In an earlier post we described the mysteries, joys, and horrors of the seemingly simple task of changing a light fixture in the kitchen of our 1927 bungalow, leaving the scene with a foam picnic plate covering the unsightly hole we found in under the old light and yet another identical light to replace.
First, back to Lowe’s to pick a light to go with the modern 6-light Z-bar we put in the center of the kitchen. Because the second light is over the breakfast nook and my parents’ 1937 kitchen table, we wanted it a bit more in keeping with the period of the house. We found a ribbed-glass shade pendant light in brushed nickel that was just right, and matched the finish on the halogen bar light.
A stop at Ace to pick up yet another shallow plaster/rework box and two large (8-inch) steel wallboard patches. The latter are metal plates covered with adhesive mesh that extends 2 inches beyond the metal to patch really large holes, like the ones you get when you slam a door knob against the wall. We are prepared.
Of course, the big surprise when we take down the second light is that, first, the wires just stick out of the plaster: this light was apparently added after the ceiling was textured. The wiring is even newer, more 1970s-vintage, which we deduced when we tied it in at the center fixture. So, we only need one of those head-butting-hole fixer plates. One more thing for the eventual garage sale. The smooth ceiling, however, presents another problem. We trace around the round rework box and carefully cut through the beaverboard ceiling with a utility knife, keeping close to the line and working the edge until the plaster box fits snugly in the hole, with the wire through one of the knockouts in the bottom of the box. We select some screws from our stash of home-repair parts and screw the box securely to the joist and lath, then assemble the lamp. It looks great, and the original 13-watt CFL from the old ceiling fixture lights up the table just fine, now that it is 30 inches closer.
A few days later, we tackle the paper plate problem. First, we remove the Z-bar fixture, paper plate, scrape off a couple layers of loose wallpaper in the one-foot-diameter bare circle in the ceiling texture that was under the old fixture, and smooth down the ridge of plaster at the edge of the circle. I try to cut a hole in the big patch plate with a fly cutter on the drill press, but give up after a bit of chatter starts–the material is pretty thin. But, it now has a nice 4-inch circle scribed in it. I drill out the pilot hole to 1/2-inch and use the air nibbler to rough-cut the hole. Then, I use the air die grinder with a cutoff wheel to trim to the line. A trip to the kitchen shows we are just a little tight, so scribe a line around the edge with a Sharpie and grind it off, just right. Just to be safe, I screw the plate into the ceiling, not relying on the mesh adhesive to hold it, as these are designed for wall patches. Finally, I apply wallboard joint compound, imitating the knock-down texture of the rest of the ceiling as much as possible. We let it dry overnight, resigning ourselves to cooking in the dark again.
The next day, I put a coat of primer on the new plaster before we leave for the day. When we return, I paint the patch to match the rest of the ceiling and remount the light fixture in time for dinner.
It looks like it was always there. But, like other old-house projects, it took a total of a couple of weeks to finish (we did take a trip to Montana in the middle of this exercise), at least four trips to various hardware stores, and we have extra parts and material left over. The total cost of replacing two kitchen lights was about $120, and, while not to modern electrical code, is better and safer than it was, and is functional. To completely upgrade the wiring and use restored or reproduction fixtures would have taken more than two weeks and cost several thousand dollars that we don’t have right now.