Last March my husband and I started remodeling the main floor of our turn of the century farm house in northern Iowa. After getting the kitchen done and the floor laid life got busy and we didn’t make any more progress on the house. Then while my husband had some time off between Christmas and New Year we tackled a little bit more of the remodeling project.
One of the things holding us up in moving forward was figuring out the electrical for the entry. Thankfully my husband is quite skilled when it comes to electrical work. This means I just tell him what I would ideally want and then he gets the chore of figuring it out. Thankfully having a finished basement running electrical is a little easier because you can get under the main floor to run everything to the breaker box.
When thinking about the entry we knew we needed a light and thankfully I still had one more light fixture like what we used in the kitchen. Then we also got looking at needing to add a light to the bottom of the stairs. Both of these were driving strongly by our routine. First thing we do in the morning is get up and let the dogs out to do their business. Before getting these lights in we only had lights at the top of the stairs and then in the kitchen and dining room. So you either had to turn on the light in the kitchen or the dining room before getting to the front door to let them out. In winter, this can be VERY dark out here in the country. I of course told my husband I thought it would be great if these two lights were on a three-way switch so you could turn them on or off either at the front door or at the bottom of the stairs.
We also got to talking about other lighting issues before starting on this project and he told me that although he loves the lights in the kitchen when you are at the sink or working on the counter to the right of the sink it can be very dark… this got me thinking and we came up with the idea of adding recessed lighting just above that area.
Anyone who has ever had to do wiring can tell you none of these were simple projects, not to mention that it was basically 4 major electrical projects and it was all in existing construction which only complicates matters worse. As if all that wasn’t bad enough we still had all of our Christmas decorations up and didn’t have any intention of taking them down yet so we had to come up with a plan to work around them.
The biggest mess of the project was ripping out a plaster lathe ceiling at the bottom of the stairs. Since this house has gone through countless renovations over the 100 years it’s been here there were a number of ceilings. Yup, you hear me right. Originally there was a plaster ceiling, then for some reason one of the owners built a entire ceiling 6 inches lower. It was fully framed, sheet rocked, and sprayed with a popcorn ceiling texture. In the kitchen there was a headboard ceiling, a tiled ceiling, an a drop ceiling… To address all of this we decided that as we went from room to room we would gut it back to the studs, re-wire with better electrical (that’s a whole other story) put in all new windows and doors because the existing ones are all single pained and drafty, and so on.
One of the stories we heard was that this lower ceiling was a previous home owner trying to reduced their heating bill but cutting down on the space. This seemed weird since this made the ceilings in the house somewhere around 7 ½ feet tall. Now that I have been ripping out more and more of the ceilings I am discovering that original ceilings all had giant holes in the finish and in random places. My best guess is that they cut into the ceilings to run new lighting and thought the easy was to deal with it would be to just add a whole new ceiling rather than ripping the old one out. So that leaves us ripping out multiple ceilings to get the full hight back and put in all the necessary lighting. For this particular project I only had to rip out the small area at the bottom of the stairs but that happened to be exactly where the Christmas tree is. Thankfully with the posts and beams there I was able to tarp it off and carefully work on pulling out all the plaster lathe. This then made it easy for my husband to run all the necessary wires. I even happened to have an extra light fixture that matched the one in the entry from the garage.
Between the two of us we were able to trouble shoot how to run all the wiring, how to install the recessed lights, and make progress on our renovation.
For the entry we knew we wanted to vault the ceiling to make the entry a little more grand but thankfully we had already ripped out most of that so we just had to add some deeper rafters to better insulate the ceiling and take out some cross pieces.
It took us two days to do all the demo and put in the lighting and wow is it a world of difference. Another part of the lighting design was tying the recessed kitchen lights in to the same switch as the under cabinet lighting so now you can have the kitchen lit with out all the lights on. It sets a wonderfully relaxed mood. So now we only have to turn on the main lights in the kitchen when we’re actually cooking or doing things in the kitchen.