Laurel's Adventures in Home Repair   


Kitchen Light Facelift

December 7 - 15, 2015


The kitchen lights in this kitchen are a set of fluorescent lights housed inside a soffit.  The soffit hides the transition of the two different roof angles and pitches on this house that occur right above the kitchen.

There are two light fixtures attached to the wall, each with two bulbs for a total of four lights.  The lights are then covered with three acrylic light panels measuring 24" x 48".  There are two pieces of wood trim running horizontally that hold up the light panels.  Moulding that runs around the perimeter of the opening holds everything up.

The problem with these acrylic lenses or light panels, are that they are brittle to begin with and only get worse as the years pass.  So if you are removing them to clean or to change a bulb, it only takes one little tap on an edge, to crack them.  If you hit them with something by accident, like a broom handle, it will crack.  When they are older don't drop them.  They will shatter into many pieces.

 Kitchen lights before

 Kitchen lights with covering removed

 Close-up of moulding that runs around the perimeter of opening

What I wanted... was a light cover that:

- Had a frame that looked a little more classy
- Used a light panel material, that when dropped, would not shatter into pieces
- Allowed the changing of a bulb without taking down most or all of the panels
- Had panels that looked different than anything you could buy in a store

The measurements for the opening are a rough 6' x 4'.  The actual measurements are 71 1/4", 71 1/8", 48 1/16", 48 3/8".  Nothing in this house is square, so I did not expect this opening to be either.
The material that I have decided to use for the light panels is polycarbonate.  This is a tougher material than acrylic.   If a panel is dropped, nothing will happen to it. 

Polycarbonate can be very expensive. However,  I had already used this material for my front entrance side window and for the artwork I had just framed. I knew exactly where to get some sheets of polycarbonate for an inexpensive price.  I placed an order online for another box of four 16" x 72" polycarbonate shelf liners for $82.46  ($76.81 + 6.28 tax) from the Home Depot website.  I will be using 3 of the 4 sheets as the light panels.

Lexan polycarbonate wire shelf liner

To make the light panel look different, I have decided to cover one side of the polycarbonate with a static cling window film.

Again I went online and ordered from a company I have used before.  I selected a leaf pattern to go with the leaf and bird theme I have started with my kitchen facelift.

I ordered from Window Film World the Everleaf Privacy Window Film for $84.95 for a sheet measuring 48" x 74".

The large sheet was the cheapest option.  I will be cutting it into three pieces to cover the polycarbonate.

 Everleaf Privacy Window Film

The great thing about using the static window film, is that it can be changed to another pattern easily.  Just peel it off and stick on another design like stained-glass or an embossed pattern .

While waiting for the new polycarbonate light panels and window film to arrive, I will make a new wood panel grid to hold everything up.  The new grid will have 12 smaller openings in a 3 x 4 pattern.

With the opening not being square, this means that I cannot assemble a new frame and grid for the opening and then just hammer it in place.  I will need to place the outer frame in place first and then measure and cut each piece of the new grid after the outer frame is in place.

The plan is to nail the new grid frame onto the existing moulding that goes around the opening.  This will mean that the new frame will be almost flush with the bottom of the soffit instead of the one inch that is there now.  The old moulding will now be hidden.

I ran to the hardware store and purchased 6 - 1" x 2" x 8" pieces of aspen trim board for $33.19.
Each of the four pieces of the outer grid frame was cut for the opening.  I then carefully measured where each of the cross beams would be and routed out the notches. 

The notches were made by making multiple passes on my table saw with the blade raised only about a 1/2".


Notches cut into trim for crossbeams

Before nailing the outer grid in place, I painted all of the pieces with some leftover paint that I used on my 2 x 4 Basics Flip-top Bench.  The color is Sherwin Williams Resilience in Protégé Bronze SW 6153.

 Outer frame for the new window grid painted with first coat of paint

The next morning I nailed the outer frame pieces into the opening on top of the old moulding.

Outer frame nailed onto old moulding

I then carefully measured each of the cross beams individually, cut them, and routed out the notches.  The three short pieces lock into the frame and then go underneath the two longer beams, to help support them and prevent any sagging.  The whole grid is very solid and will support the three polycarbonate panels easily.  The center short beam below was part of the old grid which is why there is white paint on it.

None of the grid pieces will be nailed.  It all rests nicely in place.  So when a bulb needs to be changed, just one light panel needs to be removed and a couple of the short beams lifted out.

The grid will also not pop up and out if you hit it with something.  I cut the cross beam pieces so they end just below the lip of the old moulding.  So if you push up or hit it a beam with something, it will only go up about a 1/2 inch.  To get each piece in, you have to carefully slid it in at an angle and then down into the notches.

Grid fitted in place. No nails needed

Grid fitted in place. No nails needed

The grid pieces were then all removed and were painted the brown color.

The one thing I did not like with the look of the frame so far, was the drywall edge of the opening where it met the new frame of the grid.  It was very uneven with light gaps.
I decided to frame the entire opening with some window / door casing moulding.  This moulding would cover the bottom edge of the new frame and cover the gap with the drywall edge.  

I also wanted to just glue the moulding in place.  The reason for this is, I have a hard time nailing something in upside down and nailing items in this area was causing a lot of stress on the old drywall. 

Polystyrene moulding on left covering the new light panel grid
 frame and gap between frame and drywall edge

So I purchase some lightweight 2 - 3/8" wide polystyrene moulding.

After cutting the polystyrene moulding to size on the two long sides, I painted them and glued them up using clear caulk.

The secret to doing this AND making sure it sticks, is to put a lot of caulk on the moulding AND on the surface where it is going.  Then wait about 20-30 minutes for the caulk to dry a little.

Put a lot of the clear caulk on the polystyrene

The temperature was around 70 degrees when I did this.  Then stick your piece in place.  Unlike some construction glue, like Liquid Nails, the excess clear caulk wipes away easily.  If you miss a spot, the caulk dries clear.  You get a much cleaner finish.

I did the two long pieces first because cutting the miter corners is tricky here.  The long pieces were cut on the ends using a 45 degree angle. 

For the short pieces, I had to tweak the corner angles a bit because the opening is not square.

After cutting the two smaller pieces of the moulding, they were painted and glue into place. 

The frame is done at this point.  Now I am waiting for the polycarbonate and window film to arrive.

Caulk placed on other surface

Two long pieces of the moulding in place. Grid pieces in place.

A little clamping helps to seal the deal

The window film arrived on December 13, 2015 (Yes, a Sunday).  While I was still waiting for the polycarbonate sheets to arrive, I cut the 48" wide window film into three longs sheets 16" wide.

The polycarbonate sheets arrived on December 15, 2015.  As with the first time I ordered this material from Home Depot, they got the size wrong again.  When I ordered this item the first time for my front entrance side window, they sent me 12" x 72" instead of 16" x 72" which I needed to return to a local store in person for a refund. Then I had to go online and order it again.  This time they sent me 16" x 96" which is not even available on their website.  Go figure.  Because the width was what I needed, I did not return the item this time.  After all of the hassle from the first time and the waiting this time, I kept the item.  I can use the extra 24" around the house.

I needed to first trim three of the sheets to 69.5" to fit on the grid.  After I cut the sheets, I placed them in the grid to make sure they all fit.  I was afraid I might have to trim an inch off the sheet that runs down the middle because it would overlap the other two sheets.  However, these polycarbonate sheets are very thin so you could not tell that there was an overlap and the sheet lies flat against the grid.  The overlap occurs over the long wood beams and cannot be seen.  So no trimming was needed along the long side.

After trimming the length down to 69.5" the polycarbonate sheets were put it place to make sure they fit

To put the polycarbonate sheets in place, I only needed to move one of the long beams.  The polycarbonate is more flexible than acrylic lenses. So I could just slide the sheet up through the narrow opening.  You do not need to worry that it will crack or break during installation.  It can be scratched, so you do have to be careful regarding that. 

Leave the protective film on both sides until you are ready for the final installation.

I then removed the three sheets to prepare them for the window film.

Sliding the polycarbonate sheet up into the light grid

The polycarbonate sheets have a protective layer on each side.  The protective layer with the product information was removed.  I am leaving the other protective layer to further diffuse the light.

After I removed the protective layer from one side, I sprayed the surface with soapy water and applied the window film to the surface.

One of the protective layers removed.  Look at the edge and you can barely see the protective layer on the opposite side of the polycarbonate.

If you are applying the window film on a flat surface like I did, you will want to put towels underneath the sheets.  This way when you squeegee out soapy water, the towels will soak up the water.  When I applied the film to a vertical window, I put a towel on the window sill to catch the water.

When applying the film use a lot of soapy water to slide your film in place.

Window film applied to side of polycarbonate. Towels used to soak up water.

After applying the film to one of the carbonate sheets, the polycarbonate was put in place in the light grid.

First polycarbonate sheet with window film put in place on the grid.
Sheet sits on top of wood grid and under lip of old moulding on the edge.

First polycarbonate sheet with window film moved into place

The process was completed on the other two sheet and the sheets were placed in the light grid. 

The end result looks great.  The leaf pattern is subtle.  If I removed the protective film on the other side of the polycarbonate, the leaves would show up more, but you would see the fluorescent light tubes more.

It was hard photographing the light.  It looks much better in person.  However, I tried.  Photographs below show the light grid with and without the lights on.

New light grid with the fluorescent lights on

New light grid with the fluorescent lights off

The cost of this project (including shipping and taxes):

Window film $95.90
Polycarbonate shelf liner $82.46 / 4  x 3 sheets 61.85
Trim moulding for grid frame 33.19
Polystyrene moulding 22.34
Paint, caulk, (items that I had on hand) 10.00
Total $223.28


The Projects
Backsplash in Kitchen
Bench - 2 x 4 Basics Flip-Top Bench Table
Brick Replacement and Brick Accent Painting
Casper Mattress
Ceiling Tiles
Closet Built from Scratch
Column Wraps for 4" x 8" Posts
Concrete Slabs
Curb Appealing Street Numbers
Cut Paper Artwork - Kitchen
Door Knobs and Cabinet Pulls
Dry rotted wood beam repair and paint
Doggy door installed on wrought iron screen door - Repair of door
Duct Work
End Table / Cabinet - Vintage / Industrial Look
Faux Brick and Tile
- Stucco wall patio and backyard stairs
    using concrete patch

- Painted tile pool deck (Oklahoma)
File Cabinet - Vintage / Industrial Look
Fire Place Hearth Shelves
Furniture Assembly
Garage Closet - Oklahoma
Garage Facelift - Closet, etc
Gate From Hell
GoNanas - Failed Order Attempt
Horrible Man Cave (rec room) Total Renovation
House Entrance Renovation
How to fix holes in a wrought iron screen door and replace screen
How to Make Your Own Door
- Crawl Space Door
How to Winterize a Swamp (Evaporative) Cooler
Kitchen Counter Tops - Faux Granite
Kitchen Facelift
Kitchen Light Facelift
Laundry Room Cupboards
Main Bathroom Repair / Remodel
Master Bathroom Shower Area Stripped to the Studs
Mirror Frames
Oklahoma Home Facelift -- Aluminum Siding and Paint
OMG!  The sink was leaking the whole time we were away?
Raising the Roof - Garage Roof Replacement
Rock Wall Repair
Rolling Cabinet - Vintage /  Industrial Look
Shark Apex UpLight Corded Lift-Away Vacuum - Review
Siding - Exterior
Signage for Pine Ridge Estates
Solar Lighting Journey
Stair Door
Stairs to the Lower Level
Stencils - How to Make Your Own Stencils for Paint Projects
Storage Shed / Closet
Storm Shelter (Elgin, OK 2021)
Storm Shelter (Lawton, OK 2014)
Stucco Wall Repair and Paint
Swamp (Evaporative) Cooler Maintenance
Treadmill Table - Vintage Style
Tuff Shed
Wrought Iron Facelift Outside
Weather Stripping (doors)
Why is My Swamp (Evaporative) Cooler Blowing Hot Air?
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