RENOVATION WARNING! A PSA About The “Standard” But Too Big Junction Box (Also HELP)

RENOVATION WARNING! A PSA About The “Standard” But Too Big Junction Box  (Also HELP)

We are full speed ahead on my brother’s River house project (finally in the “fun to show you” stage which is happening SOON) and it’s bringing up more things for me to tell you. This time it’s not about mistakes you can avoid or preventing problems from contractor, it’s just that sometimes the design world moves forward with new things, but the “standard” way of building a house remains the same unless you flag it early. These are *mostly* solveable and again, not a “mistake” just an “OH OK GOOD TO KNOW”. It’s really about knowing what you want early, design-wise, and communicating it to your contractor so they can build the house for how you designed it.

photo by kaitlin green | from: farmhouse kitchen reveal

The “Too Big Junction Box” If You Want Small Sconces Or Ceiling Lights

Here’s the deal – a junction box is the electrical housing that sits behind the drywall that you connect a wall or ceiling light to, and most are a standard size (usually 4″, sometimes 5″, I guess), creating a hole that size in the wall. And yet there are so many new and cool sconces out there that have a much smaller “canopy”, which is the round or square part of the scones that connects to the wall and COVERS the J-box hole). Do you always have your sconces/ceiling lights picked out before the electrical is done? Nope. But if you want one of the new/cool sconces that has a tiny canopy then you need to install a much smaller junction box and if you don’t catch it, the electrician will install standard. This has happened to me now twice and counting…

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: a quick update: the changes i’ve made to my la living room

Years ago this happened in LA when I wanted to put art lights over our shelves flanking our fireplace, replacing bigger sconces (the same ones that are on the sides of the room). The art lights had a small back rectangular plate, but the J-boxes were 4″ in diameter. Our walls were plaster and therefore switching out the J-boxes to a smaller one and patching them was going to be annoying, but I really wanted these sconces and already had them on hand. We ended up putting them over a piece of painted metal that covered the hole, attached the sconce to that, and called it a day (I wouldn’t do this for a design client or myself now, BTW, but I was ok with it then for whatever reason).

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: a quick update: the changes i’ve made to my la living room

This happened again in our farmhouse in the rooms where there was paneling. I wanted picture light sconces flanking the hood in the kitchen and in the family room but I forgot to catch it in time and the electrician installed the standard 4″ Junction boxes, drilling huge 4″ holes into the beautiful horizontal wood. The sconces I wanted had a 3 1/2″ back plate – not big enough to cover the hole. You can’t patch a wood gap like that so I had to return the sconces I wanted and got bigger ones, which are fine but I wanted these originally.

photo by kaitlin green | from: farmhouse family room reveal

But the thing is that the smaller junction boxes seem to be more expensive so you want to choose them wisely. It’s like smaller canned lights – you might not want to put them everywhere or it can really up your budget, so knowing where you might want those smaller sconces before you finish drywall (or paneling) is important. And yes, you can definitely change out the J-box to make it smaller, you just need to patch/repair the drywall and paint (which is easier than paneling or plaster, but still a thing if you have smooth walls).

But I ALSO want to talk to lighting manufacturers/retail brands about this – I think this should be flagged prominently on the site before buying. Exact canopy size is often not even on specs and FURTHERMORE, sometimes if there are articulating sconces you can’t even see the canopy in the photo. These sconces have a 2″ backplate (not even sure how small of a J-box you would need), and I almost bought these recently for a project but I would have had to redo the drywall. But more and more I’m finding sconces that I want have a small backplate which needs to get caught first.

So my PSA to you is to A. try to find your sconces/ceiling lights early on and B. double check the size of the canopy so that if you have a smaller one you have time to put in a smaller J-box before you order and have to return (or do some annoying patchwork).

Sound off in the comments if I’m wrong about this or if there is a solution that we don’t know about. xx

Opening Image Credits: Photo by Kaitlin Green

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