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Wiring for the Office Lights

Posted by on March 10th, 2014

In this post, you’ll learn 

- How to use chalk lines to mark for center

- How a compass and a drywall saw are used for ceiling light holes

Late last week, I got a call from our local township that our electrical permit was approved.  Right after I picked it up, I got started.   When I last left off, the coffered ceiling was all framed out.  We decided to go with four lights in the room: three in the center section and one over where the desk will be located.  Let me start by showing you how I marked and cut the locations for the lights, since it’s a fairly useful trick to learn.

Wiring for the Office Lights

The three lights that would be in the coffered ceiling section of the office would be centered in the middle of a few of those ceiling squares.  To make marking the center of the squares easier, I snapped a chalk line from opposing corners.

marking the center

Where the two lines intersected is the center of the box.  Next, I used a compass and drew a circle 4″ in diameter, which is what was required for the lighting fixtures we bought.

can light circle

After the circle was drawn out, I used a hand held drywall saw to cut the hole out.

cutting circle

With all the holes cut out in the ceiling, I proceeded to run some Romex cable in the tracks created by the coffered ceiling I-beams to each hole location.  As required by code, I also stapled the cables to the structure every few feet.  Later on, before the rough-in inspection, I’ll fill in those holes in the framing with fire block foam.

wires run

Just to give you a little more details on the wiring… I used 14-2 sized Romex.  That means it’s 14 gauge wire with 2 conductors.  14 gauge is used for 15 amp circuits and therefore needs to be tied into a 15 amp breaker.  This lighting is going on it’s own circuit, which is created when I add a new breaker in the breaker box.  The breaker box I own is a Square D brand box and the 15 amp breaker I buy needs to be a Square D breaker in order to install properly.  It’s kind of a waste to be adding an entire circuit just for four lights, so I’ll probably tie in additional basement lights into this same circuit whenever we get around to finishing the basement.

As I mentioned, the office will have four lights, with three being controlled by one switch and the fourth light getting its own dedicated switch.  I’m locating those switches in a place where I previously had a switched outlet for the office.  I’m removing the switched outlet setup and just adding these two new switches for the overhead light.

Because I’m adding this coffered ceiling framing, it made running the wires to these lights considerably easier than if I didn’t have the framing.  Without the framing, the wires would need to come up inside the walls and into the joist space.  To pull that wire through, I’d have to cut holes in the drywall and the ceiling in multiple locations.  Overall, it’s be easier NOT to do the coffered ceiling, but since I’m already doing it, the wiring is made easier.

At this point, I’m ready for my rough-in inspection.  Once the inspector passes the work, I’ll be given the go-ahead to start drywalling the bare wood.  He won’t need to come back until the room is completely finished.

This isn’t the first time I used a chalk line to help me with my electrical work.  I also used in when we installed an additional outlet in the dining room.  If you’re interested in how I ran cables, definitely check that post out as it goes into more depth than this post.

Thanks for reading.  If you enjoyed this post, please share it. 

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

Lighting Ideas

Posted by on July 8th, 2013

Hope everyone had an outstanding holiday weekend. We spent the last few days hanging out with family and hit up the shore for a little while. Other than some sunburn, we couldn’t have asked for a better time.

Since we finished the built-in in our sitting room a few months ago, we’ve been spending a lot of our down-time there as we intended. The space is cozy and ideal for relaxing at the end of the day. The only problem is the lack of lighting. There is plenty of natural light when it’s early, but we often find ourselves sitting in the dark once the sun goes down. We’re looking to buy a simple room light or two that will let us read or do computer work without straining our eyes. I’d prefer something under powered that adds some soft light without flooding the room like search lights at Alcatraz.

ektorp couch

We recently did a quick online survey of a few retailers and came up with a list of potential options.  Here’s some lighting ideas we like…

Wall lights:

clapton swing-arm sconce

1. The Clapton Swing-Arm from Pottery Barn.  $130 each or 2 for $240.  We love the idea of mounting a couple wall lights above the couch.  We haven’t remounted  our reclaimed wood frame, but when we do, these would look pretty snazzy next to it.  Pro:  It’s not a hard-wired light, meaning I can just mount the light and plug it in.  Con:  It’s $130 each.  Yowza.  Probably going to pass on that price.

simplicity wall swing arm

2. The Simplicity Swing Arm Wall Lamp from Target.  Retails for about $80 each.  Lower priced alternative to the Pottery Barn model with the same effective design.  Pros:  The cost is tolerable, although not ideal. The metal work is nice.  Cons:  The shade looks like something out of a mid-80′s Whitney Houston video.  We’d need to replace it.  It’s also a hard wired model, which means permits and inspections, etc.

alang wall lamp

3. The Alang Wall Lamp from Ikea.  Retails for only $20 each.  A similar overall design to the first two options with a fixed neck.  Pros: It’s extremely inexpensive.  It doesn’t require any wiring and it’s Ikea, so it probably matches our Ikea couch (matching stuff isn’t my department).  Cons:  Lisa isn’t crazy about the shade, but I don’t mind it.  We could always replace it.  More of a 5-10 year solution and not a long term option.

Floor Lamps

We’re also considering floor lamps.  They’re dead simple.  No leveling or molly bolts since they don’t need to get mounted.  The only problem is a certain energetic 2 yo may decide she wants to knock it over.

sutter floor lamp

4. Sutter Adjustable Lever Floor Lamp from Pottery Barn. Retails for $180.  Pros: Not a terrible price.  Classic look.  Simple design.  I like.  Cons:  Possibly too dark for the space.

arstid floor lamp ikea

5. Arstid Floor Lamp from Ikea.  Retails for $40.  Pros:  It’s a very basic design with a low price tag.  Cons:  It lacks personality.

barometer floor lamp ikea

6. Barometer Floor Lamp from Ikea. Retails for $40.  Pros:  More interesting than the Arstid and great price.  Cons:  The light has an arm that overhangs on one side.  That overhang probably will limit the light to one side of the couch only.  Bummer.

julian apothecary lamp ballard

7. Julian Apothecary Lamp from Ballard Designs.  Retails for $100.  This is my favorite floor lamp.  Pros:  It has a sophisticated look (or at least it’s staged that way) with an adjustable neck.  $100 isn’t bad for high quality.  Cons:  Will require shipping since I don’t live within 500 miles of a store.  Will need to talk Lisa into spending $100 for a lamp that I’ll use to stay up late reading.

So what’s your take?  Like any of these options?  Which would you buy?

Posted in Home Decor. Tagged in ,,

Our Spring and Summer Plans

Posted by on May 20th, 2013

We’re back.  Just had one of those weekends where we did next to nothing.  No home improvement projects to blog about.  No chores.  Nothing.  Watched a ton of Doctor Who.  It was everything I hoped it would be.  My batteries are officially recharged.

I’m trying to keep up the frequency of our posts, but I’ve been taking some extra time during the week to work on our new blog theme.  I haven’t touched it since Christmas and just decided to start from scratch again.  So far so good.  I think you’ll like it.  Keeping it simple.  In any case, trying to keep three posts a week and make time for a theme build just isn’t happening.  Working in web design or graphic design in general is not an area of strength for me so it’s mostly slow going.

In other news, it’s been a while since we’ve had some direction around here.  We just got done a major carpentry project and dabbled in some concrete work.  I think it’s time for a new to-do list so you know what we’re planning.

With the end of my spring grad class and the weather getting warmer, it’s officially outdoor season here.  While there are still a good amount of indoor projects on our to-do list, the vast majority of our work plans are aimed at exterior projects.

Here is a list of the projects we’re planning on tackling this spring (what’s left of it) and summer.  Most of these ideas are going to be relatively low cost.  We were hoping to get started on a deck build, but have decided to punt that at least into the fall.

garage unorganized

1.  Clean and organize the garage.  Our garage is the bane of Lisa’s existence.  It’s dirty, unkempt and filled with bugs year round.  This is now priority numero uno.  In order to bring the garage up to something more tolerable, we have a series of tasks slated for this space.

-Apply another coat of epoxy on the floor
-Add shelves and additional storage
-Do something about our God-forsaken window treatments
-Add stroller storage
-Paint the interior door black
-Dress up the stairs

side flower bed

2.  Flower bed fix ups.  Time to bring these once proud flower beds up to snuff.  Our front beds are in decent shape, but our side beds are overgrown and are in need of re-edging and some additional work.

mailbox flowers
(via Greengardenista)

3.  Flower bed by mailbox.  Remember this pin?  We’ve been pining after this look for months.  It’s time to make it happen.  Hoping we can make a big improvement to a small space.

landscape lights

4.  Add more exterior lights.  One of our first posts when we started blogging was the landscape lighting we added.  I’d like to make the exterior of the house pop a bit more and take care of some dimly lit areas.  A couple more spot lights should do the trick.  Oh and I need to take some quality SLR shots of the house lit up at night.


drip irrigation

5.  Drip irrigation.  Also one of our earlier series of posts.  I bought enough supplies to take care of the entire perimeter of the house, but still need to add the system to one of our side flower beds.  You’ll get a refresher on drip irrigation installation.  Piece of cake.

6.  Add motion sensors to our exterior spot lights.  Quick. Easy.  Need to do it.

flower bed

7.  Shed flower bed.  After we built our shed, I gave it a rectangular flower bed that wrapped around its three sides.  Looks okay, but is impossible to cut easily with a riding mower.  I’m going to reshape the beds to make this sort of maintenance easier by incorporating curves.

These last two are inside-the-house projects, but so what.

family room

8.  Family room trim.  Our family room is big and plain (old photo).  We’ve been kicking around some ideas on how to add some character and interest without breaking the bank.  Keep an eye on our Pinterest activity in the near future for hints of what we’ll be doing.  I’d ideally love to be done with this project before I start my last grad course at the end of August.

9.  TV Console.  Thought I’d be knee deep in plywood by now, but think this one may wait for a rainy day.  See this post for more info on this project.

Ambitious list?  Sure is.  I work better with longer lists.  Gives me something to shoot for.

What’s on your spring/summer to-do list?

Posted in Outdoors and Landscaping,Outside. Tagged in ,, ,

LED Outdoor Lights

Posted by on June 11th, 2012

For the past couple years since we’ve lived in our current house we’ve had some issues with our exterior garage lights.  The fixtures themselves aren’t really the problem, it’s the bulbs.  I’m not sure if it’s the changing temperatures between the seasons or what, but they never seem to last longer than a few weeks before one or both are burned out.

Ehh.  Looks like they need to be cleaned a bit too!

Anyway, one of the culprits of their short life may due to the fact that they’re on pretty much 24/7.  A few months ago, we added a very basic light sensor to each bulb.  Essentially, if it’s daylight out, the lights are supposed to be off.  That worked for a couple weeks, then some nasty bugs crawled into the light sensor and blocked the light, so they run all day.

Here’s that sensor on the bulb…

and separated… that little stem is where the sensor/bugs are.

While in Lowe’s recently, buying more poplar for our raised panel project, I stopped in the light bulb section.  Stops in this isle for outside bulbs have been way too frequent.  This trip was the first time I paid any attention to the LEDs.  I’ve been aware of LED for industrial applications and some more unique residential uses like undercabinet lighting, but I’ve never noticed them for plan old bulb replacement.  I can tell you the prices varied wildly.  A large flood light style LED was listed for nearly $56!!  I didn’t think they’d made or carried the LED equivalent of what I was looking for, which is a clear exterior grade bulb.

Then I bumped into this guy…

It was around $13 and if you can read the label, it’s supposed to last 50 times longer than the average 25 Watt filament bulb!  It’s around 130 lumens, where an actual 25 Watt bulb is around 190.  So, the filaments are slightly brighter.  At about $1.50 a bulb, if I get even 10 times the life of the average bulb, then this LED has paid for itself.  The big question though is how does it look.  How’s the quality and the ambiance?

Not bad.  I’m not one to worry too much about the ambiance or the color of the light for outside bulbs, so to be honest, I want it to be bright and last a while.  It’s certainly bright.  It looks brighter than the 190 lumen 25 Watt bulbs I’ve been using.  I think I’ll keep them.

Any green bulbs in your house or apartment?  What do you think of them?  Are you stocking up on filament bulbs?

Posted in Garage and Tools. Tagged in ,, ,

Landscape Lighting Finished… Well, Almost

Posted by on July 18th, 2011

So last time we worked on our landscape lighting project, we were able to get the transformer installed and the four flood lights connected.  After a brief test with an extension cord, we still have some adjustments to make.  It’s always a good idea when doing a project like this to stop and see how the progress is coming along.  There were a couple problems we noticed the first time we turned the lights on:

1.  The four flood lights didn’t look bright enough and didn’t illuminate enough of the house.  There are a few ways to correct this and we’ll discuss that below.

2.  We could use a few more lights.  Too much of the house is under lit.  We’ll add a couple spot lights to correct this deficiency.

First we’ll show you our spot light install.  We purchased two inexpensive 20 Watt halogen spot lights from the local building supply store.  We positioned one on the corner of the house to uplight the Walking Stick and the other to light the front door.  We could probably use a few more, but we can always add them at a later time.  Adding lights to an existing system is as easy as splicing into an existing wire or simply running a new one to the transformer.    For our new spot lights, we ran one new wire for both lights.

Here’s the one…

Positioning the front door spot light

Here’s the other…

The spot light for the Walking Stick.

To provide some further clarification into how to remove the insulation and splice the wires, below are some photos and some quick instructions.  As always, make sure the power is off and unplugged to the transformer when you add any circuits or make any changes to the lighting.

1. After the lights are anchored into the ground in the locations we selected, I ran a wire from the front door spot light to the walking stick spot light. I then ran another wire from the walking stick spot light to the transformer.

2. Now we can prep the wires and splice at the first spot light location.

The wire is split with a pair of wire cutters and pulled apart.


Using a pair of Super Sevens to strip the wire leads.


The exposed leads. Notice the bottom wire has some stamped writing on it. That wire will be my “black” wire and the other my “white.”


The wires from the front door spot light spliced into the wire running to the other spot light. These wire leads now get covered by an exterior quality wire nut

3.  Now this process can be repeated at the other spot light.  However, at that location, I have three wires to splice, because I also have my wire that runs to the transformer.

4.  Since the last time I worked on this project, I bought some Romex connectors to help secure the cables penetrating into the transformer.  We’ll remove and reinstall those wires to get the Romex connector in place.

This is what a Romex connector looks like. It goes by several names.

The wires come out and get run through the Romex connector. The Romex connector has a lock nut which goes on the inside of the transformer. The other side has a couple screws, which when tightened, hold the wires in place.

5. When I was reconnecting my wires into the transformer, I had the opportunity to make some changes. First, I have to land all my “white” wires on to the Com1 slot. I installed my new spot lights on to the lowest voltage setting, 12 volts, because both lights are fairly close to the transformer.  Then I installed my next closest lights in the 13 volt slot and the remaining circuit on the 14 volt slot. By increasing the voltage on those existing flood light circuits, I can be sure that if they aren’t lighting the house up enough, it’s not due to a lack of voltage.

6. At this point I’m ready to close up the transformer. The wires are carefully tucked inside and the water-tight door is shut. These boxes feature a side lock to keep it secure. I’ll be going back in this box soon enough to install an electronic timer, but that will have to wait until I install my exterior outlet.

The transformer with the door closed.


The wires are cleaned up a bit by using zip ties.

Now we can move onto correcting the problem with the flood lights.  We noticed during our first trial run that they didn’t seem to be lighting up enough of the house.  The first thing I tried besides playing with the angle of the light housing was the light filter.  The lights come from the factory with a cloudy glass filter installed.  This is supposed to soften the light out a little bit, but it can diminish the effective volume of the light as well.  So, we swapped ours out for a clear glass insert.  Luckily, it only takes a minute.


Flood light with the cloudy filter.

Clear filter installed.

Now that we got that squared away, the best solution to our under lighting problem seems to be moving the lights closer to the house.  This can also be done quickly and easily by just pulling on the light housing out of the ground or using a crow bar to pry on the stake.  The light can then be swiveled off the stake and the stake can be reset into a new location.

Before moving the flood lights closer.

After. Lights are now closer to the house.  If only by a few inches.

So moving the lights closer, changing the glass insert and upping the voltage all seemed to work well.  The completed landscape lighting setup is pictured below, but there is still more work to do, although the bulk of the work is done.  It only took about 4 hours to get to this point.

landscape lighting diy

Next time we’ll be installing an outdoor receptacle to provide power to the transformer and we’ll also be installing the lighting timer.  Also just added to the list: a drip irrigation system for our front plants because they keep dying!!

Disclaimer: Our Home from Scratch is meant to be an informative website detailing our adventures through home improvement projects. While these projects are often instructive, they may contain mistakes or errors. This website should not be used as a sole source of technical information for home improvement projects. Any projects attempted similar to those depicted on this website should be done with the aid of professionals and with the utmost caution. Always follow local building codes. Neither the operators nor owners of Our Home From Scratch website assume any liability for any injury, death or damage resulting from attempting something seen on this site.


Posted in Outdoors and Landscaping. Tagged in ,, ,