checking light switch after lighting remodel

Contractor Fails: A Cautionary Tale of Lighting Mistakes

Believe it or not, lighting mistakes are everywhere. From blown electrical panels to lighting remodel jobs left half-finished. Lighting remodels are more complicated than you may think. Lighting installation takes electrical knowledge, design-savvy, and construction skills. 

But lighting plans are something that homeowners need to be actively engaged in before installation or they will be cursing themselves or the contractor for years to come!

The Planning Phase: Avoid Lighting Mistakes

Like any construction or remodeling process, a lighting remodel starts with a plan. Begin with the idea phase. Look at showrooms, model homes, and blogs to get an idea of what you want in your home remodel.

Talk to your designer, architect, and contractor about the desired function, mood, and aesthetic for your remodel. Make sure you are all on the same page. Communication is key to avoiding later lighting mistakes.

Light Placement

This is where your designer steps in. A contractor may not understand the design and aesthetic aspects of a lighting remodel. The right lights and light placement can transform a space. Have more than one source of light, and spread lights throughout the space in order to create texture, variance, and layers of light. Just what are layers of light?

Lighting Layers Explained

One light fixture will not give you all the light you need for a room. Ambient, task, and accent lighting create a visually appealing, and functionally lit space.

kitchen lighting remodel

Ambient Light

Ambient light provides general illumination in the room. During the daytime, this may come from sunlight. When the room isn’t lit up with natural light, you need about 20 lumens per square foot to provide adequate ambient light. A lumen is the measurement of the amount of visible light.

For example, a 250-square-foot room would require about 5,000 lumens of ambient light, spread out from different sources throughout the room. This could come from ceiling-mounted lights, like cove lights, flush mount lights, chandeliers, or pendants. Wall sconces or torchieres are other light fixtures that provide ambient light.

Task Lighting

Task lighting provides focused light so you can perform a task or activity with proper illumination. Several examples of task lighting are pendants, lamps, or under-cabinet lighting.

Accent Lighting

The purpose of an accent light is to highlight artwork or an architectural detail in the room. Accent lighting should outshine the ambient light, with up to three times as many lumens focused on the point of interest. 

Wall sconces, picture lights, recessed lights focused on a certain spot, or track lights are several examples of accent lighting.

Lighting Mistakes: The Same Lighting for Different Rooms

Lighting needs vary according to room and task. A bathroom needs bright lights to increase visibility around the mirror, while entertaining spaces usually tend towards layers of soft light. 

We had a client come to us with a lighting mistake. She had harsh, bright overhead lights installed in the living room. This kind of light would have been more appropriate for a kitchen. Her contractor assured her this was the right type of ambient light for a living space.

Kitchen Lighting

Good lighting is essential in a kitchen, especially when it is dark outside. Food prep is much easier and more enjoyable with adequate lighting. In a kitchen, bright overhead lights are usually supplemented with task lights, like under the cabinet lighting, or an over-the-sink fixture.

bathroom lighting remodel

Bathroom Lighting

The goal for bathroom lighting should be to create sufficient illumination for tasks like makeup application, without casting unflattering shadows in the process. Layers of light provide variation and interest in a bathroom. Consider a pendant or chandelier over the tub or a band of floor lights for nighttime illumination.

Family Space Lighting

Family and living room lighting are both areas that can benefit from a layered lighting design. Bright lights should be available for activities, but lower lighting is great for a more intimate feel.

Home Office Lighting

Work lighting and ambient lighting are both important in a home office. A desk lamp for a workspace, or a lamp for other seating areas are both examples of work lighting in a home office. Track lights are a great option for ambient light.

Outdoor Lighting

Outdoor living spaces continue to grow in popularity. To light up your outdoor space, consider both safety and aesthetics. Security lights and path lighting are important for security and to reduce the possibility of falling in the dark. String lights add ambiance and charm.

Lighting Remodel Considerations: Light Switches and Dimmers

While some homeowners still prefer traditional light switches, many have embraced the technology of smart light switches. These handy devices make it simple to control light levels with voice prompts, set timers, or create lighting schedules. 

Dimmers can be installed on traditional light switches, and are incorporated into smart lighting systems. A dimmer turns the level of light up and down. Often, overhead lighting can be harsh. A dimmer allows you to control the amount of light that comes from the overhead light.

contractor completing lighting remodel

Lighting Mistakes and Your Electrical Panel

Your electrical panel distributes electricity throughout your home through the circuits in the panel. Increased electrical demands from additional lights in the home will require additional electricity. Check to make sure the circuits in your electrical panel can handle your lighting remodel. 

Your contractor is not typically also an electrician! For safety and efficiency, make sure your project manager and contractor use a trusted electrician during your lighting remodel.

Construction Administration to Keep Lighting Mistakes at Bay

Any home remodel, including lighting remodel, requires a certain level of knowledge and organization. Installing a few lights may not seem like a difficult task, but it is more involved than most people realize. 

Most contractors will do their best to configure your lights to your specifications. However, there can be a communication lapse. Lighting requires good lines of communication between the electrician, the contractor, the designer, and the homeowner. Lighting mistakes can occur if everyone is not knowledgeable and on the same page.

A project manager can be a huge asset during any remodeling project. They maintain communication and are your advocate on the job site. The contractor and designer have their roles to play, but it is not their job to manage the project communication.

At Drafting Cafe Architects, our team of architects, designers, and job managers work together to make your lighting remodel a success. We can help you with the process from lighting planning and design, to managing the electrical requirements, to the finished product. Contact us today to get started on your lighting remodel project.


Get in touch with us. We would love to help you get your project off the ground