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
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
- 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
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
Polycarbonate can be very
However, I had already used this
material for my
front entrance side window and
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
Home Depot website. I will
be using 3 of the 4 sheets as the light
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
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.
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
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.
fitted in place. No nails needed
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.
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
Put a lot of the clear caulk on the
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.
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
The frame is done at this point. Now I am
waiting for the polycarbonate and window film to
Caulk placed on other surface
long pieces of the moulding in place. Grid pieces in
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
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.
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.
the polycarbonate sheet up into the light grid
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
One of the protective layers removed.
Look at the edge and you can barely see the
protective layer on the opposite side of the
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.
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.
polycarbonate sheet with window film put in place on
Sheet sits on top of wood grid and under lip of old
moulding on the edge.
polycarbonate sheet with window film moved into
The process was completed on the
other two sheet and the sheets were placed in the
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.
light grid with the fluorescent lights on
light grid with the fluorescent lights off
The cost of this project
(including shipping and taxes):
Polycarbonate shelf liner $82.46 / 4 x
moulding for grid frame
caulk, (items that I had on hand)