Light me up! v. 2: The Fight

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Ya know, sometimes, just sometimes, being a solo DIY'er home re-do-er is a pain in the ass.  Pardon my French.

Sometimes something so easy that should not take long ends up taking you oh, say nearly three hours and then you're grumpy and cranky, sweaty and cursing a manufacturer.

Like say...oh for instance, the light fixture I got for the hall bedroom upstairs.  I had been stalking it for a while at the store, not interested in paying I can't remember, about $90 or so, for it.  Then it went on clearance one day.  Plus there was a mail in rebate.  Bingo!  I was at Menards within days.

It's the Costa 1 Light Pendant.  It even came with the fancy schmancy old timey vintage bulb.  All right!

So it's been a tripping hazard in my office for a while now and all week I had intended to install it, along with the fixture I purchased for our master closet.  Today, this is it, today is the day, I woke up thinking.

I had painted the room earlier in the year, only to discover the paint mixer person mixed the incorrect color.  Ah well, accidents happen, but it explains why I'm not a huge fan of the color.  I've got plans for this room now though, just you wait.

Anywhooo.  The light.  It fits in perfectly with these plans.

The original fixture was that boring contractor super cheapy nondescript thing, better known by a crass name.  You know the one.  And it's not Dr. Everything Will Be All Right.  (Nice with the Prince reference, eh?)

First let me apologize in advance for all the bad photos.  This was a tiring event, it's a cloudy day here in Chicago and this room is one of the darkest in the house.

boob light on ceiling before

There it is, in all it's um, glory, the uh, you know the name people call it.

parts laid out for new hanging light fixture

I unpack the new fixture and see what kind of assembly I'm looking at.  No directions.  Ok, no problem, that just means it'll be clear as day, right?  And it was.  It was the installation that was not.  I mean, it was, but the thing was not going to go in as designed.

Ok.  So, time to power off the room.  I get downstairs and gasp, the hall bedroom is not labeled on the breaker box.  Nooooo!!  There was a day Mike and I tried to figure out as many as we could but rats, we missed a few.

Heh, so you know what this meant as a solo DIY'er?  Yep.  Up and down two flights of stairs for each breaker switch.  Finn was going nuts -- please Mommy, stop it!  Stop going up and down, stop it, you're making me insane!  Needless to say, he has been napping.

It took me nine tries.  Yep.  Nine.  It wasn't on an unlabeled one.

Feel free to do the math.  My brain won't let me.  Who needs a gym when you can have your own unlabeled breaker box in a two story house?!

So at this point I'm pooped, all sweaty and jello-legged.  Last thing I want to do is climb a ladder and put in a light, but I started so may as well finish.

The new fixture, as you can see above, came with four extension rods.  Three were the same length and one was about half size.  I grabbed a tape measure and extended it down from the ceiling to figure out how low I wanted the fixture to hang.

assembled light fixture ready to hang

A wee bit o' easier math and it was one long rod plus the short one, 32" total.

Ok, so looking at the ceiling bracket, the ceiling cover piece, the fixture and the existing electrical box in the ceiling, I realized nobody was going to be friends here.  The box is inset into the ceiling more than is typical.  The intended installation method was to drop the screws from above, through the box, through the bracket, through the cover, then be attached by these little screw on balls.

close up of screw on ball part
The screw on ball next to the hole it's meant to cover.
Uh huh.  Right.  Not gonna happen.

The screws were not long enough to do all that.  The box was not deep enough to use a longer screw.  Plus the attachment points inside the electrical box did not line up with the holes in the cover.  Well, then, how am I supposed to tighten these little balls onto a screw that is not fixed inside if I can't go through the box screw holes?  Plus, seriously?

Aw boy.  Yeah.  I had to take a pet-Finn break as this was complicated.  Plus going solo here, I was oh so worried about breaking the glass shade.  I did have one flash of brilliance -- I taped the foam packaging back over it.

securing the light fixture with the foam from inside the box

Right, so I went through so many scenarios in my head that I think I thought enough thoughts for the entire next week ahead.  Then, finally, I thought I had figured it out:  attach the ceiling bracket, wire it up, then just use screws going up into the bracket to attach the fixture, screw the screw balls.

So I'm all wired up and good to go when I realize oh my goodness, duh, there's nothing to screw the screws into from below.  Too, those small single holes don't line up.  Clearly I ended up combining a couple of different scenarios on accident, thereby getting lost.

Aw jeez louise.  So I let the fixture dangle a minute and went to pet Finn again.

parts at the ceiling to hang light fixture

That's when I realized I had no choice but to put the screws in from above then attach the little balls from below.  I figured I'd tape the heads of the screws down to the bracket using electrical tape so they wouldn't move.

Well.  First the screws I had were too long.  Panic.

Down to the basement to the large collection of attachment devices again.  Somehow I found two that were shorter.  But not short enough.

Back upstairs.  The tape came loose while I was trying to get those darn balls on and the screws were twisting all around.  Uuuggghhhh.  Why me??!

Somehow I managed to get the balls attached, the fixture cleaned up, and all done.

No one can touch it though.  I hope to all get out it doesn't fall, especially on my in-laws.

light fixture hung

Trust me, I'm getting shorter screws.

But it's up.  It took far too long and a whole day's worth of energy, but it's up.

Once I turned the power back on and came upstairs, was it all worth it?!

Walking in the room seeing it all lit up, the suffering ebbed a smidge.  I really like it.  It's perfect.

new glass pendant light fixture installed

Whew.  But so much for getting the master closet light in today though.  Whoooie.  Ah well, another day!

another view of the light in the room

new glass pendant hanging light fixture

Heh, Finn is still totally napping.  I wish I could join him!

Have a great weekend everyone!


  1. Oh Becky, you poor thing! I know how you feel though (does that make it even a smidge better?! No?) I had the same issue when I was trying to change out the old yucky light switches and plug ins in my old house. The breaker box was in the basement (down two flights of stairs like yours) and it wasn't labeled. And I am a solo fixer upper too and I probably went up and down that many times as well. It sucks! But your light looks beautiful! I love it!


  2. Aw no, you too? I'm so sorry you had to experience that pain! It's just the meanest thing to not label a box for folks, isn't it?! Well, we both made it through though and that's what matters. ;) So glad you like the light! Thanks so much!

  3. I also feel your pain. When we moved into our house every single breaker said lights and outlets. Period. It took us a day to figure it all out and we still ended up making a few mistakes. Also, we just finished putting in a ceiling pendant over the sink. Talk about a nightmare!!!! It took three days and now that it's up and still an inch from touching the ceiling, I'm just going to live with it for a little. I did come up with a new plan of attack though, I am going to tie thread on each of those DANG screws and thread them through the light base. That way, when we have to take it off again and figure out where the nut needs to be so that the screw is the right length hanging out, we can just pull the threads and slide the piece back up. Genius, huh? We shall see if it works. I HATE putting those light fixtures up. They are so beautiful and seductive though. And yes, we were replacing a bxxb light also. I enjoyed your post if that makes you feel any better.

  4. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to write! I am so sorry you had that breaker box pain too! It is so not nice. Very very clever idea about the thread! I will definitely keep that tip in mind for future use, thanks! Those darn bxxb lights! ;)


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