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Ceiling Light Boxes

November 13, 2012 |

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We are DIYing our moms a Duplex in Alaska! Check out our progress so far as we owner build a home, step by step. Read the Momplex blog here.

posted by Ana White

Man is our list ever getting short!

We've just got a few things left to do before winter hits hard in Alaska.

When we went on book tour, it really put a huge amount of stress on us to get as much done as possible while we can work and still feel our fingers at the same time. Numb fingers are no fun. Working at 50 degrees is a totally different story than working at -50 degrees.

There was a lot of this going on as we worked late - even on school nights - trying to get as much done as possible before leaving Alaska.

The big goal is having the "lid" or upstairs ceiling insulated. To get to this point, we have left to do:

- Run electrical boxes and wiring in the ceiling
- Frame in and put the chimney through the roof
- Vapor barrier the upstairs ceiling
- Hang drywall on the upstairs ceiling
- Blow insulation in the upstairs ceiling

We actually got all but the last two done before leaving for the book tour!

Here's how we did the electrical:

It starts with constant battle of design vs functionality. Up here in Alaska, it's different. We'd love to do can lights in the ceiling. But every light box in the ceiling is one more opportunity for warm air to sneak out, as heat rises. And with heating fuel upwards of $4.00 a gallon, lost heat can literally add up to big fat Benjamins floating out your ceiling. It's better to not put big huge holes in your ceiling.

As much as I wanted to do recessed lighting, we settled on surface mount ceiling lights.

Mom really likes the lights we DIYed last winter in our great room, so we could always go back and do something like that as well.

Ceiling Light Boxes

We decide on two lights in the great rooms, one light over the dining table, one over the kitchen sink, one main kitchen light, one pantry light, one entryway light, one hallway light, and then lights in each bedroom and closet. Of course the bathroom has the fan/light combo installed and we'll add the vanity light in the wall.

For each light, additional boards have to be added to the ceiling to get the lights in just the right spot. I'm weird about the dining chandelier being exactly center over the dining table, or the hallway light being exactly in the center of the hallway.

Ceiling Light Boxes

The blocking just gets nailed up between the trusses.

Ceiling Light Boxes

This is the ceiling electrical box.

Ceiling Light Boxes

It has a seal on it to prevent warm air from sneaking out.

Ceiling Light Boxes

The boxes just get nailed right up to the blocking.

This step is easy. The hard part it determining EXACTLY where the boxes go. As in I must know exactly where the kitchen sink goes, exactly where the dining table will go.

Ceiling Light Boxes

We also put boxes in for fire alarms. If we hard wire them into the house, Mom will never have to worry about fire alarm batteries going dead. Ever.

The fire alarm placement isn't as crucial as the lights, because the fire alarms will be discreet, so we can just nail to the trusses in each of the rooms requiring a fire alarm.

Ceiling Light Boxes

And then to make life easier on us later on .... as in not having to wade through a couple feet of blow in insulation trying to find light boxes ... we are wiring the ceiling lights to their switches. So we figure out where we want switches and mount to walls.

Ceiling Light Boxes

There's alot of switches just because we went the three way switch option in quite a few places. For example, we really wanted Mom to not have to walk all the way downstairs to turn off the entryway light.

With the switches and boxes in, it is time to pull wire!

The Ram sets the wire up on a spool by threading the wire through a piece of spare drain pipe, elevating it so just like thread on a sewing machine, the spool spins as he pulls wire. Wire is expensive. You don't want to cut off any more than you need and waste it.

Ceiling Light Boxes

Wire is pulled through the light box ...

Ceiling Light Boxes

Down through the walls, interior walls when possible ...

Ceiling Light Boxes

Stapled to the walls as it's run down the wall ....

Ceiling Light Boxes

And then out the switch box where it's cut off. Each wire is carefully labeled so when it's time to go back and put switches in, it's not a guessing game. Or at the very least, a metering game.

Ceiling Light Boxes

We literally got the ceiling electrical done mere days before leaving for book tour. The next big thing is getting the chimney stack through the ceiling so we can put a heat source in the building to keep us warm through the winter.

Once that's done, the "stuff" in the ceiling is complete, and we can start sealing it up with vapor barrier, the drywall (yes, the D word finally!) and then blow in insulation!

This may be taking longer than we'd have ever thought, but it is definitely moving along!

So tell me, what goes on in your area for heating ceilings? Do you have to compromise on design to prevent precious heat loss? Do you live in a cold weather region and have can lights and they work fine? It's always interesting to hear different perspectives on how things are done!

Using hard-wired smoke

Using hard-wired smoke detectors is a great thing. I have put in many of them. In a duplex such as this, another advantage you can have is to wire them together (an extra wire running between them all is required) so that if one goes off, they all go off. This is desirable since the alarm going off in one unit of the duplex may not be loud enough to be heard next door. It is also great in multi-story homes since an alarm going off downstairs may not be heard upstairs.

posted by Lifesaver2000 (not verified) | on Wed, 2012-11-14 11:44

Pot/can lights

Pot/can lights used to be allowed here in insulated ceilings, then you had to build boxes around them so they didn't touch insulation. Now they've decided even that is too dangerous as a fire risk and you can only put IC rated (insulation contact) recessed lights in insulated/attic ceilings. You would still want to seal around them I would think! Our kitchen also has an insulated ceiling and we live in North-central Alberta so no recessed lighting for us. Love those air tight ready boxes, if I ever build a house here I hope we can put those in.

One note about hard-wired smoke detectors - there are some in my 31 year old house and they don't work anymore. The breaker is turned off because the alarm won't shut off. I think my parents had the same issue. So the batteries will never die, but they may need to be replaced. Of course it would probably be longer than a pair of batteries. ;) Do the hard-wired ones have a back-up battery for power outages?

posted by Kim M (not verified) | on Wed, 2012-11-14 12:14
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Guerrina's picture

Great Progress!

I'm very excited to see how close you are to being able to work in the Momplex in the winter! Woohoo!

Here in southeastern Connecticut, there are only canned lights in the first floor ceiling. None in the 2nd floor to the attic except in the stairwell nor in the basement ceiling. I assume there is no insulation in the 1st floor ceiling to cause a problem. My home was built and certified Energy Efficient and its ability to stay warm/cool depending on the season has proved itself in the utility costs.

The smoke/CO1 detectors on all levels are hard-wired in and have battery back-ups. In 2011's TS Irene, the batteries gave out and they "chirped" like crazy. During the recent Hurricane Sandy, without power for 5 days, the (replaced) batteries held and no chirping yet! The only problem is that the air flow from the kitchen down back hall pulls the heat from the oven and will set them off, but I've found ways to avoid that so all is well.

Ciao!

Guerrina

posted by Guerrina | on Wed, 2012-11-14 13:32

Heat sneaking IN is just as bad

It's the same problem - keeping the comfy temps in and the uncomfy temps out.

In Phoenix we have the problem of heat sneaking in. It doesn't take much of an air gap and the hot attic air warms up whatever it touches and it radiates down into the living space. Also, even the "hot" air at the ceiling is expensively air-conditioned, so you want to keep it in the house as much as possible.

That means caulking air gaps and thick insulation

posted by Anonymous Coward (not verified) | on Thu, 2012-11-15 16:37

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