FITTING WALL LIGHTS
Wall lights give you the chance to use your flair and imagination to create interesting lighting effects in every room.
Lighting is just as much a part of interior decoration as wallpaper, wall colours, furnishing and furniture. Ordinary ceiling mounted lights are a convenient way of illuminating rooms but there’s usually less scope for creating interesting lighting effects.
Also, it isn’t so easy to tailor the lighting to your individual requirements — for example to provide extra lighting for a dark corner.
The creative use of lighting effects has never been easier to achieve than now, with a myriad of lamps, spotlights and designs on the market. Whilst table lamps and standard lamps are easy to fit, they all have disadvantages: table lamps are often positioned at unsatisfactory eye levels as well as occupying useful table surfaces; standard lamps are awkward and take up valuable floor space. And both types need connection to power sockets which means flex trailing dangerously across the floor.
Wall mounted lights a much better choice as they’re permanent and can be positioned at ideal heights and in places where light is most needed.
Planning for wall lights
You should always try to avoid any lighting arrangement which causes glare. This is the biggest problem with ceiling mounted lights which need high wattage bulbs to illuminate a room of any size. It’s far better to have a number of lower wattage sources providing the same overall level of illumination but without being overbright at source. Here wall lights ideally fit the bill. For best effect, choose wall lights with their own integral switching so that you can switch in or out any combination of lights. In a room measuring 5m X 4m two wall lights rated at 60 watts will provide adequate light for most purposes.
Where should they go?
As a rule of thumb the ideal location is about twothirds of the way up a wall. In a conventional oblong room, it makes sense to mount two lights on each of the longest walls — about a quarter of the way in from each end. However, not all rooms are symmetrical and if you have any alcoves, beams, nooks and crannies, try highlighting them for interesting effects.
There are various ways of wiring up wall lights. How complicated you make it depends on the degree of flexibility you want in controlling them. From an operational point of view, the simplest arrangement is to wire the lights so that when you turn on the main light switch the wall lights come on too. And by choosing fittings that have integral switches you’ll be able to control the lights individually as well. However, with this simple system you can’t have the wall lights on and the main light off. To do this you’ll have to install another master switch for the wall lights alone. Although this may sound a more involved job ironically it could make the overall wiring job that much simpler. When you come to position this new switch make sure you set it by the entrance door to the room to avoid the dangers of feeling your way across a dark room after the lights have been turned out.
In some situations, and particularly those where you can’t get access to the lighting circuits in the ceiling void, it may be easier to take the power for the wall lights from the power circuit via a fused connection unit.
Fitting wall lights will mean chasing cables into a wall and pulling up floorboards to pick up the power source. For these reasons it’s not a good idea to introduce wall lights soon after new wallpaper has gone up or major painting has been completed. So plan well in advance and remember that in both practical and decorative terms, wall lights are an integral part of interior design.
Bear in mind that the type of wall in the room — timber frame or solid masonry — will affect how the lights will be fitted and the ease with which cables are channelled in. But these will not affect your choice of wall light fitting, the cable you use or the location for the new lights.
What you need for the job
Apart from the light fittings themselves, fortunately you won’t need much in the way of materials. Use 1.0mm2 PVC sheathed twin core and earth cable for the wiring. How much you need will depend on how you decide to connect the lights, but measure the runs fairly accurately and add on 10 %. You may also need an oval conduit as well as light switches, and three and fourterminal junction boxes. And don’t forget the little things like green/yellow earth sleeving and red insulating tape to mark any switch drops.
It is extremely difficult to channel cable into reinforced concrete or stone walls. If your walls are like this, the best option is to go for surface mounted plastic conduit.
For cable channelling in masonry walls, you need cellulose filler or plaster to patch up the grooves. In plasterboard walls you may additionally need plasterboard for patching.
Depending on the nature of the walls, you will use either masonry plugs, cavity wall fixings and woodscrews to screw the lights to the walls. The size of the screws will vary according to the type of wall lights you are installing and are often supplied.
A good general tool kit should safely see you through the job — the only addition you may have to get are a cold chisel and club hammer if you are channelling into a masonry wall.
Australian and New Zealand laws prohibit do-it-yourselfers from carrying out most electrical work.
To fit a new switch that controls the wall lights independently of the original switch, cut the existing cable and insert a fourway junction. Connect both the switch cable and the supply for the lights to this. A second junction box divides the supply between the individual wall lights.
To power lights from a ring main, break in and insert a junction box. Lead a spur cable up from the junction via a fused spur connector fitted with a 5 Amp fuse.
ROUTING THE CABLE
Weigh up the wiring options fore deciding which one to go for and ways keep the cable runs as simple as possible.
Before carrying out any work, plan carefully how you expect to run the cables from the lights to the power supply — and switch if you choose to have one. Try and anticpate the snags you might come across.
The cable runs below ceiling level are the simplest of all — the cable should run vertically up the wall from the light and1hen into the ceiling void. This will ensure that anyone drilling into the wall at a later date will have a good idea of where there is likely to be concealed wiring and so avoid it.
Before channelling the wall use a bradawl to make a small hole at the ceiling/wall junction directly above the light fitting. After breaking through the plaster it should go in easily. If you hit a joist then you can move the run slightly to one side to miss it.
Once you have established the best route, chalk it off on the floor. You have to lift enough floorboards to feed the cable along or through the joists beneath. For the best method of doing this see Lifting floorboards. Where cable runs along the joist, it can be fixed to the side of them with cable clips. Where it crosses them, they must be drilled to pass the cable through. Use a 10mm or larger wood bit. Because the joists are close to one another, you won’t be able to get the drill in between them. Either drill through at an angle or cut the drill bit off short to fit between the joists. Alternatively, you may be able to get hold of a right angle drilling attachment for an electric drill.
When you drill the holes in the joists, be sure that they are at least 25mm
below the top — that way there is no danger of the cables being punctured by nails.
FIXING THE CABLE
Use clips spaced every meter to secure the cable along the joists.
Leave plenty of slack where you run it across the joists. Then start channelling the cable where you have marked the position of the wall lights.
There are three options for concealing the cable. Choose whichever is most suitable for the type of job you are doing.
Channelling into a solid wall
Use a cold chisel and club hammer to cut grooves into the wall from the ceiling to where you have marked the position of the wall lights. Cut the channel just deep and wide enough to accept the cable. Take extra care when you cut the channel at the point where the ceiling joins the wall. Use a small chisel to work from both above and below the ceiling and continue the channel to about 15mm above ceiling level. This will avoid an unsightly bulge in the ceiling where the cable bends into the wall channel. Pull a length of cable down from above and tack it in place in the channel with clips — or better still run it through oval conduit. Plaster over the cable and finish it flush with a straight edge drawn over the wet filler.
Frame wall installation
At the points where you want to fit the lights, drill holes big enough to accept the cables. You may be able to drop the cable through a hole drilled in the top plate into the cavity and pull it out through the holes by hooking it with a piece of stiff wire. If you encounter an obstruction, it’s probably a noggin — a horizontal frame member between the studs.
Mark where it occurs, then cut out a small section of plasterboard over this point. Cut a notch in the noggin to pass the cable, nail back the plasterboard and patch with filler.
Above the light positions drill holes in the ceiling for the cable and screw or glue the backing part of lengths of conduit to the wall — the bottom of the conduit should be just above the place where you want to fit the lights. Feed the cable into the conduit and snap on the cover strips. TIPIt is a good idea to mount the new lights onto wooden backing blocks the same thickness as the conduit. Holes drilled at right angles to each other in the backing blocks will enable the cables to pass straight from the conduit into the wall light. By using long screws, you can screw through both the fittings and blocks.
Alternatively, on any wall, use surface mounted plastic conduit — not so neat, but very easy to fit.
1. Run the cable through the void above the ceiling. Fix it with clips every metre or so and leave slack between joists.
2. On a masonry wall, chisel a channel down to the light. Carry it right up into the ceiling void.
3. Feed the cable into the channel and secure it with clips. Leave plenty spare for connection to the light.
4. Fill or plaster over the cable and finish off flush with the surrounding wall surface. Make good the decorations.
It’s easy to make a mess of lifting floorboards unless you know what you’re doing. Stick to these rules and you won’t have any trouble.
First remove the skirting boards with a crowbar or stout screw driver levered on a block of wood.
If you have a fitted carpet, don’t try to pull it up — it will tear or snag on the grippers. The only safe way of releasing the carpet is to force it away from the teeth of the grippers with a bolster or screwdriver from underneath.
Have a look at the boards you want to lift and see if they are complete lengths or if they run underneath a partition wall. In both cases you will have no option but to saw through them before you can lift them out.
If you have to cut the boards, the golden rule is to saw across them near a joist — preferably one near a wall rather than in the middle of the room.
Locate the joists by sliding a narrow blade between the floor boards. Mark a cutting line across the boards in line with the side of the joist and parallel to the wall.
If you haven’t got a special floorboard saw, drill out a series of 5mm holes along the line so that you can insert a pad-saw to cut the boards.
To free the boards, lever them up on both sides with a bolster.
If there are any signs of the boards cracking, ease off — you may be forcing the nails at too tight an angle. Try again on the other side of the offending nails.
With the boards free from the joists, pull out all the nails with a claw hammer; they can be dangerous — and painful — if trodden on.
Before replacing the boards, screw 50mm X 25mm support battens to the joists directly underneath the saw cuts.
Nail the boards back with flooring brads — they are less likely to split the wood — and then refit the skirting and carpet.
WIRING UP THE LIGHTS
It makes sense to start off by connecting and fixing the cables to the lights. Only then should you wire up the other ends of the cables into the supply via the junction box. In this way you don’t need to turn off the supply until you make the final connections.
Offer the lights up to their marks and use a spirit level to ensure that they are plumb. When you are absolutely sure of their positions, pencil in and then drill the screw holes — it’s easier to do this now before the wires are connected.
Cut the cables protruding from the wall back to length which will allow the light
fitting to sit snugly against the wall. TIP: If possible, leave enough cable so
that the light fittings can be pulled away from the wall when you are wallpapering. In this way the wallpaper can be cut and pasted to go behind the fittings to give a neater finish.
Strip back the outer sheathing of the cables by about 50mm and trim off 10mm of insulation from the wires. Slip lengths of green/ yellow sleeving over the earth wires and connect up to the appropriate points in the terminal box in the light units — red to L, black to N and green/yellow to E.
With the lights wired up, fix them to the wall using screws and either wallplugs or stud wall fixings.
Connecting to the supply
Before you start connecting to the supply, turn off the electricity at the main switch on the consumer unit.
If you’re installing two wall lights, link their cables together at a threeterminal junction box to simplify the wiring. Set the junction box at a convenient point in the ceiling void or loft space. Connect the red cores of the cables to one terminal block, the black cores to another and the earth cores to a third. From here you can take one cable td connect into the existing lighting circuit.
Wiring to the existing switch: If you want to use the room’s main switch, then you’ll have to link the cable from the junction box to the ceiling rose. It doesn’t matter if the rose is on a loopin or junction box system. For ease of working unscrew the rose from the ceiling but keep the cores in their terminals. Feed the new cable through the access hole.
On a junction box rose take the red core to the live terminal, the black to the neutral and the earth (sleeved in green/yellow PVC) to the earth terminal.
On a loopin rose first check that there are only one or two power cables going into it together with a switch cable. If there is also a branch supply looped into it then you shouldn’t overburden the rose by adding yet another cable. If a connection is feasible then take the red core to the switch terminal and the black to the neutral block. The earth goes to the earth terminal.
Wiring to an independent switch: The best way of wiring is to install a fourterminal junction box at a convenient point on the main feed cable of the lighting circuit. You can then link the wall light cable to this as well as a new cable to a new switch which will give you control of the wall lights independent of the main light. Wiring to a ring circuit: Finally, if you can’t take the power from a lighting circuit you can wire the wall lights to a ring circuit. First install a fused connection unit fitted with a 5 amp fuse. Then run 2.5mm2 cable to a three terminal junction box set under the floor. The take LOOmm, cable to the wall light.
Before making good the ceiling, walls and floorboards, try the new lights — if they don’t work, recheck the wiring.