Building A Custom Valance
Fluorescent Strip Light
We rout some 1x lumber to make an
interesting profile, assemble it into a partial box using biscuits and
glue, and screw it up.
|Skill Level: 3 (Moderate)
||Time Taken: 2 Hours
||This kitchen had a tricky problem... there was a very narrow strip of wall
above the window next to the sink. Previously we had run an electrical cable to
this spot from a switch nearby. But we could not find a decent looking basic
fluorescent light fixture, or any sort of narrow fixture, that could be directly
wired to the cable we had provided.
|I installed a plain 2-foot long fluorescent light fixture
above the window over the kitchen sink. In the past I have seen people
leave these fixtures fully exposed, but the plain fixture is downright
ugly by today's standards.
So I decided to dress up the fixture by hiding it behind a valance. Since I
was already scheduled to install some custom trim between the ceiling and the
wall, I figured I could also build a valance for little additional cost.
|The basic elements of this design:
- The long board on the left spanned the entire width of the valance.
- The short board in the foreground is one of the side pieces.
- The short board on the right is merely an attachment tab, to provide
something to mount this unit to the wall. A simple metal angle bracket
could have been used.
These boards were cut from 1x8 pine stock, and the decorative edge was
made on a router table, using a Roman Ogee bit. I took this complex
approach only because I was set up for making custom trim for this recently remodeled
kitchen. Normally I would use off-the-shelf trim, such as colonial
||I used a standard-sized biscuit joiner to make slots for
biscuits. A mini-biscuit joiner should also work.
|I glued the mitered cuts together.
||Then I secured the miter joints with small brad nails.
Before installing it, I coated the inside of the valance with oil-based
primer, to better reflect the light.
|After I pre-drilled some holes, I installed the assembly
around the light fixture.
In this case, because of the unusual method of house construction, I was able
to just drive screws anywhere above the window and reach a sturdy wood
structure. Most normal houses would require either locating a stud, or use of
heavy-duty drywall anchors (such as toggle bolts).
This Strange Old House:
This is absolutely the weirdest house I
have ever worked on. Sections of the house date back to 1885... but it's
not the kind of nice charming old house that you're thinking. I counted what
appear to be at least 6 additions to the original house. It seems that
they built it one room at a time. There is still knob-and-tube wiring in
the place, which is okay according to the electrician that replaced the
fuse box with a proper breaker panel.
I helped the homeowner remodel the
kitchen of this house. We tore off about 12 layers of wallpaper plus a
layer of thin Masonite. Directly behind that was either exterior wood
siding or 3/4 inch thick wood sheathing, or both. There was solid wood
sheathing on the inside and outside of the studs. But on the
exterior wall (which was a load-bearing wall), the studs were placed at 30
inch centers (zoinks!) and above the window... there was no header!
I have no idea what the load bearing capacity of solid wood sheathing
is... but there was no sag problem over the window. This weird form of
construction is why I was able to easily mount a fluorescent light right
above the window trim. On most houses there would be a solid wood header
above the window, which could be as tall as a 2x12.
||The basic valance mounted on the wall
|After the basic valance was installed, I added some smaller
trim at the top, just for kicks. Again, I used 3/4 inch thick stock that I
milled on a router table, but colonial door stop trim would work
just as well.
Then I filled the nail holes with wood filler and primed the wood.
||I think it's a respectable-looking fixture (considering the
oddness of the house). It sure beats
spending hours shopping for an expensive fluorescent light fixture that
can fit in the small strip of wall between the window and the ceiling.
About The Tools Used:
I used a few professional-grade tools for this project... but
this can be built with simpler tools. The only truly necessary tools are
the miter saw (and a miter box could suffice) and a drill. The mitered
corners could be attached with ordinary finishing nails and glue. Standard
trim shapes could be used. The expensive tools I used merely make this work
easier and faster... and more fun.
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- Miter Saw
- Router Table
- Brad Nailer
- Biscuit Joiner (a.k.a. Plate Joiner)
- Cordless Drill/Driver
- Lumber, 1x6, 1x4
- Brad Nails
- Oil-Based Primer