Friday, July 15, 2011

Let there be light!

In the 3 months "off" after finishing the powder room and office nook and before starting the main bathroom, Andi has been scouring our apartment for small "projects" for us to do. Because this is our "down-time". Luckily for her (and especially luckily for me), the chandelier in our back hallway needed some attention.

For months we have not had light in our back hallway. The old, cheap, knock-off of a Scandinavian-made chandelier gave out in our first week after moving in. Until recently, it swung from its old faux-brass chain like a pathetic, undecorated global piƱata, filled with healthy and innocent things like lima beans, broccoli, and athletic socks, gently whacked a few times to ensure its contents would NOT spill all over the ground and spare all the "unlucky" children from obesity and athlete's foot. It needed to come down.

The back hallway the day we moved in.
While I clambered up our rickety 10-foot ladder and disassembled the chandelier, Andi spent time on her hobby: dissecting the internet for home improvement products. In this case, a new ceiling light. She found one at Rejuvenation – Classic American Lighting & House Parts. Since the back hallway chandelier does not have a wall-mounted light switch—it's activated only by a pull switch with a 6-foot long chain—and hardly anyone makes a ceiling light with a pull switch anymore, we placed a custom order to have our new pendant built with one.

Our choice: the Rose City

I'm not always confident in my construction abilities, even after all of the spectacular B- work I've completed on our house so far. I get a bit queasy when I think about playing in Benjamin Franklin's toy box, especially since I’ve been zapped with a sizeable amount of electricity once before in my life. Andi, as always, is supportive and helps me to see the brighter side of things. "You can do it," she encourages. "Besides, I don't want to pay an electrician $300 to do this work." VERY convincing.

After switching off the breaker for the hallway lights and verifying 3 times that it was actually off (once with my eyes and twice with my electrical test meter), I disconnected the existing chandelier. It was pretty easy. I was surprised.

I uncovered something interesting after disassembly: a long black pipe the jutted out of the plaster ceiling like a thick black whisker. Consequently, our HOA hired an electrician to tidy up the cables on the exterior of the house because it’s being painted and we want it to look pretty, so I showed him this pipe sticking out of our ceiling. He explained that when the apartment was switched from gas lamps to electricity, the contractor retrofitted the gas pipe to accept the new electrical lights by adding threading to the inside of the old gas pipe. “You better hope the gas line is not active,” he giggled as I chuckled nervously with him. It’s not. I checked.

While we waited for the new light to arrive, we headed to Home Depot to buy a ceiling medallion, a ceiling trim piece that served three purposes: 1) it’s a decorative element that is consistent with most of the other ceiling lighting in the apartment, 2) it covered the large hole that remained from the non-functioning hard-wired smoke detector that I removed from the chandelier base, and 3) it covered the phallic gas pipe.

About a week later, the new pendant light arrived. We unpacked it, fawned over its sleek curves and shiny trim like it was a Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Super Sport and I scurried up the ladder to commence Step 2: Assembly. I connected the wires with wire nuts (after turning off the breaker, obviously) with a little more confidence than my original fumbling of the wires during disassembly and began to screw the pendant pipe into the existing gas pipe.

Square peg, round hole. Actually small round peg with thinner thread spacing and large round hole with wider thread spacing. I needed some kind part that would reduce the size and thread from the gas pipe to the size and thread of the pendant pipe. I headed over to Victor’s Lighting to see if they had this miracle contraption. “You need a thread reducer,” the guy behind the desk at Victor’s told me. (Thread reducer. Huh. ) “I have some because this is a popular issue in old Victorian homes.” One dollar later I was on my way home.

Once I had the thread reducer, installation was easy. I installed the ceiling medallion with Liquid Nails and a few screws to keep it in place with until dry. I screwed the pipe of the pendant light into the gas pipe through the thread reducer. I connected the wires with wire nuts (again making sure the breaker was off). Finally, I flipped the breaker back on and pulled the switch.

And I'm spent...
(Except that the pull chain was a little short and Andi had to stand on her tippy-toes to pull it. The next day she brought home a chain extension, so voila again!)


  1. That is a very cool new light! It plays really well against the colors of the hall way. Well done Dean! (And Andi too)

  2. What a nice and clean presentation! People nowadays often look for the neatness and the comfortability of the designs. Thumbs up for this one.

  3. Thanks for the marvelous posting! I definitely enjoyed reading it, you happen to be a great author.I will be sure to bookmark your blog and will eventually come back later in life. I want to encourage you to definitely continue your great posts, have a nice morning!