Wednesday, April 20, 2011

We-Design-Day: Ceilings, lighting and power - Lighting 101

I'm still working on getting my boards together to present to you, however, after meeting with my step dad this past weekend to talk "power", I realized that I needed to complete a couple of additional drawings before moving forward too much more.

First, one very necessary part of this basement renovation is to add more power outlets and upgrade the lighting. And as troubled as I've been with the storing of my craft stuff, the other issue I have is not being able to see what I'm doing! There was a time, when I was much, much younger, when colours did not bleed together but now navy often looks black and black can look like navy. Furthermore, I believe about five years ago, they started making the eye on my sewing machine needles smaller... ;-)

Let's look at the basics of lighting.

There are three types of lighting generally used in an environment (home, office, etc). The first is ambient - or the overall level of lighting. Ambient lighting is the lighting that provides general light for seeing where you are going and for basic activities (most kitchens have only 'ambient' lighting). They do not specifically highlight an area but rather work to just light the area. Think of the ceiling mounted fixture in your bedroom and that will give you the idea of the task ambient lighting performs. It can come in many varieties - ceiling mounted, sconces, recessed, etc.

The second is task lighting. As its name suggests, task lighting is used to highlight work being done in a space. This doesn't necessary mean focused spot lights but lighting that will enhance and highlight a work area. Under cabinet lighting, lamps (if used in conjunction with other ambient light), track or recessed are all examples of task lights. Keep in mind that the main function of task lighting is to reduce eyestrain so the lighting type selected should not cause glare or harsh shadows.

Finally, we have accent lighting. Accent lighting serves to highlight a feature - often artwork, architectural detail or focal points. For accent lighting to be most effective, it needs to considerably brighter than the lighting that surrounds it. The rule of thumb is three times as bright so that it creates drama and interest. Generally, this type of lighting includes track, recessed or art lights.

Want to know more about lighting? Check out these sites for tips, ideas and more information...
American Lighting Association
Lighting.Com - your source for everything lighting

In basements, the easiest method of ceilings is T-Bar or dropped ceilings. A dropped ceiling uses acoustical panels suspended in a grid (t-bar) system. It provides the most flexibility as often, in basements, there are ‘things’ that one needs to access in the floor joists above. In our basement, I know we’ve got two different points we need to get to – the underground sprinkler system and the outside water taps.

Furthermore, when wiring in basements, one must ensure that there are no concealed junction boxes. A T-bar ceiling is not considered concealed, therefore, it isn’t as difficult or costly to run additional power and lighting because junction boxes can be installed to carry the power where needed.

Design Tip Be sure to check all local building codes for your area before commencing any work. Additionally, most home improvements require permits before work can commence. Check with your local government for information on permits and the laws specific to your area.

One complaint people often have about grid ceilings is the lack of aesthetics. However, there have been huge leaps and bounds in the availability of different ceiling tiles – many are far more pleasing to the eye than any style of gypsum ceiling! Check out Armstrong for some of the most recent innovations and perhaps the most excellent variety of available patterns and designs. The only limit is your budget! And mine is limited – I know what I want to install but unfortunately, our budget will only allow me to patch the ceiling between the two rooms. I did think about doing just my studio, but to have it look proper, I’d need to redo the entire ceiling and there is just no money for that! Maybe one day…

Photobucket Partial Reflected Ceiling Plan

“How’s your power? Your juice? You know, your amps? Do you like your current direct?!” This is the first few lines from a recent television for the Alberta Utilities Commission. I like it because I like power, my favourite symbols on my drawings are usually electrical. Mostly because it’s easy for me to say I want power here, here and there. But then it’s up to the electrician and the electrical engineer to make it happen – and they always do!

Planning power seems simple enough – at least the layout of it. I like to think about the room, what will be used in the room and how I may reconfigure the space in the future. Currently, our basement seriously lacks electrical outlets (want to impress your friends – call them “duplex receptacles”). There are two in the main area and two in each of our offices. Just about everywhere you go is snaked mess of extension cords and power bars. This works for the moment but I know my husband has no space left to plug anything in around his computer! My sewing machines and iron are snaked all the way around the room to the nearest outlet and the electronics in the TV area are fed through the wall, down and into a cord that plugs into the only outlet across the room.

We need power – and lots of it! The problem, of course, is that all the walls I want to add power to are finished. This poses a problem for the electrician as they must then fish and feed. Thankfully, the grid ceiling makes it a bit easier but of course, it all takes time, which adds up. Furthermore, you must ensure you’ve got room on the panel. Again, I would only hire a qualified electrician to do this work. There are some things one can DIY – electrical usually isn’t one the everyday Home Reno Hero should attempt. Its money well spent – especially considering doing it incorrectly could kill you and cause a devastating home fire!

When planning commercial spaces, the ‘rule of thumb’ is to put a duplex receptacle every 12’ for ‘housekeeping’. I know there is a formula for residential too but I believe it’s important to not overload a circuit as well as keep in mind the space use. For my husband’s office, it will be a table top studio – he has lights, equipment, and his needs are high. In our family room, we’ve got electronics, lamps and a phone so it’s more about convenience than need – especially considering the likelihood of the of all the electronic components being on at once! In that space we can optimize what is existing and move it so it has better proximity to the area.
My studio needs some additional outlets too. I'm planning and adding quadriplexes at the locations I need – this will give us four plug-ins at the location which should meet most of the needs we have. I'm finalizing the layout and electrical needs of my husband's studio so I'll post that plan next week.

Thank you for stopping by – if you have any questions about lighting or electricity, please send me a message and I'll do what I can to help and tap my resources for more answers!

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