Replacing An Ugly Doorbell

Which eyesores? The wicked ones in our hallway of course. Because if we were going through all of the trouble to install board and batten, we didn’t want a blah light fixture, a dingy old ceiling vent, and a gaudy doorbell stinking up the view. So here’s an overdue rundown of those other little updates that you might have noticed in last week’s big board & batten reveal (while we steadily add crown molding to the playroom, guest room, and this very hallway – which we can’t wait to share!).

Although updating the light fixture, the doorbell, and the ceiling vent sound small-ish in size, they definitely were detracting from the view. So those little switches are definitely worth doing right along with the big ones (you know what they say about the devil being in the details). And dare I say that thanks to those updates the hallway is now befitting of all the fancy board & batten that’s going on down below.

Let’s start with the light fixture, which was actually a transplant from our laundry room since the original fixture was too much on the eyes. Whereas the former laundry room light may best be described as “not really enough on the eyes.” But it worked for over a year and you know we love to use what we have – at least while we hold out for something that’s more our style.

While we were holding out we also contemplating freshening it up with some new spray paint on the base and maybe a painted stripe on the glass cover. But then we came across this deeply-discounted fixture at our favorite local lighting outlet. And since it reminded us of the industrial, outdoor-ish fixtures that we installed in the guest and hall bathrooms, we were sold. And for $18 (marked down from $99) how could we not be?

So I switched off the power and got busy with a good ol’ fashioned light fixture switch-up.

Not too shabby, eh? Forgive the incandescent bulb – it was the only one I had around at the time.

So with that little upgrade made, it was time to turn our attention to its ugly neighbor: the doorbell.

I’m convinced this thing is straight out of a Brady Bunch episode. And when it dings I half expect an old-timey milkman to be dropping off some fresh bottles on our doorstep.

I shouldn’t really complain, considering our last house didn’t even have a doorbell (we eventually installed a wireless one). But I’ll admit that having a wired doorbell presented a somewhat new challenge to us… in that we didn’t know much about them. So off we went doorbell shopping, hoping to find something that was still wired but far less scene-stealing. I believe it was one of Clara’s favorite DIY shopping trips to date. I’m not sure all of the the Home Depot shoppers who had to listen to us test each sound over and over again would agree.

We came home with this guy. He was $20, wired, and wonderfully nondescript.

With the electricity still off, I nervously popped off the cover of the old bell, half expecting to find some elaborate contraption run by a tiny cartoon dinosaur a la The Flintstones. But to my surprise, the dated (and quite dusty) fixture had the exact same connections that the new one did. Hallelujah.

That meant I could rely on my old “just redo what you undo” technique for swapping out anything electrical (with the power off of course – important detail!). To elaborate on that method: if the red wire went somewhere on the old fixture, I put it there on the new one. Replication theory.

So I disconnected the old connections and unscrewed it from the wall…

…which was oh-so-attractive underneath.

The new doorbell had a slightly smaller footprint when attached, but since we knew we’d be painting the wall as part of the board and batten project we didn’t mind living with the now-visible ugliness for a few days.

With all of the wires reconnected in the same way that they were configured for the old doorbell, I added the cover and marveled at what a small but helpful improvement it was. It’s one of those easy changes that makes the whole house feel a lot more updated (great for resale since the entire “system” now appears new). Update: Every time we mention resale (which we do pretty often as DIYers) we get a bunch of “are you moving?!” questions, so here’s our response for you guys!

And as is the case as soon as you complete one project, it just makes something nearby look terrible by comparison. Like that dingy yellowed grate behind these before & after photos (it’s a vent for the whole house fan). In a word: ew.

Thankfully my paint-happy wife hopped right up on a stepladder and tackled it with some ceiling paint from the basement (it was left for us by the previous owners). She just used a paint brush to apply extra thin coats (it took her three, but the fan still opens/works/looks great thanks to the thin application).

So. Much. Better.

Oh yeah, and if you were wondering if the doorbell still works? It does. And so does our back-up “doorbell” that goes off every time the real one sounds. He’s also known as Burger.

Oh, and I’d be remiss to end a post about doorbells without including this SNL sketch that gets quoted waaaaay too often around our house. Ding dong. Woof. Bears.

Are there any upgrades that you tend to tackle in a domino-effect-ish row? Do you ever notice how one little update can lead to a few more nearby? It’s like ugly things get incrementally uglier with the presence of new things nearby…


  1. Leanne Wight says

    Love the new light! And thanks sooo much for posting the SNL skit! Totally made my day. (I think you posted it before because that was the first time I had seen it, and I made my whole family watch it like 5 times!) :)

    • kristin says

      yes! i think that you did do the doorbell thing in the past. i almost woke up my kiddies napping laughing so hard. SO glad it was posted again, because it is HILARIOUS! (and all i thought about until i saw you reference it!)

    • says

      Sometimes it’s funny how those little tweaks make a giant difference when it comes to how polished & updated a room feels! Happy little projecting!


  2. says

    That’s exactly the way I dealt with our whole house fan vent! Ours was silver (aluminum?) though and boy did it scream at you. I actually had planned a different solution since the fan is no longer in operating condition anyway, but a coat of white paint made the whole thing just kind of disappear!

    • says

      We have the same problem with an old, yellowed, attic fan, and I have been looking for a cover (because we were told you can lose heat and air conditioning through there. The covers I’ve seen are all really ugly though, and I would MUCH rather paint it, so thanks for that suggestion. Have you noticed it being an energy suck in your house at all without a cover?

    • says

      Oddly enough we haven’t (we have a nice system that’s pretty efficient and the fan seems to have these furry things in the blades so it’s not drafty).


  3. says

    Love the new light! We need to do that with our old doorbell, too — we’ve just kept repainting the cover to help it blend in each time we repaint the walls, but it is ginormous!

  4. katherine says

    the thermostats! We have electric baseboard heat, so unfortunately, we can’t get the new fangled ones that save electricity (at least without re-wiring the whole house), but we updated the old 70’s ones in our guest bedroom and kitchen and it makes us want to get the whole house done! That and the outlets! It’s so refreshing to have bright white outlets instead of dingy, painted over ones!

  5. Karin says

    Love how those simple changes really complete the area! I always check out the “Like this post? Then might we suggest these” section. Have to ask why there is one on “Adult Failure to Thrive” linking to Griswold Home Care???

    • says

      Weird! It’s a plug-in that serves those boxes for us, but ours shows a link about cupcakes at the end and not Griswold Home Care. Maybe it varies? So odd!


    • Alex says

      Karin – The last thumbnail you see is sponsored and is based on your personal search history (think – the ads that show up on your Facebook sidebar, or your GMail ads). Everyone’s will vary, and since it’s just a guess, it might not have anything to do at all with what you’ve been searching for! For instance mine is an NYU ad about selling my eggs. That’s not really on the docket anytime soon for me, though $8,000 does sound pretty awesome…:)

    • Stacey says

      I wondered this too! Mine has the same Home Care ad. Usually that ad space is something home related, but this one caught me by surprise, haha. I guess it is “home” related.. just a different type.

    • says

      We actually thought about it but worried that it would just get all mucked up looking (there was a small mesh-like surface on a lot of it and we thought the paint would get all globby in there). I do love bell bottoms though! Haha!


    • says

      On a related note, I hope you sent the doorbell to Restore or are saving it for ebay because there are those us who like things like this (and Nutone is especially beloved) for fixing up our old ranches! If I found your old doorbell at Restore it would make my day.

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