Planning Electrical Upgrades During A Kitchen Renovation

Remember when we shared how shiny and polished our kitchen started to look after we finished grouting?


And then revealed the chaos that ensued a hot minute later?

Well, the room is all put back together and we made a whole lotta lighting cha-cha-changes.

Sure our ceiling looks like swiss cheese. But it’s all for a good cause. Inching towards a more luminescent kitchen.

Everyone says that lighting can make the room, but I’m here to refute that. Just kidding, it totally makes the room. If you have a gorgeous space but it looks dark or yellowed or all angry and fluorescent, well, it kinda ruins the whole effect. So we knew something had to be done since even after getting new white counters and painting our cabinets it was still totally lacking in functional lighting. Specifically, the peninsula was really dark and the area near the sink kind of made me feel like I was standing under a bug zapper. And that never-used-in-13-months fan had to go. It sort of felt like a low flying helicopter monitoring dinner preparation. So down they came. And holes they did leave.

Oh but here’s a money saving tip for ya: do as much pre-work for the electricians as possible since you pay them by the hour for their time. We always remove old fixtures (like the fan, the fluorescents, etc). After turning off the power to them of course (Captain Safety would have my head if I didn’t mention that little detail…).

Even marking the ceiling for where you want things can end up taking an hour of discussion while the electrician is there (and when you pay them by the hour, you’re paying them to watch you have that discussion), so hammering that out before they come is great. For example, John stood on a stool and held the glass lids to our cereal jars in the air to guess where we wanted the placement of the two pendant lights that will someday hang over the peninsula.

That weird little exercise helped us figure out where we wanted those fixture boxes pretty quickly. We didn’t have to figure out the height of the pendants yet or anything, which is nice since we don’t have them to hang yet (we’ll install those on our own and make that decision later). So we just used small pieces of painters tape to make an X in the desired location.

Then it was my turn to dance on the dining table to make another mark up there.

We actually have three rooms in our house without any overhead lights: the living room, the sunroom, and the dining room. And the only one we really use at night (without tons of lamps that happen to live on a super long console table and nearby desk) is the dining room. As in, dinners are pretty dark in there. Or we bring in mismatched floor lamps and it looks like a lighting convention. We have visions of a giant chandelier hanging over that big daddy table of ours someday. So you know what they say about “when in Rome…” – well, I have the same philosophy about squeezing as much work in when the electricians are already here working on a job (saves you the money/time of having them out again to work on a nearby room).

We had also chatted with the electricians the last time they were out and they said four can lights should do the trick on the cooking side of the kitchen, so we even marked their placement with little Xs drawn in the middle of more painters tape, just outside of the fluourescents on either side.

We also had them add an outlet on the counter to the right of the fridge (we have one next to the peninsula for laptops, but we thought an above-counter one would come in handy for plugging in mixers to make cookies on that side of the peninsula, etc)…

… and here are those four can lights they put in, in lieu of the previous two fluorescents that sandwiched the fan, which we had them ceremoniously kill (aka: they terminated the power to those poor guys).

Oh and for any interested locals, we use S.J. Ryan Electric. Good guys, fair prices, all that good stuff (they don’t even know we’re bloggers, we just love to shout out people who do good work). We really like them because as an experienced two-man team they can knock out a lot of stuff in not too much time. For example, in 5 hours they:

  • Added four recessed lights
  • Terminated the two old fixture boxes that fed the fluorescents
  • Terminated the fan fixture box
  • Added an outlet above the counter next to the fridge
  • Added two fixture boxes over the peninsula
  • Terminated the fixture box for the poorly placed pendant a foot to the left of our new pendant fixture boxes
  • Added a fixture box above the table in our dining room (and a light switch for it)
  • Centered a fixture box over the sink (the previous over-sink-light was about 6 inches too far to the left)

Note: Ick, don’t mind all the  photos where the tile/paneling meet the ceiling that are still waiting for crown molding to go up. Soon we hope!

So at around $75 an hour for those two guys, it added up to $375 for all of that stuff (plus around $80 for the materials). Total room changer. Four recessed lights! Two new pendant spots! A centered fixture box for a nice pendant over the sink! A new outlet on a wall that had none! And a spot for a big ol’ chandelier in the dining room! Plus they safely terminated all sorts of things we didn’t need anymore!

Ack, please don’t report me to the Exclamation Point Police for overuse. I just get excited about this stuff. I like sharing those prices because I think people generally think electrical work is more expensive than it is. And it certainly can get up there. But things like marking your placement and removing old fixtures beforehand can really speed things up along with hiring a two-man team. And having a ranch doesn’t hurt since it’s so easy for them to run around in the attic and wire stuff (we hear two story houses can be trickier since there’s not exactly an attic above the first floor to creep around in with wires).

So that’s the electrical bid-ness that went on. Things definitely have come a long way since the last time they came

Now we just have some pendants to grab and some holes to fill- and you know we’ll share all the details as we inch along. Update: we found pendants and have hood info to share! Tomorrow morning for sure!

What did you guys do this weekend? We got a giant box delivered by FedEx on Saturday and it was our final book manuscript. All 375 pages of it (it’s one-sided and double spaced, which explains why it’s waaay longer than the book will be, even after we add tons of pics and illustrations).

Ahhhhhh! Sitting on the sofa with that hunk o’ paper was more than a little surreal.

Psst-  This is one of those things that just makes your heart swell up into your throat. One of the five finalists for the Ikea Life Improvement Project was a reader of ours named Melissa Matthews who found out about it back when we randomly mentioned it during an Ikea giveaway, and entered… never thinking she’d end up in the finals (we were so excited to get an elated email from her all about it)! Well, guess what? She won, guys! She wrote an amazing makes-you-cry email to tell us all about it. As the mother of a child with Down syndrome, Melissa is planning to expand the work being done at the Frankie Lemmon School in Raleigh, NC, a school for children with intellectual disabilities. They use technology and cutting-edge therapy to help these children with special needs and Melissa plans to use the new resources and her teaching background to infuse more technology deeper into these classrooms and to create a website to share these methods with other teachers across the country. We’re just so happy for her!


  1. Marlayna says

    Great ideas on how to help change a bad lighting situation! The kitchen looks great! You mentioned the bug zapper lighting and the too yellow lighting and I can totally relate. What kind of bulbs did you pick to replace them? I have had a particularly difficult time picking lighting for my house because I often feel like bulbs land somewhere on either of the two mentioned spectrums…less like somewhere in the middle. I want daylight where I dont have it! What do you guys know about this or suggest?

    • says

      When my husband and I were choosing our lighting, I was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of CFL options in good colors, including recessed bulbs. We learned that the color temperature ranges from 2700 (Kelvin, I think?), which is really yellow, to 6500, which is really blue; 3500-4100 is the sweet spot (“soft white”). Home Depot has a two-pack of recessed bulbs in a red package (don’t remember the brand) that we really like. (For regular CFLs, Lowe’s Bright Effects is our favorite.)

    • Samma says

      Just wanted to mention, don’t forget about LED lights. They’ve come a long way, fit in most bulb sockets, last forever, cost next to nothing in energy, and don’t add any heat. And, they come in a variety of whites for different settings. More expensive, still, but worth it.

    • says

      We’re actually contemplating them. We figured we’ll get all the lights in, figure out what wattage we want and then maybe make the swap. Hard to take that first leap into paying for them, but we know it’ll save us in the long run.


  2. says

    Ahhh! Light! It does do wonders. We second the plan it out and mark it before the electricians come over. It really only took us about 15 minutes to measure and mark ours and the electricians were so surprised and said, I quote, “That’s the hardest part!” ….makes me think I could be an electrician. Just jokes. Just jokes.

    Totally can’t wait to see a big ol’ chandelier in your dining room.

    • Emily says

      I think it took us at least an hour and a half to decide how many and where to put them in our kitchen. Fortunately, my husband and my dad installed them themselves, because I think we finished making our final decisions after we started cutting holes. Plans are a good idea, but sometimes the rafters don’t cooperate with where you were hoping to install.

      I am loving watching your kitchen come together, especially since our kitchen is painted that same “grellow” color. I have a hard time with the idea of painting wood, so we’ll be leaving our cabinets unpainted, but I am eagerly waiting for the final result of the penny tile. I’d love to redo our backsplash someday and I’m trying to picture what it might look like in our kitchen.

  3. sky says

    Longtime lurker…I love your kitchen redo, and the new lighting totally makes the grellow walks work. BUT I am wondering about something else totally off-topic: why don’t you use a clip-on high chair on your new island/ peninsula for Clara? We have a May 18 2010 baby who is a hefty 34 lbs, and we put him in one on our Ikea (i.e., much cheaper) island overhang (ours is from Inglesina). It’s also nice to take along when traveling, and could easily be removed for the magazine-worthy pictures.

    I’m in a totally different field but recently published an informational book–it was released in December. All those last-minute book processes are very time consuming but totally worth it. Sounds like you are near the end. Congratulations and good luck!

    • says

      Aw thanks Sky! As for the clip on idea, we were actually told by our peninsula folks that since it overhangs on two sides, that’s not recommended for Corian. Maybe granite is stronger? And bars/islands/peninsulas with just one overhang are a lot less compromised I think. Hope it helps!


  4. says

    Lights look sweet! Look how thick than manuscript is!! I’m guessing it’s one sided copy? Hope for your proof reading sake it is.

    Lisa and I are already waiting in line for your book tour at our local Barnes and Nobles in Glassboro, NJ. It’s a little cold out, but we’ll make do!

    • says

      Haha, yes it’s one-sided and double spaced. You’re so cute to wait in line for us. Cute in a platonic way. Don’t want to step on Lisa’s toes. Haha.


    • says

      There’s also a pendant in the middle of the ceiling (centered on the fireplace, whew) that we’re hoping to switch out for a semi-flush mount drum shade or something more living-ish since that’s the hang-out part of the room.


  5. says

    Did the electricians access your attic to put in the new pot lights? We are in a two story house, and were told we couldn’t add lights in our kitchen (badly needing new lights ourselves) without tearing up all the drywall. Just wondering if they worked in your kitchen or mostly in the attic to add yours.

    • says

      Oh yes, they ran around the attic all day long. I think that’s the one pro to a ranch, it’s easy to get access to the ceilings since there’s not a floor on top of them!


    • says


      We have a multi-story home and our electricians were able to just fish wire through the ceilings without touching the drywall. I am sure every situation and room is different. We had two overhead lights and they were able to change locations and make 5 pot lights with no problems and no extra damage. Hope that gives you a little hope.

  6. says

    Sorry this is unrelated to this post, but I just wanted to let you know that I’ve had several ‘aha’ moments in decorating my home that I owe to you. Most recently I was able to admit that something wasn’t working in the dining room, so based on your example I chose to do something about it instead of becoming complacent. I might have normally become stumped as to how to correct the problem, but your galleries and past posts really helped me form a new vision for my home. Now I’m excited about decorating again. So, thanks!

  7. Marcy L says

    Looks amazing John & Sherry! I can’t believe how much your kitchen has changed! My husband and I have horrible faux brick backsplash that you guys smartly updated with paint in your first house. I should have followed that cue before attempting to rip ours out. I gave up and needless to say, our kitchen looks like a war zone! Looking at pics of your update is helping me get back on the update-your-kitchen train! Thanks!

    Congrats to Melissa!

  8. says

    Amazing transformation guys. And good call on doing prep work before the pros came.

    Our weekend was pretty kitchen-centric too, but on the cooking front instead of the renovating front. I’ve taken to purchasing whole-chickens instead of parts as a way of saving a lot of money and getting a better end product (plus 4 quarts of homemade stock made out of all the innards people usually throw out). I plan to do a post on that soon over at my place. If ever cooking had a DIY feel to it, butchering chickens would be it. A little messy, sometimes imperfect, but totally rewarding and a big money-saver!

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