DIY BLOG - Lighting
I subscribe to the view that everyone is an architect - we all know what spaces make us feel most comfortable.
The following DIY series of blogs intends to record works we are carrying out to our own home in an effort to show the kind of changes that can be made. There are a number of ways you can improve the well-being of the home, from decoration to lighting to simply changing some of the furniture. Being an architect is no certainty for entry to the DIY club (I wouldn't consider myself the most patient of people when it comes to some jobs) but I am keen and willing to learn and I think these are the two most important qualities to approach anything new with.
As with any DIY blog I will be writing here, there has to be something of a caveat as there is always an element of risk when working with buildings - this is the value in appointing architects, consultants, contractors and tradesmen. Therefore it must be stated that I am not a professional tradesman and the information offered on this website is not intended as a substitute for appropriate regulated professionals/trades.
I would always promote the assistance of qualified tradesman when working with domestic services. Much of the information I have learned has been from site works and discussions with tradesmen and as such, I cannot be held liable for any damage caused as a result of following the works outlined here.
With this in mind, this blog should be read for information purposes only and not used as a guide for practical application or a substitute for a trained professional.
This blog entry shines a light on that ethereal yet plentiful element: lighting! It can sometimes be thought of as a utilitarian tool, often indicated simply as a circle on the plan, representing a spotlight in a kitchen or a pendant in a hall. Yet it really is so much more than a simple tool of practicality - it can actively enhance the space that we occupy.
The first purchase I made was the Collins book 'Complete wiring and lighting'. I kept this by my bed side and read through it to try and understand the electric circuits in our home and the general principles of their layout. It also helped inspire a little confidence in tackling a subject that otherwise appeared somewhat intimidating - I took a good while to familiarise myself with the topic before even picking up a screwdriver.
As regards the tools shown opposite, these should be sufficient for my DIY purposes, however there were a couple of things I discovered with a good old internet search:
The Rolson mains-voltage tester shown was bought to check the circuit is no longer live. You touch the neutral terminal with one probe and the live terminal with the other. The circuit is still live if the indicator illuminates. I made sure that the mains-voltage tester I used was suitable for mains voltage (In the UK, 230 volts (formerly 240) is standard)
Neon 'electrician's' screwdriver
'Mains power flows down the screw driving tip to the resistor and neon in the handle. When you touch the brass cap, the body's natural capacitance allows enough power to flow through the screwdriver and the user to cause the neon to light. This small current is entirely harmless, there is no electric shock under normal circumstances.' DIY Wiki Website
'...under normal circumstances...'being the operable phrase - I have since discovered to not, under any circumstance, use a screwdriver which is wet! To paraphrase, I touch the tip of the screwdriver to the terminal, pop my finger on the brass end (red end of the screw driver) and if the filament/neon glows, the circuit is still live.
There are scores of opinions as to the efficacy of these tools, in both the 'nay' and 'yay' camps however for me, using both seems sufficient for me at present.
Electric wire strippers/cutters
These are indispensable really and form a part of my core tools for electrical work. They are a combination of pliers and trimmers, allowing complete shortening of electric cables and removal of plastic sheathing to a variety of different diameter cables. The end piece acts as a set of pliers, which I also find handy for manipulating the exposed cable core.
I also purchased some rolls of insulating tape and terminal connectors ('chock' blocks) as these came in handy when dealing with any exposed cables, keeping them safe when I had to put the electricity back on before works had finished.
The plan was to fit three new pendants; a single pendant to the kitchen area and a double pendant to the dining area above the proposed table. The main parts we needed were; the rose (the round 'puck') mounted on the ceiling, the flex (cable) running from the puck down to the lamp holder and the pendant shade which covers the lamp. An electrician on site told me once that 'bulbs are the things you plant in the ground', so I shall refer to, what you may commonly know as the 'bulb', as the lamp for fear of future reprimand.
For the kitchen we wanted to re-use our copper pendant from our flat in Edinburgh and so purchased a copper rose and copper cable clamp to match. We also went for a silver metal lamp holder and navy fabric flex, all from Creative Cables. Creative cables has been a very reasonable source of lighting components for me and although they don't stock a huge number of pendants, their selection of cables is undoubtedly the best for the price, and I have always found their service to be quick and reliable. The copper pendant was purchased from Artifact lighting, who have a great selection of different types of pendants and offer any RAL colour too!
The first port of call was to locate the consumer unit/fuse box in the wall-mounted cabinet in our kitchen. There is a master ON/OFF switch which isolates power to all the circuits in our home and though individual circuits can also be isolated, I always switch off the master to feel safer.
The first thing I did was to remove the existing white plastic rose, flex and lamp holder, to expose the main lighting cable.
The final image on the right shows the twin core and earth lighting cable of the mains lighting supply - it consists of two insulated cores with a bare copper earth conductor between the inner cores and an overall plastic sheath. The red is the 'live' wire, and the black, the 'neutral' wire. In older properties such as ours, you find the cables this colour and it's important to remember to connect these up to the lamp holder flex that you place the BLack with the BLue and the red with the brown - you will see this in the previous arrangement in the second to last photo. Sometimes the earth cable has no function if the proposed flex and plastic lamp holder is double insulated (the symbol for this is a square with a square inside it). As we are using a metal rose and lamp holder, there is greater chance of electricity travelling through the rose, lamp holder or pendant (and into the user!) in the case of a fault and so to reduce the risk of electric shock, I utilised the earth.
I began by disassembling the lamp holder and preparing the fabric flex to connect to it.
The lamp holder was made up of a few parts shown opposite. The parts I used first were the cable clamp to hold the lamp holder on the actual flex (far right), the top part of the lamp holder which connects to the earth wire (second from left) and the bottom part which connects to the live and neutral (far left). One ring secures the pendant and the remaining ring and bayonet sleeve hold the actual lamp in place.
We went for a bayonet type lamp holder over an Edison/screw-in bulb for this pendant simply because we had a nice vintage bayonet lamp we wanted to use - though you will see in the following example, we opted for screw in lamp holders simply because we wanted them in a certain finish and could only get them in the screw type.
The next step was to fit the new rose and connect the new flex and lamp holder to the existing mains lighting supply.
Part 2: Fitting two pendants from the same rose
Now that I had tackled one pendant for the kitchen, the dining area was crying out for two to sit above the proposed scaffold board table I was yet to make. Thankfully there was already an existing ceiling rose centred in the room where we wanted the table to sit - the question was how to take two pendants from one ceiling rose?
The main difference between these lights and the one above is that the rose we used was a '2 outlet' rose with two holes instead of just one - in fact there are many roses which offer a lot more than one or two pendants! This meant that there was twice the work involved in preparing the pendant, lamp holder and both ends of the flexes. The other main difference was the use of an Edison/screw type lamp holder.