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How-To Basements
Hometime Logo Dean Johnson
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Trans 1) Lower Level Planning Trans
2) Plumbing & Fixtures
3) Framing
4) Veneer Plaster Walls
5) Lighting
6) Finishing Details
7) Fun Extras


In many homes, just a small amount of ambient light enters a lower level. For that reason, a well-designed lighting scheme is necessary. We decided to install a programmable lighting system that controls every series of lights in the house.

Roughing-In Programmable Lights

recessed light fixture We used a computerized system of lighting controls in the lower level that can program any set of lights to turn on and off at any control pad in the house.

The rough-in was the same as any other lighting rough-in. We used several groups of recessed light fixtures to illuminate the lower level. What is different with the programmable system is how the lights are controlled:

In regular systems, power is basically run directly to a switch, then from the switch to the lights you want it to control.


blueprintWith the programmable system, power is run to a series of control modules. Power runs from the modules to the lights with regular 14-gauge, non-metallic sheathed cable. These runs are known as home runs. Low-voltage, control wires are run from the control pads to the programmable central control unit. This unit is connected to each control module to operate the lights.

wiring the home run To save on both cable and the number of control modules you need, it's best to group as many lights as possible on each home run by wiring them together, just as you would group a series of lights to a single switch in a typical system.

So before starting a rough-in for a programmable system like this, you need to plan the groupings and have the right number of control modules on hand.

marking the electrical cableThe programming for our system required addresses for each group of lights -- you should designate those before you start so you can clearly label the end of each home run back at the control modules. Otherwise, you could easily get the cables mixed up at final hook-up.

installing switch boxSwitch boxes for the control pads are nailed in just like a typical system. But as detailed above, low-voltage wires are run from those back to the central control unit (which we put upstairs for easier access to the home computer).

Each pad can hold up to 9 separate buttons, so you can create a wide variety of lighting combinations from any one of the switch pad locations.

And if you want to change the pad that controls a light, you don't have to rewire it. You just reprogram it.


Lower Level Lighting Options

In lower level and basement projects, a prime concern is providing adequate lighting and avoiding dark, cave-like effects that poor lighting create. Here are three different lighting options we mixed together in this project.

finished lightingRecessed Lights provide the main illumination in the lower level, casting pools of light down over areas where it's needed the most but without creating the "navigational" hazards of hanging lights which don't work well in low-headroom areas.

Wall Sconce Wall Sconces light up the ceiling which would otherwise be left darkened in rooms with only recessed lights. This uplighting not only brightens the room but makes the ceiling seem a bit higher.

Under-Cabinet LightingUnder-Cabinet Lighting eliminates the shadows falling on countertop surfaces below wall cabinets. Our lights run off a low-voltage system with tiny 10-watt bulbs clipped to a single cable stapled below the cabinets.

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