Friday, 8 February 2019

How I fit a ceiling light

This is a post which the 'pros' among you can skip.  I do hear from the occasional newbie so I know this blog gets read by people new to the hobby or struggling with something for the first time and, though it is a detailed record for me about my project, it is also hopefully a help now and then for someone else.

So..... here is a very detailed account of putting in a ceiling light in Dalton House. 

This was probably not the least frustrating job to choose as my way back into the game.

My first challenge was actually reaching the top floor of the house!  It stands on a very useful Ikea, Kallax set of drawers with large trolley wheels added.  I am five feet six inches tall and the top of the roof is six feet from the ground.  Out came the little step stool...... then a bigger one.

When I opened the roof I discovered that one of my little visitors over Christmas had sneaked a body into the room and given her a book to read

So, yes, rather stating the obvious, if you are going to work on a ceiling light you could do with an empty room.  To minimise clear up just put down a tissue or piece of kitchen roll to catch the sawdust.

Locate where you want the light to be and then work out how to transfer that position to the floor above where you will be drilling the hole.  I often make a template of the ceiling, mark the position of the light and move that to the floor above, making sure it is in the right position allowing for various wall and trim thicknesses.  It is not as hard as it sounds as long as you line up the front edge of your template with the front edge of the floor and then just visually check that the thickness of side walls are allowed for.

On this occasion the position wasn't absolutely critical, so some careful measuring across the ceiling and then transferring that up top sufficed.

I used to have a right angle drill, sort of like the one in the photo - maybe not as posh/chunky  - but I decided in the move here that it was something I wouldn't use again, so it got given away.  It is super-useful when working between floors in a dolls house.  Luckily on the top deck I have all the space in the world to use any kind of drill.

If you can't snag one of these sort of kits on eBay for a good price there are small hand drills which will work in a confined space.  I can only suggest you google 'small hand drill' and find something like this that works for you.

Put the wire next to a drill bit and choose one that looks a little larger than the thickness of the wire. 

At last here comes the light.  The fan doesn't turn really but I thought my apartment dweller might find her bedroom very hot up there in the roof so she would be glad of the (pretendy) fan in the summer months.  Most lights come with a little two pin plug attached.  

If you are going to use a connecting strip like this one you will have to remove (or cut off the plug) to allow you to thread the wire through the hole in the ceiling.  Eventually, of course, you then have to re-attach the plug.  To remove the plug you need to use pliers (not teeth and cursing) to pull out the brass pins and then you can pull the wires free.  To put it back together it is a matter of putting the copper wire back in the holes and pushing the pins back in.  It is technically easy but, I find it pretty frustrating to do, especially if you are doing a lot of them.

Dolls house lighting connector

On my second project I decided to use this sort of connecting strip (photo below).  So much easier.  It is more compact and you can connect many more lights to the terminals.  It looks scary but I promise you it is much simpler.

I always bought mine from Small World Products.  They are now sold by:  Little House Plus

I will be writing a blog about gathering up all the wiring and attaching to the connecting strip and attaching the power supply when I get to do that but I am afraid that is probably a fair way off.  So if you are keen to get your lights attached to power before I do, the Little House Plus site can help you sort out how, or email me with any questions. 

Mix brick compound ready for application

Meanwhile back to this ceiling light installation.

Take time now to thoroughly straighten out the wire that has been bundled up for packaging.  Usually it will be lying in a groove in the floor above and needs to do that without any bumps and lumps under the future floor covering.  I lay it down carefully and cover with a strip of masking tape.  That stage is a bit further down the line but that's why you want the wire nice and flat and kink free.

If you have decided to cut your plug off you will need to expose the copper wires to test your light is working OK. Look carefully and you will see that the wire has a sort of groove down the centre.  Gently pull and you will see there are two lots of wire each coated in a plastic covering.  You may need to nip between the wires with something like nail scissors to get it started.

You then need to expose the copper wire.  If you are proposing to put in lots of lights (large project) or you know this won't be the only house you will ever do it is really wise to invest in this precision wire stripper.  It cuts the wires neatly and strips off the plastic covering without damaging the hair -like copper wires beneath.  Again, Little House Plus sells them for about nine pounds.

It saves on dental bills and split fingernails.

Tidy up the wires by bending the ends over a little and twisting them to make a good contact.

All this is so you can check that your light is working fine before putting it in.  Using a nine volt 'square' battery touch the wires to the plus and minus terminals.  It doesn't matter which wires go to which terminal.  A round battery will do - using the top and bottom but is more fiddly if you don't have three hands.

If a bulb doesn't light up it is worth trying to tighten it in its socket before flinging the light at the wall and hopping off out to buy another.  They are notorious for wiggling loose.  It may even be worth changing the bulb if that hasn't worked - assuming you have a spare.  After five projects and as seven years it has never happened to me, so clearly it is pretty rare.

Most lights you will buy have a spongy sticky pad where the wire comes though - I always remove these as I don't like the way it makes the light stand away from the ceiling or wall.  I then have a heck of a time gluing the light to the ceiling without making a mess with the glue.  I use superglue gel in very, very tiny amounts around the brass rim and then have to get the light in place very quickly before it 'goes off'.

On this occasion I was scuppered because the wire came through a hole in the side of the mount rather than (the usual) little nick between the mount and the sticky pad.  I was wary about having to remove the sticky tab and pulling the wire back through to the centre.  So, as the tab (luckily) was very thin I left it as it was and decided to use what I'd been given to stick the light in place.

When you drill down through the ceiling you almost always have a bit of scruffy wood that has been pressed out as the drill came though.  Don't worry about picking this off carefully to tidy up the hole and make the surrounding area flat.  The lights usually have fair size mounts on them which will cover up any mess.

The next step is one of personal choice.  You can twist the copper ends together neatly and tightly and push those upwards through the hole.  I find this nigh on impossible.  It is always hard to see where the hole is precisely and you won't have made a huge exit for the wire so there's not a lot of wiggle room.  I just sacrifice a bit more wire and trim back to where the wire is a single strip again.  This makes a nice rigid piece of wire to poke through the hole.

Remove the protective covering over the sticky pad or put super glue gel carefully on the edges of the mount - keep it to the inside edge so it doesn't squeeze out on to the ceiling.  There is an art to gluing tidily.  Practice makes perfect.  Whichever method you are using always make sure you put the wire exit hole or nick or any other flaw on the mount to the back of the room so you aren't staring it in the face when the light is in place.  You really only have one shot of sticking it in place well.  Gently pull on the wire, supporting the light at the same time, until the mount is where you want it and press it firmly in place.

I haven't cut a groove for this particular wire to lie in or a hole for it to exit through the back panel yet.  I am pretty sure I will be laying a cardboard painted cover over the wires on this level and may not need the grooves.  I will drill the back holes all at the same time when the three rooms are completed and I am ready to tidy up the wiring and attach the power supply.

Hey presto one light fitted and room furnished all ready for dressing.  The hangers, hair dryer and gel have found their way in and I have a bedding kit to make up along with a swivel mirror and other 'thoughts' to share with you next time.

For now, Nighty, night-shirts.


  1. Una entrada muy instructiva , gracias por toda la información. Buen fin de semana:-)

    1. gracias rosa Espero que esto ayude a alguien.

  2. Blog posts like this can always give new tips and tricks! That power bar looks amazing!

    1. Thanks Kristine, If nothing else I am always curious as to how others do things, so hope this sort of post is not too tedious for folk who already know how to do stuff. I can't recommend those power strips enough. I have used them on every project except my first one. I have a blog about it on this blog dated 14 July 2015 I am hoping this link takes you to the page if you are interested:

  3. Hello Marilyn,
    Great post. Lighting is always a bit nerve racking and your instructions were clear and helpful.
    Big hug

    1. You are always a sweetie, thank you Giac. I can't imagine your nerves ever being wracked. Marilyn

  4. Hi Marilyn, I cannot thank you enough for putting this post up. Being a very newbie, who (of course) want fabulous lighting in my first little house, I have been petrified about how to do until reading this. After a visit to little house plus (again Thanks) I am onto turning the lights on.
    Thanks again so much
    Anna x

    1. Hello Anna - the thanks are all mine, really. I love doing this - the actual hobby itself and then writing about it but, best of all I love it when I hear from someone who found something useful. As a newbie I bet you will have a zillion questions to ask as you bowl along and, like me, will spend hours trawling the web to find the answers - I hope many of them are here in my blog (or previous blogs) and videos. Even then it will take time to find them. Please feel free to email me if I can shortcut any of that for you. Remember there is no such thing as a silly question. Happy minis.
      Marilyn Links to blogs and various labels/contents and my email are all in the right and left hand margins of every post if you open the blog in a browser.

    2. Thanks so much Marilyn. I have spent a bit of time meandering about your blog(s) and videos already.. so much see, learn and do. I can see how this mini world can quickly take over all my time.

    3. I am glad to say it really can. It is so interesting because you have to acquire many different skills for so many variable tasks. Electrics, woodwork, soft furnishing, decorating, interior design, historical research and so many more. I hope you grow to love it very much.

    4. Just visited your blog - what incredibly beautiful work - obviously there is nothing in dollhousing that will be a challenge to you. I love needlework of all kinds but seem to have let it go over the years. The only pieces I have kept are some hardanger pieces I did. I lost a lot in a house fire many years ago and it sort of took the heart out of it. Inspiring looking at your stuff. I also see you have probably started a mini blog - excellent - you will love looking back at your work. (I have ordered some cards) M


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