post, I’m sharing a video tutorial I made (with Lisa as camera lady) as well as some additional info below where I discuss some of the techniques I used to get better crown molding results.

coffered ceiling

Tips for Better Crown Molding Results

1.  Pre-paint your Molding.  While not hugely important, getting at least one good coat of paint on the molding BEFORE you install it will allow you to only have to paint it one more time after it’s installed.  That’s less time on the ladder.

2.  Use Backer Blocks.  In the video, I use some simple plywood backer blocks.  These little blocks can be cut from scrap wood and provide the crown molding a solid surface to lay against.  It makes installation SO MUCH EASIER.  After this list, I’ve shared a quick tutorial on making your own backer blocks.

3.  Make a Cut Guide.  Before measuring and cutting any intersecting crown molding pieces, make a cut guide with a piece of scrap crown molding.  The guide can have a 45 degree cut on both ends and can be used to determine if any adjustments need to be made before the actual piece is cut.  You’d rather find out that your molding needs a slight adjustment before you cut through it.

4.  Use a Crown Molding Jig.  While I do recommend using the Bench Dog Crown Molding Jig (affiliate link), you can just as easily make your own using some scrap lumber and a couple of clamps.

5.  Be Strategic with your Boards.  When you walk by the office or look inside, all of the crown molding pieces that face you don’t have any miter cuts.  They all are straight pieces.  That’s intentional.  All of the cut boards are on the sides of the boxes.  That way, even if the joints aren’t perfect, almost no one will notice if they stick their head in the room.  Getting the joints done right is important, but any minor mistakes will be less visible this way.


How to Make Backer Blocks for Crown Molding

1.  You’ll need a carpenter’s square, a small piece of the crown molding, a paper, and a pen.

crown molding tips

2.  Arrange the crown molding inside the carpenter’s square so that both the top and bottom flats of the molding are flat against the square.  This is how the crown molding will look when installed.

crown molding tips 2

3.  Using a pen or a pencil, trace the inside triangle made by the molding and the square.

crown molding tips 3

4.  You can remove the square and the molding.

crown molding help

5.  Measure the length of the top and the length of the side, marked here as “A” and “B,” respectively.

crown molding help 2

6.  Now for some math.  Using a scientific calculator or an online calculator take the inverse tangent (tan raised to the -1) of A over B (A/B).  If you do that math, you get 38.7 degrees or roughly 39 degrees.  Now you can set your table saw angle to that value.  All you need to do now is make sure you cut the board to the length of “A,” which in this case is 1″.

crown molding backer block

crown molding cheater block

To make things easier on you, you can also lay that drawing on your miter saw and use the miter saw’s gauge to determine the angle of the molding.  OR you can just use a protractor.

For our home office, the larger molding had a block with an angle of 36 degrees and as mentioned above, the smaller molding was 39 degrees.

I hope you found this post helpful.  Even if you’re not planning any crown molding work, keep this project in mind for when you do.

Now I’d like to hear from you.  Do you have any crown molding installation tips or tricks?

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Videos. Tagged in ,, , ,

Home Office Update

Posted by on June 22nd, 2014

Believe it or not, it’s been about seven months since we started our home office remodel and we still have a good amount of work left to do.  While we never intended for it to take this long, life has a way of stretching some things out.  Since we starting our office project back in December, we’ve since gained a good amount of new readers and newsletter subscribers, so I thought it would be helpful if I did a mid-way thru recap post so everyone can see what we’ve done to date and what we have left to accomplish.


1.  We kicked off the office remodel with a post and a video on removing old hardwood floors and installing new ones.

2.  Next we made a video on how to use Sketchup for designing basic room layouts and we showed you our future office layout.

3.  We switched gears for a bit and discussed the coffered ceiling concept design and then settled on the final detailed design for both the ceiling and the built-in cabinets.

4.  With the room planned, the coffered ceiling framing was installed, wired for the lights and then finally drywalled.

5.  After the ceiling was primed and painted, I got around to installing the old work style recessed lights.

If you check out this list of posts, you’ll be all caught up on our home office remodel.

Right now I’m in the middle of installing the crown molding.  It’s a giant pain in the rear.  Each coffered ceiling box gets crown molding and then the entire perimeter of the room will get it too.  This isn’t the first time I’ve installed crown molding and I have managed to learn a few tips and tricks along the way.  In our next post, I plan on sharing a video where I’ll share what I’ve learned.  There are a few things you can do to make the job much easier.  It still stinks though, got to be honest with you.

So here’s what coming soon to a post near you:

1.  Crown molding installation video with tips for better results

2.  Cabinet construction.  (I probably won’t go quite as in detail as our last cabinet series, but you can expect more videos)

3.  Building a filing cabinet from scratch.

4.  Building a simple desk.  (I’ll share a trick I learned to make thin wood look super chunky)

5.  Baseboard molding and finishing touches.

6.  Dressing up the room.  There will be Doctor Who themed decor items.  Plan on it.

Thanks for reading!  If there’s ANY part of this office remodel project you’d like more info on, please don’t hesitate to ask.  I’m happy to share details or answer questions.

Have a great week!



Posted in DIY Projects. Tagged in ,,

Sliding Kitchen Cabinet Drawer Plans

Posted by on June 16th, 2014

Happy Monday folks.


Today I have just uploaded our latest set of free woodworking plans.  The plans are for the sliding kitchen cabinet drawers.

The plans are free to our newsletter subscribers.

Get the FREE plans for this project
Join our newsletter and be part of a community of DIYers and Home Improvement enthusiasts.

The plans feature a calculator that lets you enter two simple measurements to generate custom dimensions for each cabinet in your kitchen.


Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects. Tagged in ,, , , ,

Your Home from Scratch #4: Andrea’s Custom Vanity

Posted by on May 27th, 2014

If you ask me what I enjoy the ABSOLUTE MOST about blogging, my answer is always helping others with their home projects.   Hands down the best part of this gig.  I love getting comments or emails from readers expressing their gratitude for something they found on our site.  Really makes my day.  Just last week, one of our newsletter subscribers emailed me some pictures of her custom bathroom vanities she built from scratch.  She told me that she was able to complete the task after reading our TV stand series.  I was so impressed with her work that we’re featuring her vanities as our 4th installment of Your Home from Scratch.

You guys.  Wait to you see these cabinets.

Andrea’s Custom Vanity

white vanity

1.  Your vanities are beautiful.  Why did you decide to build them instead of buying them?

Thanks for inviting me to share in your blog!  I decided to try to build these vanities after pricing ones that I really loved and found them over-the-top expensive for the value and quality of construction.  For the double sink vanity prices were $1000 +, the single vanity $700+ – add on tax and shipping and that was the deal breaker.  Also, I wanted my mirrors and vanities to match.

vanity mirror

2.  How much money do you think you saved by building them yourself?
Assuming I bought the two vanities mentioned above at $1800, minus my supplies $300 (?), I guess I saved about $1500.  

custom vanity
3.  How long did it take you to build and did you have much carpentry experience before you started?

It took me 1 month of on-and-off work while carpenters did complicated bath renovation including moving walls, plumbing and electric.  My only other carpentry experience comes from building a step back cupboard a few years ago.  I had a picture from an antique catalog, so I started by drawing a picture on the wall where I wanted it to be to get the starting dimensions and then drew up plans on graph paper.  Oh, I am also building my 2nd canoe.


4.  Give us a quick overview of how you built them.  Did you use roughly the same build method as our TV stand?  What material?
I built the first single vanity using your plans for the entertainment cabinet.  I figured out the width dimensions first and built the face frame.  I did want the cabinet to sit on Shaker legs to appear as a piece of furniture, so I extended the right and left vertical face frame pieces to extend about 3″ below the lower horizontal piece. I used poplar wood as you suggested, along with cabinet grade birch veneer plywood for sides, base and shelves.  For the second, larger double sink vanity, I again determined the width first.  I knew I wanted 3 doors so I evenly spaced them and repeated the same steps as the first vanity.

vanity legs

5.  What sort of finish product did you use (Latex paint, acrylic, lacquer)?

As far as the finish,  I again used your advice of applying 2 coats of latex primer and 2 coats of latex paint.  I got the most perfect finish using a velour covered, small roller from Sherwin Williams.  The finish is so perfect that it looks factory applied.  I was very pleased with this roller finish.  I did lightly sand between coats.  Beautiful.

6.  What was the hardest part of the project?

The hardest part of the project was becoming familiar and comfortable with using the radial arm saw, skill saw, table saw and biscuit jointer  (affiliate) ( I don’t have a router set-up).  I am a real safety freak, so I took this part very seriously.  I am really alone on all these projects, so your quick response to my hardware questions, etc. was a big confidence builder – like, I had a big brother that was just a email away!

7.  What are you planning on building next?

I am planning on building a second mirror/cabinet for above the first single vanity.  I have gained so much satisfaction from this project that I know I can do just about anything just taking it one step at a time.  Thanks again, John.

Thanks to Andrea for sharing this incredible home improvement project.  If you have a home improvement project that you’d like to share with our readers, shoot me an email: John at Our Home from Scratch dot com.

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Your Home from Scratch. Tagged in ,, , ,

My Expensive DIY Plumbing Lesson

Posted by on May 21st, 2014

In today’s post I want to share a story with you from back in the days when I wasn’t very skilled in the ways of home improvement. I believe that you learn much more from failures than you do from successes, so I’m not in the least bit embarrassed to discuss this episode.  I hope this story helps put your home improvement challenges in perspective.  The only real failure is if you don’t learn anything from your mistakes.


In 2004, I was about six months into owning my first home.  I had just learned how to wire a house and I was getting the hang of interior trim work.  I was scrambling to get the place drywalled before a big work trip overseas.  The day before my flight, my dad had come down to give me a hand with some other house work.  Back then I hired out all my drywall work and I had a few guys hanging the sheetrock in another part of the house.  It was a cold and rainy day, typical for that time of year in Philly.

Shortly before the sheetrock guys were to quit for the day, my dad and I noticed water had started to drip heavily from an archway just near one of the windows.  My first reaction was to assume it was from the rain.  The home was 100 years old and a bit of a money pit at the time, so of course that’s where my mind went.  I opened up a window to see if I could identify where the rain was entering the house and instead noticed the rain had pretty much stopped, but the drip inside the house was getting worse.

At that moment, the drip started to appear more in the center of the archway and my father and I realized that one of the drywall screws probably punctured a copper pipe.  Crap.

After turning off the water, we had the drywall folks rip down a small section of their work and we were able to quickly identify where the leak was located.  Rather than call a plumber, we decided that we could easily handle this repair.  All we had to do was cut through the puncture and solder on a coupling sleeve over the cut.  We thought this would be simple.

Let me tell you something, 2014 John would have that leak fixed in about 15 minutes. 2004 John and his dad were in over their heads.

We headed over to the hardware store and picked up some propane, a pipe cutter, solder, flux, sandpaper, some flux brushes and a few couplings.  We cut the pipe right on the puncture, sanded it, pulled one of the pipes out of the way to slide the sleeve on and then set out to heat the pipes.  We had heard that you could use bread to keep the interior of the pipe dry while soldering and that seemed to work okay.  Confident that we had totally nailed it, we turned the water pressure back on and promptly had multiple jets of water spraying into the room.  Crap.

For the next two hours we essentially repeated that process four or five times.  Once it got to about ten o’clock my dad had to leave and I called an emergency plumber.  I couldn’t just leave the water off while I was away.  I had two roommates at the time that in all likelihood would require use of the shower and toilet.

The emergency plumber showed up and fixed the leak in about the time it will take you to read this post.  He was FAST.  He also charged me $250.  Oof.  Here’s where I got my money’s worth though: I asked him what I was doing wrong and he taught me some tips that I’ve used countless times since.  Instead of a $250 repair, it was a $250 one-on-one pipe repair training session.  Money well spent.

Here’s what he did differently:

- He didn’t try to use one coupling over the punctured area, he cut out the entire section and soldered in a short section of pipe with two couplings.  The punctured pipe had been too deformed to get a solid seal around it.

- He used MAPP gas instead of propane since it burns hotter and heats the pipe and coupling up faster.

- Immediately after the solder was sucked into the joint, he used his flux brush and brushed a light amount of flux on the outside of the joint, which appeared to further smooth and even out the solder.  It looked much cleaner and more professional as a result.

These types of lessons aren’t limited to plumbing obviously and while I hope you find his tips helpful, that’s not the point of this post.  Sometimes, we just need to step back when we get stuck and ask for help.  It’s not a surrender or a defeat, although it sure can feel that way sometimes.  It’s an opportunity to learn.

If you’ve had an expensive home improvement lesson, I’d love to hear about it.  Please share your story by leaving a comment.

Posted in DIY Projects,Lessons Learned,Plumbing. Tagged in ,,

DIY Projects I Just Won’t Do

Posted by on May 15th, 2014

Happy Friday folks!

In today’s post, I want to go in a slightly different direction from our normal How-To posts and instead talk about How-To-Not.  That’s right, even though we’re trying to grow our readers’ DIY skills, there is a line that each of us won’t cross.  There are just some projects that we won’t touch no matter how much we love saving money and finishing our projects ourself.  Some of these projects I won’t attempt because I’ve already tried to do them before and I absolutely HATED them.  Others are just non-starters.

Here are 3 projects that I won’t go near with a ten foot pole.

1.  Heights.  Anything involving major heights.  In our current home I’ve installed the roof on our shed and would climb on our first house’s flat roof for some occasional work, like adding the framing for skylights.  But our new house has an A-frame roof and the angle is severe enough and the height is great enough that you’ll never find me on my roof.  So if I need any roof work on our current house, I’ll hire that crap out in a hot second.

It doesn’t end with roofs.  A couple of years ago, I bought a Little Giant ladder with the intention of painting the 2-story walls in our foyer.  Got about 12 feet up the ladder, paused, took a deep breath and told my wife that we were hiring someone.  Maybe if I had two more arms to hold onto the ladder, but alas, I only have two.

2.  Fencing.  I consider installing fencing pretty much the worst DIY job I’ve ever attempted.  My neighbor and I installed a 20 foot section on our mutual property line several years ago and it was an absolute bear.  It may be because the ground was hard and full of large stones that need to be chiseled out.  Or it could’ve been the fact that the gas powered auger was rendered useless in the dense soil requiring me to dig it out with hand tools.  In any case, it sucked.  We’ve been thinking about adding a fence to our current house, but you can bank on us hiring that work out.

3.  Anything I’m not “Permitted” to do.  I’m a big fan of pulling permits for all my home improvement projects, especially anything involving plumbing, heating, or electrical work.  New Jersey allows home owners to pull permits for any work they do themselves.  This is great news if you’re handy.  In Philly, I wasn’t allowed to pull permits for electrical, plumbing or HVAC work so I really relish the privilege now.

There are still some types of work that homeowners are NOT permitted to do in NJ, however.  Sprinkler systems for lawns must be installed by a licensed irrigation contractor.  So, when we get to that project, I won’t even think about attempting it.

So those are the big three.  Everything else is pretty much on the table.

What are YOUR DIY non-starters?  Leave me a comment and tell me what DIY projects you refuse to touch.


Posted in DIY Projects. Tagged in ,

How to Install Old Work Lights

Posted by on May 7th, 2014

Our home office remodel is going really well.  We just finished the joint compound work, the ceiling has been primed and painted and just this evening I finished installing the ceiling lights.  I just realized I owe you a complete list of every task we’ve completed and have planned for this space, that way you have a better idea of where we are.  I think I’ll save that status list for next time.

In today’s post, I’m showing you how to install old work lights.


coffered ceiling

If you’re not familiar with the term “old-work,” let me take a minute to explain it.  Old work is a term that describes the type of electrical work being performed or the type of electrical equipment being used.  In addition to “old-work,” there’s also “new-work.”  What’s the difference?  Good question.  New work refers to electrical work that is being performed on a completely unfinished space, like new construction for example.  New work electrical boxes are designed to be nailed right to an exposed stud BEFORE the drywall gets installed.  New work boxes are super easy to install in new work applications.  There are also new work light fixtures that get installed between overhead joists.

Old work on the other hand is for electrical work that is being done in a finished space.  The equipment is designed to be slipped into finished walls and ceilings.  Since you can’t nail an electrical box to a stud if the wall is covered with drywall, an old work box is designed to simply bite onto the drywall.  If you wanted to, you could always knock down the drywall to get access to the studs and then use new work boxes.  Depends on the situation.

In our office, we’re using old work for our overhead lights and receptacles (we had to move two outlets).  The overhead lights are being installed in a portion of the ceiling that’s already been finished.

The process to install the old work lights starts with the wiring and cutting the holes in the drywall for the lights.  I prefer to use 4″ halogen lights for nearly all overhead lighting applications.  Big fan of the smaller look and I love that the lights gimbal so they can be directed around the room.

box tabs

I’ll prepare my light fixture by removing one of the connector tabs from the attached electrical box with a screw driver or pair of pliers.

plastic romex connector

connector in box

Next, I’ll pop in a plastic romex connector to protect the wire from rubbing against the metal box.  You can also use the metal romex connectors.  A connector is absolutely required, otherwise the romex wire could rub against a sharp edge or burr on the box and cause a short.

pull cables into box

With the connector snapped into place, I’ll pull my wire through it until there is a few inches into the box.  Obviously, I have the power off at the breaker.  At this point, I stripped back my outer romex shield and wired the light to the house cable.  I’m not going to show that step, but if you’re interested in learning how to make electrical connections, I suggest you learn from someone in-person.  There are a ton of useful articles online as well as some great YouTube videos on wiring, but nothing beats some live, one-on-one training.

push light into hole

When the wiring is complete, I snap on the box cover and push the light into the hole in the ceiling.  Tabs extend out from the light housing and grab onto the drywall preventing it from falling back out of the hole.  The tabs actually keep the light fairly snug against the ceiling.

light baffle

Last step is to just snap in the halogen bulb and finishing cover.

coffered ceiling lights

The room looks completely different with all four overhead lights illuminated.  Gives the space a whole new feel.

In our next post, I’m going to share with you a new tool I bought to save a TON of time with the ceiling paint.  I love it so much, I’m going to use it on the walls.

Have you ever worked with an old-work electrical device or do you prefer the new-work stuff?

Posted in DIY Projects,Electrical,Lighting. Tagged in ,, ,