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How to Add Overhead Lighting to a Bedroom

Ask This Old House master electrician Scott Caron adds dimmable overhead lighting to a dark bedroom

Steps for adding overhead lighting:

  1. Before doing any electrical work, ensure that power is turned off at the breaker.
  2. To determine the location of the new fixture, find the center of the largest space in the room by measuring from two opposing walls and marking the center with painter’s tape, then measuring from the other two opposing walls and moving the painter’s tape so it’s located where those two points intersect.
  3. Locate a source of constant power near where the light fixture will be located. This might be an outlet in the room, or it might be in an attic above the room.
  4. Locate the old work switch box at 48” to center off the floor, trace around the box with a pencil and then a utility knife to break the paint. Cut the hole for the box using an oscillating saw.
  5. Send two feeler bits into the attic- one to locate the wall where the switch will be located and one at the location of the light fixture. In the attic, find the bits to determine if there’s any structure in the way.
  6. Drill through the top plate of the wall where the switch will be located.
  7. From downstairs, use a 4” hole saw to cut the hole for the new ceiling box.
  8. Fish 14/2 non-metallic cable from the location of the switch to the location of the fixture. Fish a separate line of the same wire from the power source to the switch location.
  9. Strip the sheathing from about 6” of the cable and push the two sets of conductors at the switch location into the old work switch box.
  10. Push the old work switch box into the hole and secure it in place with the installed screws.
  11. Follow instructions provided with the dimmer switch to splice the switch to the power feed and to the switch leg to the fixture.
  12. At the ceiling box, strip the sheathing from about 6” of the cable and push the conductors through the box.
  13. Push the old work ceiling box into the 4” hole and secure it in place with the installed screws.
  14. Splice the power wires from the non-metallic cable to the power wires on the fixture and secure the connections with wire nuts.
  15. Install the fixture to the electrical box per the manufacturer’s instructions.
  16. Splice the power feed for the switch to the existing power source.
  17. Restore power at the circuit breaker.

Tools: