Sometimes, I Am the Electrician

If you’ve been reading the blog, you know that this weekend we had a bit of a failure of a lighting situation in our pantry. I generally have no qualms taking on a lighting replacement but that pantry one was a little too far gone for me to fix up. I’m somewhat surprised I didn’t find out that the whole thing was held together with duct tape. That wouldn’t have shocked me at all. Or, I mean, it may have shocked me a lot.

The hallway between our rumpus room (which is what we call the family room) and the kitchen has a light in it as well, and this one is about as DIY as the pantry. I don’t know much about installing new electrical, but it looks like someone once thought, “We need a light in here, but we don’t want to damage the walls at all. Let’s just attach everything to the outside of the wall.” So here’s what the light switch looks like.


So as you can see, not actually in the wall, just sort of added to the outside. Up to code? Who knows. I don’t know the codes. I’m guessing it’s actually okay because the home inspector didn’t say anything about it. But I’m also wondering if he was walking through the house and thought, “This house is 120 years old, I’m not going to nitpick over this weird light switch.” You see that bar coming out of the top? That’s where the wires are. They go up and to the ceiling, and then go across the ceiling to the light. That leaves us with a bit of a crazy situation up there.


That’s where all the wires are. So usually you have all your electrical coming out of the ceiling. Not here, they all come out of this tube (I can’t think of another way to describe it) that goes down to the switch.

This wouldn’t be a huge problem, really, beyond the whole looking weird aspect, except that it creates a real issue with the mounting plate part of a light. Ideally you want the circular mounting plate of your light to sit flush with the ceiling. That can’t happen here. I didn’t realize this until I was up there taking the old light down, but they had the mounting plate about three quarters of an inch away from the ceiling. It was basically up against that tube that held the wires, but not up against the ceiling.

That was not going to cut it for me. I wanted our mounting plate to sit flush with the ceiling, but I had to figure out how to get around the wires. What I decided to do was make a cutout in the mounting plate that would wrap around the wires, and the rest of it would then sit flush.

Mounting plate cutout | Burritos and Bubly

It wasn’t easy to cut. I actually had a metal cutting saw that I didn’t know about, but even then, it’s a circular piece so it just took a lot of patience. When I got to the bottom, I used a technique I saw in a random YouTube comment somewhere. I drilled six holes across the bottom and then the cutout popped right out. I filed it down a little bit to make the whole thing smooth and it fit right over the wires perfectly. I love it when a plan comes together!

Hallway light | Burritos and Bubbly

This light works so much better than what was previously in there. First of all, it’s still a DIY job retrofitted to a 120 year old house, but it’s done properly! The mounting box isn’t just hanging there. But style-wise … well that’s Kerry’s department. I’m sure she’d say something like, “It’s fun and bright. It represents us so much more than the old stained glass light. It’s got pops of color without being over-the-top or in-your-face.” I don’t know, something like that. “It looks cool.” That’s what I say.

Light and art | Burritos and Bubbly

So the hallway is one step closer to being done. We still need to paint the doors white. I actually am starting to warm up to the idea of the black doors with the white trim and grey walls, but realistically we should paint them. And we will. For now I’m just going be happy with our new light.

— Andy

| Filed under Do It Yourself, Old House | Tags: ,

One thought on “Sometimes, I Am the Electrician

  1. Eeee gads on that light switch. I think that’s the lazy mans’ way, to install the wiring on top of the wall and not inside. I agree with what you said on inspectors. Our home was built in 1954 and I’m sure his inspection could have been much more detailed than it was. I’m glad you found a workaround at least for here and now!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *