The last fixture in the wife's inventory. I had delayed the install for some time (because I had no idea how I was going to get it done)
but I was getting tired of seeing that big cardboard box in the corner of the living room every time I went up the stairs (she placed it there strategically). The fateful Sunday arrived, I took measurements and did some prep the day before. Here's how I got it done.
The Big Question: Platform or ladder?
Anyone who has installed even the most basic of light fixtures understands that, in a retro-fit situation, you are at the mercy of the wiring and housing installed prior to your arrival. You never what's behind those screws. For this reason, I wanted to make sure that the the strategy I employed for this installation would afford me the abilit
y to work at that height, for an extended amount of time, in both safety and comfort. It would have been quite simple to build a small platform to level out the rise and run of the stairs, put the extension ladder up and access the light, however, once I was up there I would have been dangling very awkwardly on the ladder and putting a lot of trust in the small platform below. One quick move could have resulted in a VERY DANGEROUS fall. Short story short, I chose the larger of the 2 installation undertakings: a solid, temporary floating floor, or platform.
After taking some measurements I decided to build my support platform out of some extra lumber I had in the barn. I could have avoided this part of the project and just ran the 2X6 floorboards from the banister and set them on the window sill but I wasn't satisfied with the small sill on which to place them, I didn't want to butt them up against an expensive piece of glass and I didn't want to place all my trust in the framing of the wall.
I needed this piece to be custom, solid and robust. I built in about 20 mins and installed it the night before by screwing it into the wall. After the platform was secured I tested the level of the joists to see how level they were and how they fit.
Standard floor joist gap is 16", these were about 18" apart, I put in three "sister boards to keep them from moving and added a board on the banister end of the structure to ensure the whole thing couldn't go down the stairs even if the screws on the window platform came out of the wall.
At this point, I was feeling very confident with the sturdiness of the structure, I grabbed one of the 3/4" pieces of plywood I attempted to use to get the Home Depot truck out of the mud a few weeks prior, screwed it down and excitedly climbed aboard. I discovered I could easily reach the top of the old light and was filled by a great sense of pride at what I had built in order to get to the job done.
The kids were impressed too, "what are you doing up there daddy??" and "Dad, that's crazy what you built!" I always enjoy their comments and I love that they see their dad doing these types of jobs on his own (or with mom's help).
Chandaliers take a little more labor than smaller lights and I was so happy to feel so secure while I was installing the plate, running the wire through the tubes, and of course wiring the light itself. Overall, I was on this platform for about an hour, I couldn't imagine how much more difficult – and dangerous – this would have been on an extension ladder
This was a really rewarding project! If you are in situation where you need to change out an old stairway light fixture, I hope these pictures and this description help you ideate for your project. Take your time and do it right. Do it safely and enjoy the process.