Moving a ceiling fixture

Twice.  That is exactly how many times my house has looked perfect both inside and outside at the very same time.  Twice.

Once when Style at Home came to shoot both the inside and outside of my house for their magazine.  And once when Canadian Living came to shoot the inside and outside of my house for a magazine.  And both times when they came, I was a mess.  I may have even had bugs in my hair, who knows.  That’s one thing I’ve never achieved.  The trifecta of accomplishment and attractiveness, where the inside of my house, outside of my house and I all look good at the same time.

Other than those two days, every other day of its existence while in my care, this house has had some portion of it that’s a disaster.  I’m either fixing something, painting something, or working on something.  And even if I’m not, the house gets into a pretty good wreck just writing a simple post.

Most days if you were to walk into my house you’d either find  a random mound of dirt in the kitchen, or the tripod and a ladder set up in the front hall with all the furniture moved into one corner or  every lamp I own bunched into a pile in the living room.  Sometimes I do that just for fun to see how many lamps I own.  And chances are I’m wearing jeans, my “humorist” t-shirt and a pair of white socks that are never white on the bottom because no matter how many times I wash the floor it never stays clean more than 30 seconds.

Last week my house and the outside of my house were lookin’ pretty snappy.  I got the last of the Christmas decorations down, swept the porch, shovelled out a nice path to the wood pile, put down some straw outside for the chickens to romp around in and picked up all the random crap laying around the house.  You know the stuff.  The receipts you don’t know what to do with, the random screw you found in the carpet and don’t really want to throw out but don’t want to walk down to the basement with either.

Everything was as it should be. Which was a great feeling.  Which lasted approximately 3 hours.

All that perfection and yet my dining room ceiling fixture was imperfect.  By about 8″.

When I moved into this house I couldn’t figure out why they put the dining room light where they did.  Was it an artistic expression to have it not centred in the room?  Or maybe their table was a weird shape.  After living here for 15 years I realize the dining room light wasn’t centred because the people who put it up were idiots.  They were probably the same people who laid the ceramic tile it the kitchen with 1/2″ wide grout and cemented in the broken dishwasher at the same time so to remove it I had to smash out a row of tile.

They weren’t the type of people to be bothered with things like measuring tapes or even a good attempt at eyeballing things into place.  They were more the fling a piece of booger on the ceiling and wherever it lands is where the light goes kindda folk.

So for more than 15 years I’ve been driven  crazy by the light over my dining room table that’s off centre by just enough to make it obviously off centre.

So just when my house was cleaned up … I ripped out my ceiling fixture and moved it.




I never did it before because I didn’t want to have to have an electrician come in and do it because of the cost.  Then I realized if there was enough wire in the ceiling that I could stretch it over another 8″ I wouldn’t even need to add another electrical box and more wiring, .  I could just move the one I had over.  (If you run an electrical box from another electrical box, you have to leave the first one in place and just cover it with a metal plate which would be ugly)  That’s according to code anyway.

I’m going to show you how to do this yourself.  But I’m not doing extremely detailed instructions because if you need extremely detailed instructions chances are you shouldn’t be fooling around with electrical work anyway, so I’m basically doing you a favour.  With a U. Because I’m Canadian.

In case you didn’t guess by my plaid flannel pajamas.

I do my best work in my pajamas.  You’ll have to excuse the horrid photography but I honestly wasn’t even planning on doing this, let alone a post on it so I just set my camera up on a tripod quickly and as it got later and later the light in the room became less and less until I was basically working in the dark, and therefore taking pictures in the dark too.  So.  Not exactly worthy of Popular Photography but it’ll get my point across.




1.  Turn the POWER OFF to the portion of the house you’re working on.  OFF OFF OFF.

2.  Remove your light fixture.  Or if it’s just lightweight like mine you can leave it and move onto step 3.

3.  Remove the screws holding the box into place in the ceiling.

4.  Pull the box down and gently tug on the wires to see how much slack there is in them.

5.  Pull out the amount of line that you need (in my case I just pulled it as far as it would go) and mark where the box is on the ceiling with pencil.





6.  Now that you know you have enough wire and you’re sure where the box needs to go you can undo your wires and take your light down.

7.  Trace around the box on your ceiling.




8.  Using a  hole saw or drywall knife cut around your outline.

(my wire was coming from the right so I didn’t need to worry about cutting into electrical wire.  Check for that)




9.  Cut a length of wood to fit into your hole and secure it into place so you have something to screw the box to.  Make sure it’s VERY secure because it will be taking the weight of your light fixture and even if the one you have now is lightweight, the next one you put up might not be.  You can see a couple of the green decking screws I’ve used in the right of the hole.  The yellow thing is just an old plastic anchor.  I’ll pull it out later and fill the hole.




10.  Put your box into your new hole and screw it into place. Make sure you run the wire through the hole in the side of the box first.
In the photo below you can see the original hole for the box and the wire running from it to the boxes new placement.




11.  Wire up your lamp again and stand back and admire. The big hole in your ceiling.

12.  Turn your power back on to test the light.




13.  Now you just have to patch the hole in your drywall.  I did this by inserting the circle of drywall I cut out for the new box placement. Just screw it in with drywall screws and apply drywall compound like you normally would.  Here’s a post on how to patch drywall in detail if you need it.



It still isn’t perfectly centred but it’s way better than it was.  It’s close enough that it looks centred which is all I care about.  If I wanted to make it perfect I would have had to extend the wiring and add a second box and blah, blah, blah.  It just wasn’t worth it for a matter of 2 inches.  With some things 2″ make all the difference in the world.  This is not one of those things.

I’m proud to say I not only repaired the drywall but have even returned all of my tools to the basement.  At which point I lugged up a giant bag of dirt for the kitchen.

It’s officially seed starting season. Bring on the mess.

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  1. Shannon says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! I am currently staring at a hole in my ceiling where I removed my light fixture because it is 4″ off center! It was driving me BATTY!!! I googled & this came up! You have saved me from my perfectionist nightmare!! :) :) :)

  2. Kelsey says:

    Nice Work, You are one of the brave lady I have seen.

  3. doris ohara says:

    Thanks. Changing light fixture and will go the one step further.

  4. Pati Gulat says:

    Off to check for some awesome PJs !! Oh yeah.. Nice job, Karen ! I would’ve had to change it too !

  5. Mary Duffy says:

    can I just say your readers are hilarious. I love reading their comments as much as your posts. Very funny people. And the best part–no snark. Just one big happy party! Now I’m off to read your post on patching drywall. after that Maybe I’ll put away the three extra lamps sitting on the floor in the guest room.

  6. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    I would be happy just to have ceiling light fixtures..the idiots that owned this place before removed them because..they are idiots..yeah..that’s why..great job Karen..

  7. Jan in Waterdown says:

    I feel like such a loser. My light fixture has been off centre for over 30 years . . . done by the numnut electrician when our house was built. Maybe I have a big tolerance for lack of symmetry, that or I am just plain lazy. However, I refuse to give into the dreaded swag solution. Don’t want to offend anyone but I’d rather live off centre . . .

    • Jan in Waterdown says:

      Oh and I meant to mention, we had a light fixture just like that from Idomo in our first wee house (a 900 sq. ft. bungalow in Westdale). Wish I still had it . . . the fixture, not the house. I think Ikea has a similar one now, very cool retro!

  8. Louise says:

    Gosh Karen, you wear me out! I get exhausted just changing the batteries in my remote!

  9. Eva says:

    Reading with my 3 year old son on my lap. He saw your “ask Karen” photo and said “Look mom, a mermaid. It’s a mermaid holding a walrus!” He and I may spend some time studying aquatic mammals some time soon.

  10. Liz says:

    this whole post gave me a happy OCD sigh of relief. You must feel great!

  11. Patti P says:

    Hello Karen. Because of you pictured in your pajamas, posted on Facebook last night, I dreamt about you. I had agreed to housesit your house. I have a few comments about that…..1. A plastic refrigerator is not a good idea. 2. A dishwasher in the living room is not a good idea. 3. Having sheep for house pets is probably not a good idea, and if you are going to have them as pets, please teach them to eat melon and not just chew it up and then spit it out on the floor. There was more, it was just all to crazy. Oh yeah…I’m sorry I broke one of your champagne flutes.

    I really enjoy your blog. Thanks for all of your posts.

  12. shirley says:

    How long will it take that 2 inches off to drive you nuts?

  13. christine says:

    Grey bottomed socks.Only way to go.

  14. Karin says:

    I can see your double ceiling in the pictures! But did you go through plater and lathe with a drywall saw? Amazeballs. I can’t even hammer a nail into my plaster without bending at least three out of four.

  15. Jordan says:

    Thank you thank you thank you! I am definitely needing to do this in my home – SO MANY lights are off center! We’ve just been working around it for so long, but I’m more confident now to go ahead and finally work on them.

  16. Marilyn Meagher says:

    I can’t believe it took you fifteen years.

  17. Nice bum, where you from? Gaaaaaahreat job on the ceiling fix. I totally need to do that. You can see from this photo that I am in the same predicament …

    Now, I need to buy the flannel jammies. LOVE. Where’d you get ’em? Say Joe Fresh. I love shopping the jammie aisle at Joe Fresh :)

    Me xx

  18. Jody says:

    Good job. Now will you do a post about cleaning ceilings with that horrid pebbled texture like in my dream last night. (Am I too late for your dreams post?)

  19. Jane S says:

    You are an inspiration. In my house the light would be moved but the hole in the ceiling would stay for about 20 years.

  20. Alex says:

    Two inches matters not one whit, all depends what you do with it!

  21. Melissa in North Carolina says:

    You are amazing! Don’t you just love it when your light can hang centered in the window?! Have fun in the dirt.

  22. Karol says:

    I just know you are in a better place because of that not so simple change. We all (don’t we?) have a little OCD issues, and an off-centered light would drive most of us crazy! How perfect it was that you could stand on the table to get the job done. Great job, and great instructions! You rocked it.

  23. Su says:

    IDK I think you looked pretty spiffy in the Canadian Living magazine spread.

    The light does look better moved over for sure. I’m with the other readers who offered up a swag solution. Only because I don’t have a giant dining room table to stand on and move around. The constant up dand own on a ladder, dropping shit would only add to my frustration. Been there done that.

    Once again you inspire us to aspire to doing stuff ourselves! :)

  24. Tigersmom says:

    How nice it must be to have a relaxed sphincter. At least that would be the case for me, because every time I looked at that off-center light my ass would have clenched like it was trying to hold back a hurricane.

    And about those drapes: Are they a fairly recent addition (as in the last few months) or have I been somehow missing them? I am currently jones-ing for some dusty pink drapes and I am seriously coveting yours.

    The room looks great. A perfect blend of old and new. And you are rocking those plaid jammies. I always seem to work better in my jammies, too.

  25. Jack Ledger says:

    The comment regarding what to attach the junction box to was a good one. Having cut the hole you might find an empty void in which case you may have a problem. I might suggest using a stud finder just to check as to where a suitable joist might be located in the ceiling before you cut the hole. There also may be duct work in the location of where you would like your hole to be. My experience has been that these little projects often turn into nightmares and so I would always advise caution.

    And Karen, as to the comment on “clown portraits”, it is only a matter of time before I get a call from the Louvre asking me to donate this artistic piece of work to their collection. I may soon be hung right next to the “Mona Lisa”.

  26. Cynthia says:

    Just the pants, the braces and a white Bonds cotton ribbed singlet, for warmer parts of the night and day.

    Cute as.

    Then some Ugh boots. Voila!

    Ask Robert.

  27. Cynthia says:

    Kat, I thought you were having at dig at my age for a moment and was about to get all ‘off my bike”. Haha.

    Yep, it must be just a weird name. Maybe called ‘dry’ because it does not need wet plaster put over it.
    That’s it. I am sure of it.

    Swag lamp hooks can look great Karen. It takes lots of standing on the table, putting one link into the hook, getting off, looking at it from the hallway, getting back up, moving it down a link and on and on, spilling your tea or your Diet Coke or your grog, in the meantime.

    Or, you could get Robert to stand in the hallway and give instructions and you stay on the table.

    Saves us all a lot of trouble.:)…still dont know who he is , but am I whinging? No. I can learn acceptance.

    I reckon a pair of braces would go great with those jammies. Lumberjack braces.

  28. Auntiepatch says:

    Great job!

  29. sharon says:

    I have a bad habit of going to turn the hose on, then 3 hours of gardening later find I’m still in my mamas in the garden.

  30. Marna says:

    I can so understand you wanting to fix the light placement. I am not a total perfectionist, but things too off do bother me. I try to fix what I can. We have a small house with many oddities, corner lighting being one. All three bedrooms had corner lights, 2 on a back wall per room, so not all around, no ceiling lights. There are now ceiling fans with lights and the corner lights, made with a piece of drywall, are gone from 2 rooms. Those things covered over a corner and the wall wasn’t finished, it was open about 8 inches from where the tip of the outer piece of drywall formed the light cover, a plain unit for a light bulb had been installed and that area was just screwed to a piece of wood. I couldn’t even reach inside to change the light bulbs, my husband had to do it and he had trouble. I wondered why it was so cold in the rooms and we got so many bugs in the house. Anyway, my husband cut out the sections to put a full triangle piece of drywall to fit each side. I wasn’t able to finish the work of patching and painting because in the process I had fallen, broken all the toes on one foot. He said he would do it, it looked like the peanut butter spread on bread that you see in commercials, all the swoops back and forth and sticking up, he primed it and painted some of the wall. You know how long it took for me to redo it, days of sanding, priming and painting whole walls and rooms. It still doesn’t look that great in one room, but I definitely finished the corner areas in the other bedroom, one to go. The light cover started about 10 inches down from a 9.5 foot ceiling, then continued down about 18 inches to the point (like an upside down pyramid). I have also patched holes that size you did and larger, due to an all male household, some holes by accident, others on purpose. I am getting too old and falling apart to do all the things I would like to do, but sure love seeing you do all you do! :)

  31. Valerie says:

    I know the perfectionist in you won’t like this one bit but:

    Swag lamp hook?

    • Karen says:

      LOL. NO. In some cases I’m not opposed to swagging but you can’t really do that when it’s only moving over 6 or 8 inches. The swag would be sad. Plus it would have just looked messy in a room where everything is pretty minimalist. It wasn’t a big deal. Thinking about it for 15 years was way harder than doing it, lol. ~ karen!

  32. Cynthia says:

    I see lots of Canadian and American people ‘bang on” about dry wall. What is “dry wall”. Is there a “wet wall” and this is the opposite of that.?

    In Aus. Its just called ‘sheeting”. Or plaster sheeting. Or ply or fibro. Fibro is made of asbestos and is a big far no-no because if you break it or cut it, and breath in the fibres, it can kill you in years to come through Asbestosis. Minoe seque there for some medical input.

    Unless we are talking about something different.

    Yours is on your ceiling, not on your walls, so I think maybe drywall is just sheeting.

    Stop trying to confuse us and make it all sound mysterious. We’re only a new nation, you know. :)

    • Kat says:

      You my friend are older than us Canadians being you were actually born in 1788 and us young folk in 1867 (supposedly) as my inferior knowledge allows me our drywall and your sheeting are very similar but I believe your sheeting may be thinner than our drywall which we do put on our ceilings as well as walls. (I dated a drywaller once) and I believe it is just a formula of plaster and other ingredients to form a 4X8 sheet of wall/ceiling board.

  33. Raymonde says:

    You’re so right, an off centre dining room suspension can drive someone batty!
    But, changing the light’s placement isn’t the problem, it’s having to repaint the whole ceiling because the colour has changed over the years and then having to repaint the moulding to match the ceiling and so on and so on… Ask me how I know…
    P.S: Really comfy looking jammies!

  34. Kat says:

    You are so going to look at those curtains and not like them next month LOL!

  35. Katbert says:

    You kinda-sorta rock my world. OK. Not kinda-sorta. You really do. I think moving the light is a noble feat, but nothing compared to patching the drywall! It’s easy to make new holes in things. Hard to remove old ones. I fixed my garage door opener a couple of months ago. I had to replace the sprocket assembly. A couple of you tube videos, one trip to Canadian Tire for a new ratchet set and four anxious hours later it was done. Pushing the button to see the door open — priceless!

    • Karen says:

      Nice work. That’s an impressive job. ~ karen! (p.s. I actually like drywall patching, it’s very satisfying)

      • Bols says:

        Me too, Karen. It’s easy and instantly gratifying.
        In my house, there is always a big bucket of drywall compound sitting in the basement. The small tubs are not economical (if one patches a lot).

  36. Jcorn says:

    I love how you mixed the older table with the modern elements. I also did this in our dining room – even though some tried to talk me out of that decision. For older elements, I have antique family portraits and my my mother’s oversized wooden dining table. But then there are some surprisingly comfortable clear plastic Queen Anne style chairs, very modern, as well as a modern-ish or eclectic Restoration Hardware light fixture.

    A very old bread making bowl often sits in the center of the table. I love its signs of being used often, the uneven hand made shape (just veering slightly off center, not quite a perfect round shape) and the aged texture. I am attached to that bread bowl, beyond amy reasons I truly grasp. It just lightens my spirits whenever I see it.

    One of the family portraits looks a bit stern and almost Lizzie Borden-ish but I love it anyway. Not sure I’d want it in a bedroom or even a living room but so far it hasn’t ruined anyone’s appetite. We’re a family that likes to chow down so it would take something truly repulsive to spoil our dining pleasure. Maybe a clown portrait. I find them creepy.

  37. Mary Edmondson says:

    Love the pjs – love the fix. Did you by chance install that lovely crown molding yourself? Also, can you compile all your seasons of “what to watch” on Netflix/Amazon/TV into one link so your readers can print out the complete list? Along those lines – you really need to take a look at the most enchanting series set at the turn of the 19th century – Lark Rise to Candleford. Watch one episode and you’ll be hooked. I sure do miss daily posts from you. It’s like being on a diet and I don’t like it. ;-) But good for you easing up on your obligations – you deserve to do something for YOU.

    • Karen says:

      LOL, well I *wish* I could say I’m easing up on my obligations but I’ve just had to diversify, which resulted in having to cut down on blog posts to enable time to do the other things like book proposal writing, organizing upcoming video courses and improved photography for the better of the blog. I’m just as busy, just in different ways. I could fib and say yes I’ll consolidate the posts into one post, but … I probably won’t, lol. Although the last post I did included most of the shows I’ve recommended so you could possibly print that one out. I’ll give Lark a look! ~ karen

  38. Agnes says:

    I love the second last photo in this post. I can also get behind the getting your best work done in pajamas thing. Nice work!

  39. Sue says:

    Nice table!

  40. SK Farm Girl says:

    One question and one comment: What exactly am I securing the inserted piece of wood to? Lucky for you your ceiling is nice smooth drywall and not some version of popcorn ceiling (yes I have smooth-drywall-ceiling envy)!!! Cheers!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Miss. Saskatchewan. You have to secure the wood to whatever you can find to attach it to basically. I had solid wood 2x4s up there that I could get to if I angled my screws. I also went through the lath of the plaster and lath ceiling that’s hidden under my drywall ceiling, lol. You may have popcorn ceiling but *I* have a double ceiling! ~ karen

      • Catherine says:

        Ah. So you do have plaster and lath underneath that drywall. I was just going to ask if you had removed it and how messy a job it was. I’m thinking about pulling down stucco encrusted plaster and lath in my upstairs bedrooms where the ceilings are only 7’9″…

  41. Jamie says:

    I too do my best work in my jammies. I also have an off center light that’s been bugging me for 2 1/2 years since we moved in. You’ve inspired me! :)

    • Karen says:

      Do it! At least take a look to see if it’s possible. I’m SO happy I did mine finally and it hardly took any time. ~ karen!

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