Where to Hang a Ceiling Light Fixture

A Flower in the Attic

What’s this? Is it… Could it be? Is this an actual  DIY post on my DIY blog? You better believe it, baby! I did some legit DIY this week in my master bedroom. (Really, my only bedroom…) So, this post will have a bunch of goodies for you, starting with deciding where to hang a ceiling light fixture, then I’m gonna crawl around my attic for a bit, then wire up some stuff.

Yes, I look like a dork wearing my headlamp, but these things are super useful on attic DIY missions… (Plus, I’m adorkable, so I can pull it off.)

Me in the attic

Hey, remember this?

Bedroom interior design rendering

That’s my design plan for my bedroom. Notice the pretty light fixture hanging from the ceiling that looks like a firework? My bedroom has no power for a ceiling fixture. I guess I’d better call an electrician…

Ha. As if… Don’t you even know me at all?

Where to Hang a Ceiling Light Fixture

Ceiling with chalk lines

That’s my ceiling with chalk lines snapped to mark where to hang my light fixture. You might think the “X” marks the dead center of the room, but you would be dead wrong. That’s because the center of the room isn’t always the best place to hang a ceiling light fixture. Who knew?

Well, besides me. I knew.

You see, in most cases, a ceiling fixture should be centered to the focal point of a room. Like, in your dining room, the ceiling fixture is centered over your table.

Dining room with blue walls and dark trim

In a bedroom, it should be centered to your bed. Because what’s more focal pointy in a bedroom than a bed? (That’s a rhetorical question. If you’ve got something in your bedroom that’s more focal pointy than your bed, then you can keep that to yourself, please, and thank you.) You can hang it directly over the middle of your bed, but I prefer to have it towards the foot.

Bedroom with no ceiling light fixture

A lot of the time (since people tend to center beds on walls) this will put your fixture at the very center of the room and the universe will remain balanced and all of humanity will be preserved.

Sometimes, a bed isn’t centered to the room, though. Take mine, for example.

(WEE woo! WEE woo! OCD trigger alert!)

This is my furniture arrangement:

I’ve placed the bed five inches to the left of center to give my vanity a little bit more space on my side of the bed. (Oh, the huvanity!) Just a five inch shift gives me a whole ten inches more space than Schmoopy, because math. Yes, this means Schmoopy has less space on his side, but this is perfectly fine for three reasons:

  1. Life isn’t fair.
  2. I made space for him in the dressing room when he moved in, which is why my vanity even needs to be taking up space in the bedroom in the first place.
  3. Life isn’t fair.

I’m not bitter.

There’s really only one other wall that the bed could be on. Fortunately, my hanging the fixture slightly off center in one direction does not affect its centeredness in the other.

So, while I may have risked the delicate balance of the cosmos and all of life as we know it, the future owners of this crappy house will still have options. What a relief!

(I’m totally kidding. I don’t care about them at all.)

Oh, What a Feeling

When chalk lines are on the ceiling…

Cat staring at chalk line string

My first order of business was to snap my chalk lines. I used this kit. Egor was very interested in this process.

Cat with blue chalk on his face

He’s a good hunter. He killed that string.

If you’re curious to know how I managed to snap these lines by myself, I just put a nail in the ceiling to hold the other end of the string for me. I’m eventually going to put crown molding in this room, so the nail hole will never be seen.

Once I had my lines, I used my drill and a hole saw to cut the hole. Typical ceiling fixture boxes are four inches in diameter and this hole saw is designed exactly for this purpose.

A hole cut in the ceiling for a light fixture

Drill with hole saw attached

I was relatively sure I wouldn’t hit any joists, but I probably should have pulled out my stud finder to be certain. If you’re not as audacious as I am, I recommend you scope out the situation before cutting your hole. Don’t blame me if you break your ceiling.

A Light in the Attic

My scuttle hole is in my closet.

That’s a fun sentence.

(Hey, remember that post from a few weeks ago with all of the great closet design advice I gave you? Here’s an excellent example of my tip about attic access…)

Ladder positioned to climb into an attic in the closet

The weather was in the forties in NY this week. Turns out, that makes for Goldilocks attic conditions; not too hot, not too cold. Although, the air quality could have been better… I’ll probably die sooner now than I would have without the extra fiberglass in my lungs.

an unfinished attic

I needed to navigate over to this spot, down The River of the Shortened Life Span…

Attic with insulation

And through The Gauntlet of Terror…

roofing nails sticking into attic space

To this hole.

hole for light fixture attic side

I made it!

Hey, we can peep on Egor meow. Look at him taking his little cat nap. Dreaming his little cat dreams. So cute. Shh… Be quiet or he’ll hear us…

Doh! I told you to be quiet…

Ceiling fixture boxes usually have these flimsy, telescoping metal arms that extend out. You’re supposed to screw those into the joists on either side of your hole. I find these arms to be twiggy (much like my own), so I prefer to screw my ceiling fixture box directly to a bracer made of wood. I measured the span and cut a two by four to fit, as well as a bunch of scraps in varying thicknesses. You’ll see why in a second.

scraps of wood

I use them to support my two by four while I check the depth of the fixture box.

wood scraps supporting 2x4

checking ceiling lighting fixture box depth

Once I had the depth right, I screwed my two by four to the joists.

Screwing brace board to joist

And then I screwed the fixture box into the wood. It’s very sturdy. We should have no problem swinging from this chandelier safely.

I’m Wired

The light switch in the bedroom is connected to an outlet on the wall, so I’ve always had a lamp plugged in for my main light. I’ve got two extension cords crisscrossed because of course the TV is by the wall switch outlet and the lamp is not. This travesty ends today.

Here’s what’s going on in the outlet box:

wires in an electrical outlet box

You know… I started to write about what’s going on here and I dozed off. Turns out, electrical work isn’t inherently entertaining. Shocking, right? (OK, but that was funny…) I know I can make it more fun for you to read, but I’ve decided to put it in a separate post. One for people who care about electrical work and how to remediate aluminum wiring (which is what I have in this room). Maybe that’s you. More likely, it’s not. Regardless, I’m sure you’re ready to see my pretty light fixture, aren’t you…

Let There Be Light!

Well, I’m very sorry to disappoint you.

A bare bulb hanging from the ceiling

Did you really think I’d hang up my pretty light fixture while I still have all of this spackling and trim work and painting to do? Not a chance! But I needed to run the wire while I had the wall open, which I have now done. The fixture is ready to be installed, once all of the other dirty, dusty, painty work is completed. Don’t worry. We’ll get there…

Patience is a freaking virtue.

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  • Barbara H.

    Very illuminating! Like the last photo showing the improvement, scary photos of the attic – multiple opportunities for maiming or death but really want to know how you got the large sheets of plywood up there for ease in navigating the perils.

    • My Crappy House

      That’s a great question! When I first bought my crappy house ten years ago, my cousin Tommy was a big help. He did a lot of attic crawling and he was the one who made that plywood catwalk (catcrawl?) to make it easier to navigate up there. The picture is deceiving. The plywood isn’t nearly as big as it looks. The only way into the attic is the scuttlehole, so I’m guessing they’re maybe 2ft x3ft max. It definitely does make it easier to move around up there.

  • Marilyn

    Attics are so eerie aren’t they? ….whooooooo…BOO!! Haha! Great post and had me interested all the way. I can’t believe you wired that up yourself, YOU GO GIRL! I can not wait to see if you actually have a FIREWORKS light! I prefer a ceiling fan but then we are in FL and it gets mighty hot down here. …so…you did a great job and NOW I have to wait a WHOLE WEEK before I can see the actual light?? Gee, I’m a special friend, can’t you text me a photo NOW…..ok, I will wait. ? LOVE and HUGS, Marilyn

    • My Crappy House

      Haha a whole week? It’ll be way longer than that! I have a ton to do before I hang up my light fixture. Spackling and sanding and trim and paint… You ARE a special friend, but if I take a photo now, it’ll look just like the one in the blog post. A bare bulb! hahaha

  • em@dustanddoghair.com

    I am taking a break from drunk cleaning my carpets to revisit your attic sojourn because I enjoyed the post last week but didn’t comment. (I think if you’ve enjoyed reading something, you’re legally required to say thank you via a comment.) Aside from the death crawl, the blinking picture of Egor alone was worthy of praise. But I can’t wait to see your light once it’s up and at ’em… That fixture is gorgeous!

    • My Crappy House

      Thank you for coming back to comment, my BBF (best blog friend). I’m happy you noticed the GIF. I feel like it was so subtle, people may have missed it. It’s nice to be appreciated

      P.S. Does drunk cleaning work?

  • Loft Lighting

    I couldn’t agree more with your points in this post about where to hang a ceiling light fixture. It’s refreshing to see someone addressing this issue, and your suggestions for tackling it are spot on. Looking forward to reading more.

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