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Install a Ceiling Light and Switch

Fishing for Cable

Building Smarts

Be patient and creative as you fish. In extreme cases, you may have to poke two fish tapes through two holes, trying to hook one tape with the other. Eventually you'll get through, although you may have to cut more holes.

Building Smarts

Many older places have sand-finish plaster, a rough surface that can't be patched with spackling. Buy a plaster float and finish-coat sand plaster from a drywall supplier. Apply the finish plaster with a trowel. Wait 10 minutes, and then flick some water from a brush at the plaster and at the float. Move the float in a rotary motion. If the plaster is too soft, wait a few minutes. If it's too hard, use more water. Floating is magical: It flattens high spots and fills low ones—if you have the right tool, the right timing, and the right amount of water.

It's finally time to fish cables. One cable runs from the outlet to the switch box. The second cable runs between the switch and light boxes.

  1. Uncoil a few feet of fish tape and work it down from the switch hole to the outlet.

  2. Connect the cable to the fish tape and pull it up to the switch box hole.

    Use electrical tape to attach cable to the fish tape, a springy steel tape that pulls cable through walls. Extra hands are helpful: One person pushes cable into one hole, while the other pulls the fish tape from the other hole. Leave 15" of cable sticking out of each opening.

  3. Push the fish tape down from the upper wall hole to the switch hole. Pull the cable up to the upper hole.

  4. Run the tape down from the ceiling hole through the plate, to the upper wall hole, attach the cable, and pull it back to the ceiling hole.

  5. Finally, push the cable into the light box hole. Cut off all cables, leaving 15" sticking out of the openings.

Step 4: Mount the Boxes

Building Smarts

If you can't position the light box next to a joist, you'll have to bridge a 2 × 4 between two joists. (This involves more work, and more damage to repair.) Place the bridge so the box front will be flush to the ceiling. Use 2" screws, driven at an angle, to mount the 2 × 4.

The hard work is now done, even though your place looks like the aftermath of Hurricane Fishtape. Take heart, things can only get easier from here.

A long drill bit will reach into the box as you prepare to screw it to a joist. Similarly, a long screwdriver bit is best for driving the mounting screws. Mount the box flush to the ceiling.

Handy boxes with sloped shoulders are much easier than rectangular boxes because the cables won't snag on the plaster as you push the box into the opening.


Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Simple Home Improvements © 2004 by David J. Tenenbaum. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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