How To Move A Ceiling Light To Center It

Ever since we updated the light fixture in our bathroom back in April, one thing has been bothering us: its proximity to the shower curtain. Okay, two things actually: its proximity to the shower curtain AND the fact that we didn’t have the energy to remedy the situation back in April (when we switched out the old light for a new one and did some slight drywall patching and painting- nothing nearly as involved as relocating the fixture box by a few feet).

So now that we’ve spent three months building up the energy to shift that light into the right spot, once and for all, we were ready to get going. The process began with measuring and marking the ceiling so that we could center the light directly in front of the window (which also would make it centered on the door). This way it would look like it was always supposed to be that way, instead of being centered in the room – which put it only a few inches away from the shower curtain – it was just weird, weird, weird.

Then we turned off the power and disconnected the light from the fixture box.

We had kind of forgotten where our beams were in the ceiling so we started off by drilling a couple of very small holes to see if we hit anything (nothing but drywall and air!) and then took it a step further by cutting a small hole in the drywall big enough to slip my hand into and feel around a bit. I could’ve just used my drywall saw, but my Dremel Multimax was already out, so I grabbed that.

Once our little feel-around mission confirmed that our intended placement for the fixture box wouldn’t be thwarted by any beams, we decided to mark the shape that we’d need to cut out for the metal fixture box. Since we didn’t have any spare boxes around to help us trace the squarish shape onto the ceiling, we made a quick template by pressing a piece of cardstock along the hard edges of the one that was still in the ceiling. It worked surprisingly well – as you can see from the impression below.

Once we cut out that template, we were able to trace it onto the ceiling so I’d know exactly where to cut – that way I’d cut it large enough for the whole box to fix through, but not so large that the fixture’s cover doesn’t hide it all. Oh, and we don’t usually mark in red sharpie but our pencil marks where disappearing on the gray paint so we went for red so we (and you guys) could see it more clearly. It was all going to get cut/covered anyway.

Then I used my drywall saw (which I finally worked up the energy to hunt down, since the Mutlimax wouldn’t cut the rounded corners as well) to put a bigger, fixture-boxed-sized hole in the ceiling.

It’s starting to look beautiful, isn’t it? Okay, not really. But this, my friends, is what progress looks like.

Before going into the attic to move the box, Sherry noticed a couple of screws that we’d need to remove from below, so she took care of that.

Taking those two screws out was all it took for it to hang loose in the existing space.

Now here’s the fun part. Going in the attic. On a 98-degree day. The hot, cramped, un-air-conditioned, distinctly Nick-Lachey-less attic (yes, that was a 98 Degrees pun). The attic that requires crawling on your hands and knees across narrow beams (see big arrow below) through nasty blown insulation. And for this particular assignment, it actually required crawling to just about the furthest nook in said attic (see little arrow below).

In case my efforts to earn sympathy points weren’t obvious enough yet, allow me to lay it on a little thicker. By the time I was done moving the light fixture, it took FOUR trips back and forth to my attic work area (for various reasons – like needing another tool and Clara’s singing being too loud for Sherry to hear my calls for assistance). And since our attic access is located outside of our hall bath (and the only pathway to my destination was not direct), here’s a map of the approximate trip I had to make each of those FOUR times by crawling on my hands and knees, in a sweltering full-of-insulation space that literally felt like a sauna.

In a word: it was miserable.

Now that I’ve sufficiently explained my less-than-ideal-humane conditions (have I not? don’t worry – there’s still more later), let’s get back to the task at hand. Here’s the situation up in the attic.

I’m not an electrician. Nor am I apparently one to spend any more time in a cramped sweatbox than necessary (I was pretty much working in the fetal position it was so tight – which at least made my “I want my mommy” whimpers a bit more appropriate). So I only snapped this “after” photo of  having moved the fixture box into it’s new home. It took some unscrewing and rescrewing of the board that spanned between two beams, as well as moving the junction box (in foreground) so I wouldn’t have to add any actual wire. Did I mention I’m not an electrician?

When I was done, I asked Sherry to take a picture of the hot, sweaty, hyper-ventilating mess that was John Petersik. She pointed the camera and said “smile.” This is the best I could do. Yes, that’s sweat on my shirt.

But once I had cooled down, rehydrated, and (most importantly) showered in the hall bathroom – Sherry and I headed back to our master bath to admire our progress.

Once we screwed the new fixture boxed up into the support boards (just like we had unscrewed it in the original spot), it was time for the light itself to be reinstalled. We still need to patch the old hole (using this method) but Sherry agreed to do that part since, if you couldn’t tell, I really milked how difficult my part of this task was. See how much better our light fixture placement is now that it’s centered on the window/toilet/door. It’s like it was always meant to be this way. Whew.

Honestly, had it not been ten million degrees in our attic, this project wouldn’t have been that bad. The task itself was pretty straightforward, it was just the conditions that made it challenging (crawling into the crammed little corner of the attic multiple times on a freakishly hot day made it a lot more complex than someone with super easy attic-access on a mild day). Perhaps it’s the universe’s way of saying “Yeah, you really should have done this in April.” But for anyone who asked back in April why we didn’t just “quickly reposition the light fixture while we were switching it out” – this is why. All that attic work is a pain – and just to access that part of the ceiling basically requires that you David Blane yourself (aka: assume the fetal position in a space so tight it might as well be a suitcase). So sometimes taking bigger projects and breaking them down into manageable phases that we tackle over time is what works best for us. That and complaining a lot after you’re done with the especially annoying stuff. Haha.

Anyone else have fun in their attic or another similarly cramped & hot space recently? If you haven’t, I highly recommend it… or not. We’ll be back this afternoon with the patched ceiling and a bunch of shots of the whole room along with a budget breakdown because we’re officially calling this little bathroom upgrade done. Woot! And – spoiler alert – we think all the sweat that we’ve put into this tiny rectangle of a room was totally worth it. Just don’t ask me to crawl back into that corner of the attic for at least another week…

Psst- To follow this bathroom sprucing project from the start, check out this planning post, this painting post, this light-swapping post, this art and trim-painting post, this toilet-updating post, this window frosting and shampoo wrangling post, this door trimming post, this border tile demo post, and this border retiling post.


  1. says

    John, you are just the best husband there is! I have been after my husband to ‘center’ our dining room chandelier for three years now. One day, one day…. Of course, I guess I could learn how to do the same? Nah, I’ll wait for him.

  2. says

    We need to do this so badly in our dining room! The fixture (a chandelier I made for the first Pinterest Challenge) hangs out in the middle of nowhere. It’s neither in the middle of the room nor centered on the table… it’s just there. I am talking about installing our bedroom chandelier today at LHBH!

    PS. I’m still in love with that fixture. The blue is beautiful.

  3. says

    my husband had a similar attic quest this week putting in ceiling fan support. i couldn’t believe how “wet” he was when he came down – all in the name of coolness for our kids room!

  4. Ashleigh says

    My sweet husband just finished our bathroom remodel which required a new bathroom fan/light which required attic time. He took a thermometer up there with him to get an accurate temperature read. It was 135 degrees. The poor guy was so HOT, and I don’t mean in the normal he’s HOT way. :-) Glad the project is done though, and blessed to have a sweet man to finish the job!

  5. Teri says

    So much better!! Another day working in the heat, you look so tired. Hope you soon get to have some down time to enjoy all things you are working so hard for!

  6. Erin says

    Wow! I’ve been reading YHL for several months and I had no idea John is a Phi Sigma Pi alum. I’m an alum from Beta Chapter. Such a small world! It’s always fantastic to see Brothers doing great things!

  7. Serena says

    I’m in love with that light! And it definately looks better centered with the toilet, rather than the room as a whole! (Where did you get it?!)

    We’re having a similar issue in our great room- only its a ceiling fan that’s centered in the middle of the room, tho our fireplace [and all the furniture positioned around it, IS NOT.

    Honestly, it’s been driving me nuts for almost two years now and I’ve been dragging my feet in calling and electrician to fix it. Especially when I see your blog posts like this where The Hubbs can do it for FREE.

    Where in the world does a couple with LESS THAN ZERO carpenter’s experience learn these things? How did you guys learn? Is there a book you would recommend or something? I’m scared we’ll kill ourselves or set fire to the house! :p TIA!

    • says

      All trial and error and google and asking people! Really- we just try to learn as we go and ask questions (and survey the internet at large, especially the more trusted sources like major home improvement sites). I’m sure there are great free books at the library too- just pick whatever subjects you want to learn about!


  8. Cindy says

    My 17 year old son started his first “real” job this summer and was being used as a guinea pig for some rewiring. This included, yes you guessed it!, going into the attic also during the very very hot weather. While in the attic, balancing on those oh so sturdy and wide beams (insert sarcasm here) he took one itty bitty wrong step and FELL THROUGH THE CEILING TO THE FLOOR BELOW. First trip down that road for him… So, great job John! Not only are you a great husband but really really coordinated!

  9. Joanne says

    Not actually me, but my boyfriend spent a LOT of time in the TINY crawl space under our house (along with the bricks, wood and concrete dust the builders didn’t bother to clear up) to move plumbing and electrics for our kitchen reno over the weekend… horrible job that took lots of trips (and frequent dusting off in the garden) but worth it in the end!

  10. Meredith says

    Um, you TOTALLY have LOTS of my sympathy. We have a “finished” attic, which is actually where our clothes closets are. I only like to go up there in the early morning or late evening because it’s so hot and stuffy up there. If you made me do any kind of physical labor or re-wiring…I’m impressed you were able to see with all the sweat that was probably dripping in your eyes. Between that and deck building, I think you deserve a vacation to somewhere cold. Or at least a cold beverage and some ice cream!

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