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The Jam Light District

So, as you probably know, Mother Nature’s been all crazy lately: a 5.8 earthquake AND landfall of the most destructive Tsu-nado in recorded history…

What? You guys didn’t get hit by Hurricane Sonia? Just us? ;->

Yeah, her preschool is on a 3-week summer break. So she’s been available to “help” with ALL of our important porch-makeover projects lately. Which really speeds up the process. Not.

Nonetheless, we did manage to get the porch light installed. (I was going to write “Dan got the porch light installed,” but I’m not going to underestimate the importance of my nagging encouragement.)

Here’s the oh-so-lovely porch light we inherited:

It looks like our “handyman” took an interior light fixture & bathroom-caulked it to the bricks. Then topped it with the most basic ceiling-fan bulb cover manufactured. Attractive.

So, I picked up this very simple outdoor lamp at the big box for $5.

Then, after turning off the power to the house, Dan removed the bulb cover and light bulb…

And cut through the caulk to loosen the mount.

What we found was… surprising, even for this crap shack  property.

That apparently was load-bearing caulk!

OK, not entirely. The fixture was hanging precariously from one dangling drywall screw, which was barely inserted into a loose piece of scrap wood, which had been shoved into the hole, since there was nothing inside the hole to drill into. Yup, just a big, deep hole.

We think this is because of the extra depth added by the faux brick facing that adorns part of our house. Yes, only the front part. Which once again proves that this property puts the “assy” in “classy.”

Also, once the round bulb cover was gone, the weird orange stuff around the hole was much more obvious. We think it’s overspray from some kind of expanding insulation foam. We also think it’s ugly and was extremely lazy of the insulation installer to neglect cleaning it up properly. But we’re hardly surprised.

Fortunately, it was easy to scrape off. I chose to use a paint-can opener.

See the perpendicular piece of scrap wood with the drywall screw “in” it? Yeah. That’s what was holding our old light up.

After my adventures in scraping, I used some medium-grit sandpaper to remove most of what I couldn’t get with the scraper. It came off pretty well. Of course, due to the VERY textured surface of the brick facing, I couldn’t get all of it, but overall it looks much better for the effort 🙂

On the installation front, we decided that it wasn’t our responsibility to reverse-engineer shoddy construction. So, rather than try to remove old wiring & place a suitable piece of mounting wood inside Crazy Hole, we’d just sink to the level of the last installer.

In other words, we too stuck a piece of scrap wood in there. But at least we used glue. So neener-neener-neener, last guy.

In this case, we chose Gorilla Glue. It’s cool because it expands. Good for working in wonky spaces where you’re not sure you can achieve a completely flush fit. (Usually mandatory where glues are concerned.)

We hit the leftover piece around its edges with the Gorilla too — just to be sure it would stay put when we hung the new light. We didn’t DARE pull it out to properly glue it. (God only knows what kind of Pandora’s Box that foolishness might fling wide open…)

From the Committee To Protect Your Stuff:

Gorilla Glue is handy stuff. It is not pretty stuff. When it dries, it looks like old, dry sap leaking out of an injured tree. Think twice before using it on any areas that “show.”

(BTW — Check out Dan’s solution to our lost glue cap. Worked pretty good! I love that crazy bastard.)

Once the glue had dried, Dan caaaarrreefffuuuuuuuullllyyy installed the mount for the new lamp.

Our Gorilla solution seemed to work, and we felt confident about its weight-bearing abilities, but nonetheless, better safe than sorry, so “gently” was the order of the day.

Oh, yeah… earlier Dan had stripped the ends of the wires… but doing it at this point in the process would be fine, too.

Anyhoo — After securing the new mount, Dan twisted the stripped wire ends to the new fixture as per the included instructions (and my back seat driving.)

Rental House Rule #14: Whenever working with something that could, you know, burn your house down... READ. THE. INSTRUCTIONS.

Once we were all hooked up, it was a breeze to pop the new fixture up there with the screw caps provided in the kit.

Then we re-used the perfectly good (if environmentally bad) light bulb from the original porch light and added the piece d’ resistance, the jam jar bulb cover.

Eh? Eh? See what we’re doin’ there? Jam jar lanterns… jam jar fixture… coordination without being too matchy-matchy? Eh? Eh?

Speaking of the lanterns: I know, I know. They’re taking me forever. And really, honestly, they’re such a simple project. My kid is just home from school right now & “I don’t even have a minute!” (A favorite quote from a friend’s mom. The last word can also be switched out for “dollar.” Works on so many levels.)

But I am still working on them. I promise. I will have the big reveal post up soon. She’s going back to preschool next week… thank goodness…

See the beginning of the jam jar lantern project here. Stay tuned for the conclusion & reveal!

But back to the matter at hand:

With our spanking new fixture in place, we crossed all available fingers & Dan turned the power to the house back on…


To celebrate, we all did the Electric Slide. Remember that? I bet you could still do it. Go ahead, I won’t tell ;-> Fun, huh?

So, does our little $5 switcharoo make a huge difference in the overall appearance of our house?


In fact, it’s barely noticeable. Unless you’re us & have been glaring at that ugly jury-rigged former “porch light” for two years. Then, it makes a HUGE difference.

And yes, we still have to somehow remove or camouflage the ring of bathroom caulk and what’s left of the weird orange gunk. Also, from a distance, the jam jar bulb cover on the new fixture kind of disappears, and the bulb itself is a little to visible for our tastes. (Especially since we usually rock the eco-twisty kind … which would look even worse.) So soon we’ll do a little faux frosting or easy etching project on the glass.

But that stuff’s just touch-up work. The point of this post is to show that you don’t have to live with the bad design choices your landlord has made. You’re more free than you probably realize to make bad design choices of your own!

Start looking at the fixtures in your rental property. Light sconces, drawer pulls, doorknobs, etc. All of that stuff is easy to switch out & easy to put back. (Just make sure you save & properly store all the original stuff so you can undo what you’ve done before you leave.)

And while it may not make a huge difference, little touches can really make a place feel more “you” — and make you feel more in control of your environment 🙂 Which is just good for the soul 🙂



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3 thoughts on “The Jam Light District

  1. Hiya! I simply want to give a huge thumbs up for the nice info you could have here on this post. I shall be coming again to your blog for extra soon.

  2. I got some light bulbs at W-Mart. They are actually CFL’s with a light.bulby.looking outside…so cool!

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