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. Kim says

    On behalf of my husband, who hasn’t seen this post, thank you. We have a light that we need to move about the same distance. It’s in the front room of our house, which used to be the living room. It’s now the dining room and the light is not centered on the table. Just recently I was trying to talk him into trying to do this little project ourselves (meaning mostly him, haha). He kept saying, “I’m not an electrician”. I googled. “Look, honey, it says right here anyone can do it.” “Look honey, I think Younghouselove has done this. If they can do it, we can.” My plan wasn’t working. BTW, our attic is similarly extremely difficult to access (aka I will never go to that part ever), and my husband is 6’4″. And Charleston SC is HOT. Guess we will be saving this project for the fall. THANK YOU!

  2. says

    Bless you, John! I will be sure to point your ordeal out to hubby when he complains about our attic. At least ours is straightforward compared to yours! We plan to place wall sconces in the living room and are debating a ceiling fan as well since we have NO lighting in this 17 x 19 room. Still debating on fan-we are looking at some stylish ones. Anyway it shakes out, hubby will have to venture to the attic. We tore the sheetrock off another wall this weekend, so now we have studs staring at in the living room. Must place a beam before ripping those out. Stay cool!

  3. Stefanie D. says

    one of best things we did was put a small access to attic
    in ceiling of master bedroom closet…just a square large
    enough for a man to get through..just pops out….no stairs..have to use a ladder but hardly ever use but when do need it don’t have to crawl all over attic….

  4. Joy says

    Looks great! My sympathy to John for all the ninja-like crawling and crouching. I like the tag team approach, that’s how we do things in my house as well. Although my husband is the “drywall-patcher” so I guess that makes me the ninja. :)

  5. Donita says

    You are such a sport *a bit of a drama queen, but a sport* LOL JUST.KIDDING!!!! That light looks so much better centered. The off center would have bugged me too. I love that light. :-)

  6. says

    I’m going to file that under “projects not to do in the summer”! It looks great though! What a difference – definitely worth all the sweat.

  7. Kristin says

    More important than the wonderful work on the light fixture, is that a Phi Sigma Pi shirt you’re wearing!? Hello from a Brother from Alpha Beta at the University of Maryland!

  8. Emma says

    You’ve learned a valuable skill John – moving overhead light fixtures! You’re super deadly now. The bathroom looks immeasurably better!

  9. says

    Lol – I’ll admit the whole time I was reading about the attic work I was thinking “don’t you wish you had just done this in April”. I definitely shouldn’t talk though – I’ve had my new light fixture in my kitchen for months and after my first attempt cutting molding (to hide the LEDs) I gave up and still haven’t finished.

    Totally worth the effort though – the light looks a lot better center in the window than the room.

  10. says

    UGH! That totally sucks but on a bright note – it looks BEAUTIFUL! I love that light.

    My poor hubby has the joy of shingling a roof in 96 degree (not counting the 60% humidity which makes it feel more like over 100 degrees) – he has a similar look on his face. No fun at all.

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