Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Kitchen Lighting Project

Anytime you hear me mention any type of home improvement project, you know there's going to be some swearing and plenty of drama involved.

For a long time I've wanted to replace our fluorescent lighting fixtures in the kitchen. They are dated and ugly (much like our vinyl flooring -- another project overdue) and had recently begun to function sporadically, so we assumed the bulbs needed replacing.

Yesterday we went to Homo Depot and after checking out a rather pathetic and unattractive selection of fluorescent fixtures, we decided to just get new bulbs. We picked up 4 new full-spectrum lights. After txrad got them installed, the lights worked less well than they had been working. In fact, they never came on at all. So he put in the old bulbs again with the same result. Damn.

We discussed purchasing two new ballasts but I was thinking this was the ideal time to just replace the dated fixtures with something new.

After lunch today we went back to Home Depot to shop more seriously. Although I'm not pleased with their selections, they did have on display a fixture identical to the ones we have (which are probably 20 years old) in a white metal vs. the ugly faux wood metal frame of our old pair. Since they were only $45 each, we decided that would be a good choice. Unfortunately, they were out of stock.

OK, let me digress here with one of my classic kona rants. Nothing quite pisses me off like a mega-home improvement warehouse being out of stock of something basic like a kitchen lighting fixture.

We decided to try Lowe's, and honestly, their selection was worse. As we were leaving we did bump into one of our co-workers from the ad agency.

We came home to chill out and do some research online, then around 3:00 we decided to go to a different Lowe's out in the village of Bee Cave. (I could do an entirely new blog post about Bee Cave and the new development, but I'll save that for later.) They had the same crappy selection so we journeyed on to a Home Depot a couple of miles up the road to see if perhaps they had the white metal fixture we wanted. They did! We bought two, and realized the bulbs required were T8 size instead of the T12 our current fixtures used. T8 bulbs are smaller in diameter and I was concerned about whether the light would be bright enough. We bought two packs of those and came home for the installation.

At this point, txrad was moaning about this project, especially since it involved electrical work, and I was getting cranky because he seemed to be wanting to put this off. This is a prime and rare example of txrad and I being so different. I wanted to get this done and NOW! We do a lot of cooking and I need light in the kitchen. Besides, when putting off projects like this, I could see it being NEXT weekend before we got it done, with our work schedules.

We actually have a ceiling fan still in a box from Home Depot that has yet to be installed. What's funny is that we bought it to install in our house in Los Angeles 10 years ago. We still haven't installed it, so I wanted to get moving pronto on this project.

I went out to the garage to the circuit breaker to try and figure out which switch shut off the power to the ceiling lights. I found it and txrad proceeded to get to work removing the old fixtures. While removing the first screw which anchored the fixture to the ceiling I heard him say something along the lines of "oh shit."

The screws were long and not anchored into wood studs. txrad knew what we needed and they are called toggle bolts -- little things with metal "wings" that you press flat, stuff into the hole in the ceiling and then they spread wide again to support the weight of the fixtures. Of course we didn't have any so we had to return to Home Depot. We would have had to go back anyway to return the T12 bulbs we purchased yesterday for the old fixtures, so it all worked out. It just wasn't something we wanted to do at 4:40 on a Sunday afternoon when we wanted to finish the project.

txrad started muttering some nonsense about not finishing this project today, and I went on a tirade about how it wasn't going to get any easier on a weekday after work.
No way in hell was I going to be looking at this ugly sight all week.

So, the project began. As soon as we returned home from purchasing the toggle bolts, this was the scene in the kitchen with our little feline helpers.

A short time later, Samantha decided she wanted to see what life was like INSIDE that LONG box.

As txrad began to disassemble the old fixtures, it became apparent why they worked so sporadically. The ballasts were a mess. They were actually melting in areas.

In the process, txrad cut his finger. There was a round section on the backside of the fixture that needed to be chipped out with a hammer in order to pull the wiring through, and it left a razor-sharp edge. This caused me to curse more.

Actually, this project went as smoothly as I knew it should have once we had all the things we needed. The end result is mahvelous and I love it.

It's actually brighter than the old lights and I immediately spotted coffee stains on the counter which needs to be cleaned up. I'm happy.

We finished up about 6:20 which was only an hour later than I had initially predicted. Not bad considering we had to insert another trip to Home Depot in there.

Home improvements are such fun!

Oh, and did I mention that all this shit we purchased, including the step ladder were made in China? Can we not make ANYTHING in the USA now? Or as txrad said, we make shit to bomb shit. Oh yeah. We can at least do that!

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