Monday, September 25, 2006

Bright Light Fright

Confidence buoyed by the apparently successful installation of the kitchen lights Saturday*, I moved on to one of the bathrooms yesterday.

You might wonder why I would begin replacing light fixtures in a home only three months old. A couple of reasons. One, I was only freelancing at the time I signed the contract to buy it. Irregular work means irregular paychecks so I was inclined to limit my budget for builder installed upgrades. Two, the markup on things the builder installs was insane so I was not inclined to pay for upgrades regardless of my employment situation.

I'll have them put in the standard included stuff and I'll replace it later for half the cost of what I would have paid the builder to do it, I thought. Brilliant! What I failed to think was that I had never done any work like this before. I had no idea how a fluorescent light attached to the ceiling or how it was wired. It could have been held there by leprechauns for all I knew. Same thing with how a bathroom light stays on the wall, except for the vague idea that changing a light fixture was more complicated than changing a light bulb. And that because of the union contract there would be different leprechauns for each fixture.

The joy of home ownership, besides watching property taxes and insurance rates soar, is that the owner -- in this case, me -- can take stuff apart to see how they work as long as he turns the breaker off no matter how exciting the game on the TV connected to the same circuit is.

I also thought it a good idea to put the toilet seat and lid down. I could see myself slipping off the chair, one foot sliding into the toilet while the rest of me crashed to the floor. The resulting compound fracture was not a pretty picture.

Neither was what I found behind the bathroom light, which was one of those "Hollywood lights," the flat stainless steel panel with the four giant round clear bulbs coming out of it. Instead of the wiring box that I had found in the kitchen ceiling and expected to find here, there was but a hole in the drywall with the wires poking through. The base of the light had been attached on either side of the hole. On one side with a drywall anchor. On the other the installer had simply screwed straight into the drywall. I guess he thought the leprechauns would hold it in place.

The light I bought has what is called a retainer. The retainer attaches to the wiring box and then the light fixture screws into the retainer. Lacking the wiring box, I -- using drywall anchors for both of the screws -- attached the retainer directly to the drywall, then I attached the color coded wires and bolted the fixture to the retainer.

When I get home I'll have a better idea if I can also call this another apparently successful installation.**

*Apparent success judged by the fact the house had not burned down.
**Apparent success judged by the fact that the light has not fallen off the wall. And that the house has not burned down.

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