Patching Up Holes in the Kitchen Ceiling

So a while ago we finally hired an electrician to get rid of the school cafeteria fluorescent lights in the kitchen.  I hated them and should have booted them when we first moved in, but better late than never.  I had the electrician install recessed lights and they make the ceiling look taller which is great because we’ve got such low ceilings in this house.

So the kitchen went from this:

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To this:

Kitchen Wide Angle

 

Kitchen Back

Before all this ceiling beautification, I patched the holes that the electrician left behind:

Hiles in Ceiling

and painted the ceiling a nice crisp white.

Painting the ceiling was a piece of cake so long as I used my extension pole, otherwise it was “fill the roller with paint, climb up the ladder, roll the paint, climb down the ladder, move the ladder to next section, and repeat.” With the extension pole, there’s no ladder involved (at least for the rolling part, you still need the ladder to cut in around the edges since I haven’t yet found a brush on a 6 foot pole that can accurately cut in, darn it).  Another value of the extension pole is that you get an awesome arm workout at the same time that you’re DIYing, but at least you are saving your neck and back.

Patching the holes in the ceiling was a little more difficult but doable with the right Youtube video.  I used this one although it was for bigger holes than what I needed so I modified the process (see below).

Basically the steps to patch a 2×3 inch hole (which would be the same size as the holes that electricians cut into your ceiling to install recessed lights) are:

Note: Make sure you are doing this on a sunny day with lots of natural sunlight coming in because you don’t want to turn on your lights next to the repair area.  You can’t see the ceiling well enough with a light source right next to your eyeballs.

1.  Get drywall the same thickness as your ceiling (1/2 inch is standard); a 12 inch trowel; a tub of patching compound powder; a ladder; 100, 300, and 600 grit sandpaper; a utility knife; vacuum with an extension wand; and drywall tape.

2.  If your hole is regularly shaped (as in it’s a square or rectangle), then cut the drywall to the same measurements as the hole.  You can cut it using a utility knife then just snapping the drywall along the cut you made.  You may have to shave your piece down a little to fit in the hole.

3.  If your hole is irregular (like a circle or blob shape) then cut a piece of drywall into a regular shape to cover the entire hole, then put the piece of drywall against the hole and cut out the hole to match your drywall piece.  It’s easier that way.

4.  Pre-measure your pieces of drywall tape on a counter or table since you don’t want to do that on a ladder.  You want the tape to go all around the piece on all sides with as little overlap as possible.

5.  Mix your compound really well and make sure there are no lumps.  I just scooped the powder into a bowl with some water and whisked it with a plastic fork.  Make sure your compound is the thickness of pudding.  Also, make sure you work fast because it dries in about 6-8 minutes.  Use only what you need because once it dries, you can’t add more water to re-use it.

6.  Stick the piece of drywall into the hole and tape the piece into place.  Using your trowel, smear compound over the hole and extend the compound 5-6 inches outside the tape.   Try to only cover the tape on all sides and don’t worry about the middle of the patch; you’ll get the middle on the second pass.  Also go thinner with the compound along the edges of the area so that they can more easily blend in with the rest of the ceiling (this is called feathering).  Throw away any unused compound.  Let the area dry for 30 minutes.

7.  Sand any areas along the outside edge that are too high and not flush with the rest of the ceiling using 100 grit sandpaper.  I use the vacuum to suck up as much dust as possible because it gets really dusty.

8.  Make another pass with the compound making sure to cover the middle of the area this time in addition to feathering it out over the edge of the area.  Let this dry.

9.  Sand any rough areas again using 300 grit sandpaper, then 600 grit sandpaper, then make one more pass of the joint compound if necessary.  Make sure to feather the edges of the area to blend seamlessly into the rest of the ceiling.  Repeat the sanding if you had to make one more pass.

10.  After the final sanding, dust off the area with a dry cloth then paint.

The whole process took me a couple days although you could finish it in a day since the compound dries really quickly.

Here is the finished product:

Kitchen Ceiling Left

You can’t even see the patch unless you’re a couple inches from the spot…  Not too bad if I say so myself 🙂 .

A Boring Old Post About Replacing Outlets…

This post is boring…  Seriously, replacing outlets is not exciting, but if you’ve ever wanted to save some cash by doing it yourself and not hiring an electrician then read on!

 

I don’t know why, but looking at cream/almond outlets in a room offends the eye.  It dates a room like nobody’s business and it’s so easy to replace them with nice, clean white outlets.

 

You can also make your house more energy-efficient by putting outlet insulation on the inside of the covers.  If you’ve ever taken off a cover on an outlet inside the house but on an exterior wall and put your hand over the outlet in the winter, you’ve felt the draft.  I recently got an energy audit on my house and the auditor said that installing outlet insulation is a cheap way to keep out cold air.

 

So here’s how to do it:

 

1.  Gather a few tools: a Phillips screwdriver, a normal sized flat head screwdriver, and (importantly) a little flat head screwdriver.  Go to your favorite hardware store and buy new outlets, outlet covers, and insulation for outlets (see pic below).  If possible, dismantle the outlet (see steps 3 and 4) so that you can bring it to the store to get the same exact style.

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Outlet insulation

2.  Turn off the electricity to the outlet you’re working on.  What I do is plug in a hair dryer so that I can hear when the electricity is for sure turned off when I flip the breaker.  You can also use a lamp to do the same thing (that’s what I did this time).

 

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Before flipping the breaker

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After flipping the breaker

3.  Unscrew the cover to the outlet.

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4.  Unscrew the two screws holding in the outlet.

 

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5.  Pull out the outlet.

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6.  Dismantle the wires going into the outlet.  They are typically found in little holes on the sides of the outlet or they are wrapped around a big screw on the side of the outlet.  If they are located in holes, then there is normally a small slit next to the hole that you need to stick a very small flat head screwdriver into to “release” the wire from the hole.  This is tricky because you need to push the screwdriver in as you are pulling the wire out.  If you have trouble with this, get someone to push the screwdriver or pull on the wire.  If the wire is wrapped around a screw, just take a flat head screw driver and loosen the screw and the wire should just pop right off.

 

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7.  Loosen the screw at the bottom of the outlet to release the neutral wire (the copper colored wire).

 

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8.  As you dismantle the wires be sure to bend them to where they go into the outlet.  As you can see from the below picture, I bent the wires to the same sides of where they were in the old outlet so that I know where they go in the new outlet.

 

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In this picture, I’m working with four wires and I bend them in the same way that they were found in the old outlet:

 

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9.  The old outlet should now be completely free of all the wires.  Take the new outlet and either shove the wires in the holes the same way they were in the old one, or, if the wires were folded around the screw, then take the wires (they should be bent into hooks) and hook them onto the screws in the same way as the old one.

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In my case, the wires were too big to go into the holes of the outlets I bought, so I had to bend the wires into hooks to hook onto the screw on the sides of the outlet.

 

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You can bend the wires by wrapping the wire around a screwdriver.  It’s a pain in the rear because the wires are thick, but I think it’s the easiest way to do it.

Then I hooked the wires onto the loosened screws on the side of the outlet then tightened the screws to that they had a good grip on the wires.  Be sure to also hook up the neutral wire on the bottom of the outlet.

 

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10. Shove the entire receptacle back into the hole and, using the screws that came with the new outlet, screw in the outlet on the top and bottom to fit into the outlet box (the plastic box around the outlet).  Now, this is important… sometimes the new screws that came with the new outlet are not long enough so in that case, use the old screws.  You won’t see them anyway.  Make sure that the outlet is sticking out from the wall a little, otherwise when you put the cover on, the outlet will either stick out too much or be too recessed.  You can adjust this by either loosening or tightening the screws on the top and bottom of the outlet.  You can also straighten from side to side by adjusting the same screws.

 

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11.   If the receptacle is on an outside wall (i.e. on a wall inside your house but the other side of the wall is outside) then take the insulation and push that onto the receptacle.

 

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9.  Screw the outlet cover on then test your outlet.  It should work!!!

 

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Notes:  When you pick out the new outlets, be sure to get outlets with big holes to push the wires into since just shoving the wires in the holes instead of around the screws is the easiest way to do it.  Sometimes outlet holes are too small for your wires so that you have to use the screw method, but bending those thick wires to fit around the screws are a pain in the rear, so be sure to really look hard for outlets with big holes.