A Lesson in Light Fixture Anatomy

I just finished removing the dimmer switch from our living room (we never used it, plus that light’s on a lot and we’re on our second set of bulbs since moving in less than 2 years ago, and a light just died from this set, so we’d like to make the switch to spiral bulbs), where I spent a good 20 minutes rewiring since the previous owners thought that things like grounding were unnecessary, plus they chopped their wires really short, which made swapping the switches out super fun…

Then it occurred to me: a lot of people just getting started in the world of DIY home repair/remodeling don’t know where to start or where to look for help, and thus make mistakes.  I’m by no means an expert, but I have learned a few things along the way that have greatly helped me in my quest to make this house our home.  For example, this illustration was extremely helpful when I converted our bedroom fan/light from a double toggle switch to two single toggle switches, and I consulted it again when I was replacing the living room light switch.  And when I was working on our bathroom, I discovered something about the way light fixtures mount to the wall that I didn’t know before.

I assumed that most bathroom light fixtures had a universal mounting method (or at the very least, would be compatible with each other).  I was wrong.  This is the box/mounting hardware from our original light:


The teal arrow is pointing to the threaded rod that fed through the light fixture base and was capped off with a decorative cap that held the fixture snug to the wall.

Here’s a shot inside the box:


This box was mounted between studs, so the red arrows point to the screws/bolts securing the box to the tension rod.  The teal arrows point to where you can secure the light’s mounting strap.  Unfortunately, the new light fixture had 2 screws that secured the base, rather than one in the middle, and the circle cross bar that came with it just would not line up with the teal arrows.


fixture strap


circle cross bar

The new circle cross bar did have a hole in the middle, and I seriously considered just mounting the circle over the existing fixture strap, but that left very little room for tucking wires.  Since I was planning on moving the light fixture up a bit anyway, I opted to just get a new box, one that would be a bit more compatible with the new light’s mounting hardware.

I’m glad I did because I’ve come to hate all these tiny little metal half-boxes the previous owners used for all their work:


The new box’s holes line up perfectly with the circle cross bar (6 and 12 o’clock on the picture below, I forgot to mark them), and the red arrows point to the location of the light’s mounting screws:


(I tucked the wires down a bit for the picture, there’s actually plenty of length to work with.)

So there you have it: two very different, not-so-compatible, mounting systems and a relatively quick way to fix it (if I wasn’t moving the light fixture up, I would have needed to open up the wall just a bit more to accommodate the new box- it was slightly wider than the old one.  I also flipped the tension rod around so it sat deeper in the wall to allow the new box to sit flush with the wall).

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1 Response to A Lesson in Light Fixture Anatomy

  1. Al & Lois says:

    I wonder if ELECTRICIANS make as much as NURSES do?????Either way it’s a good way to learn which way to turn a screw driver and use a pliers. If a electrician makes an error they just start over—–If a nurse makes an error maybe they have a funeral!!!!!!!!!!!!

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