Little Progress, Lots Of Frustration

To say that this has not been a very productive week would be an understatement. This has been a week filled with one frustration after another. I had high hopes that I’d get lots of work done on the studio, and while I’ve certainly tried, things have just not gone well at all.

I started off thinking that I would tackle an easy project and install the pendant lights and wall sconce that I purchased for the front wall of the studio where the long desk and built-ins will go.

Black pendant lights and wall sconce for the studio

Installing lights is a fairly simple task. Install the mounting plate, connect the wires, and connect the light to the mounting plate. Simple, quick and done!

Except when you order your lights from a company you’re not familiar with (because you found them online and they’re super cheap), only to find out that it takes six to eight weeks to actually get the lights because they’re coming from China and evidently being transported via paddle boat (very frustrating in this Amazon Prime world we live in), and then try to install them only to realize that there are no instructions, there are no screws provided, and the mounting bracket is too small to fit the junction boxes in the ceiling.

On top of that, the wires are red and blue. Red and blue? Where are the black and white? The ribbed and smooth? The solid and striped? Nope, there are none of those wires I’m used to. These are red and blue. And there are just two wires. There’s no ground wire.

After doing some research, I think I’ve finally decided that the red is hot, and the blue is neutral. But I have no idea how I’ll actually install these since the specialized brackets designed to fit the specific lighting designs don’t fit. Argh!!

So after putting the lights aside for now, I decided to focus on something easy and fun — installing the trim around the doors in the back entry. I’ve done this a thousand times, and I actually love installing trim. (Doing all of the wood filling, sanding, caulking, priming and painting is a completely different story, but I enjoy the installation.)

I started with the trim around the back French doors. That went smoothly and quickly. Then I stood back to admire the new trim…

…but rather than being able to admire the trim, my eyes immediately noticed how much taller the bathroom and closet doors looked. Why did the back doors look so much shorter?!

I thought it might just be a matter of perspective. I’m seeing the side doors at an angle, and they’re closer to me. That can make them look taller. I remember having the same reaction when I was trimming out the hallway doors. Even though I knew that those doors were the exact same height, at certain angles, the door closest to the built-in cabinet in the hallway looked much taller.

Hoping that was the case here, I got my tape measure and measured the heights of the doors. And sure enough, the framing on the bathroom and closet doors is two inches higher than the back French doors. Two inches. TWO INCHES!!

That was frustrating, to say the least. There was nothing I could do to raise the framing on the back doors, so the only thing I could do was find a way to lower the top trim on the side doors. I did this by adding a double layer of top jamb trim, which lowered the top header a bit. But I couldn’t lower it enough to make it even with the back doors, because that would have covered up too much of the top of the door.

installing casings on back entry doors

So it is what it is. These are the types of things that drive perfectionists like myself a bit crazy, but you just eventually have to learn to deal with it and move on. And I’m hoping that once the other door (the closet door) is trimmed out to the same height as the bathroom door, the shorter French doors won’t be that noticeable.

That is, if I can ever get the closet door trimmed out. The bathroom door was a challenge because the pocket door frame wasn’t installed level or plumb. So all of the jambs are shimmed. That wasn’t a big deal.

But the closet pocket door frame is beyond unlevel. I mean, in an old house, I have to deal with a lot of things that aren’t level, square or plumb. But this? This beats anything I’ve seen before.

First, I hung the door and got it level. Then I tried installing the side jamb, but there was no way to get it plumb. The side jamb is shoved all the way against the 2 x 4 framing at the bottom…

That jamb is shoved as far to the right as possible. And when the door is closed, it fits snug against the jamb at the bottom.

But the top? Well, the top of the jamb is inside the slot in the pocket door framing where the side jamb is supposed to go, and I have it shimmed so that it’s as far to the left as it can go, and yet it is still so off that there’s a 7/16-inch gap between the jamb and the door.

And if 7/16 of an inch isn’t quite clear, let me clarify that that’s just 1/16-inch shy of half of an inch. HALF AN INCH. And that’s with the jamb already shimmed out from the 2 x 4 over a quarter of an inch.

Anyway, it looks like I’ll have to actually cut away part of the pocket door frame in order to get the side jamb shimmed out enough to actually be plumb. And of course, the top is just as bad. You can see just by looking at it that there’s about a 1/2-inch difference between the left and the right. No need to even pick up a bubble level to check if that framing is level…

So that’s about how my whole week has gone this week. What should have been easy (and generally pretty enjoyable for me) has had me wanting to pull my hair out.

I do hope to get this trim all finished this weekend, though. I’m not quite ready to throw in the towel just yet. And then I’ll head to Home Depot and rummage around in the lighting parts and see if I can find something to help me install my lights. There has to be a way!

In the meantime, have any of you ever installed a light with blue and red wires? Any idea which one of those is hot, and which one is neutral? I tried googling, and didn’t come away feeling 100% confident, but I’m about 75% sure that the red is hot. Right? No? Hopefully one of you will know for sure.



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  1. I know you’ve already trimmed the french doors, but could you take off the top and make it wider? Maybe a too wide board and trim it so that all your door trim is at the same height in the end? Would it bee too much of a difference visually?

    1. Kristie, my first reaction when seeing the picture of the French doors even before you mentionrd the difference in height, was that the trim looked too narrow for those large doors. I’m guessing maybe because of the stark contrast between the black and the white it’s very obvious. Would it solve both problems by making the white trim around the French doors wider/ taller?

      1. Hi Kristie – I agree with Barb…when I saw the picture my first impression as well was the molding above the French doors looked too narrow. I too wonder if making the trim wider might help. Sounds like you’ve had quite a week! Hope things go smoother for you. I so admire all you do and love watching you tackle your projects…you amaze me! I know you’ll figure all this out – you always do 🙂 If I could bother you with a quick question – can you tell me if you’ve ever used the Artist Resin on something you’ve used outdoors? I’d like to do an acrylic pour over glass and wondered if this product holds up outdoors in the sun. Thanks Kristie and good luck!

  2. Electrician husband says “red is hot, white is not” so in this case he says “red is hot, blue is not”

  3. Sorry to hear your week is so frustrating.

    For the red/blue wires – what about temporarily wiring an outlet to it, then use an outlet tester to see if the hot and neutral are correct or reversed??? Just a thought…

    1. That wouldn’t actually help, because light fixtures will work even when they’re wired backward. It doesn’t actually matter for the function of the fixture which is which.

      The only reason you wire them correctly is so that it’s easier to keep track of which side is your hot side for when you’re working on the light.

  4. My husband suggests to try out the lamp wiring using a (weak) battery in order to find out which wire is which and not to blow a fuse 🙂 Good luck with it, and look after yourself!!

  5. I think when all the trim is installed it will look fine. I understand the perfectionist bit, but you’ve got symmetry on the sides, so that will even things out. Sorry to hear you’ve had a frustrating week. Things are looking great. And that wallpaper is an amazing pop of color and mood!!

    1. Totally agree with Trish. It will look fine when both sides are done – and even it they were exact, the angle does play games with the look as you come in. Also, sorry for another frustrating week. We all have them sometimes – look forward to the solutions, and the next BETTER week!

  6. The red wire is live (or hot, as you call it). What I don’t like though is that there is no earth. I personally would rewire the lights, it is not difficult.

  7. The charm of an older home are the imperfections. The houses have settled, things have shifted. Only in a new home will you find perfection. (haha) So don’t sweat the small stuff. The house is beautiful. You have done a great job of restoring it. If it bothers you that much, hang something decorative on the door to add height.

    I too have order from China, only to fine the size scale is very different. I typical toss it in the trash and start over, making sure to check and make sure things don’t come from China in the future.

  8. Why not just strip out the wires and rewire the light correctly to US code? That way you can use the fixture’s frame and not buy a new light and worry about electrical fires.

  9. Kristy, my husband said in AC there is no polarity, so it doesn’t matter which you wire you use for what, but he recommended that you put red to black and blue to white. There doesn’t have to be a neural for this. This really only applies when you are putting lights up in houses.
    He is an electrician so he knows what he is talking about.
    I hope this helps.

    1. Yes to that. I still would rewire them though to make sure they meet the code, have an earth wire, etc.

  10. This can be the problem with buying lighting that’s not wired to our specifications nowadays—also happens with antiques, as my husband tells me whenever I buy antique fixtures. I’m sure you already know you can screw a grounding screw into the base of the light to attach the ground wire to. Will all the doors in that entry area be painted black? That will look super sharp with the white trim.

  11. I don’t know if I explained correctly, but if a light fixture that goes in a house and only two wires coming out of it, those two wires can each hook to either the black or white and it will be fine. The color on the fixture wires aren’t what you tell is hot or not, it’s the wires that come out of the outlet that matter. Usually uniform wires are used so there is no confusion, but only in this case does it not matter. In most other cases is does.

  12. First, you have done a magnificent job on this project. I have admired you and your many talents for a very long time. Therefore, I am going to be extra blunt. GET OVER IT!!!!Leave the damn doors alone and move forward! No one but you will give a damn about TWO inches! I promise! You have done a masterful performance. I commend everything you have accomplished and I would tell any one who MAY question this difference in height, tell them it was done on purpose. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it!!! lol

  13. The lights: Wouldn’t it be less frustrating, less work (and maybe safer) to ditch the lights and call it a lesson learned? I ordered some replacement toilet seat hinges (metal vs. breakable plastic) and they must have been made to fit a Chinese toilet. They were so short that the seat lacked an inch covering the front of the toilet rim. I was trying to save money, but ended up wasting it. I bought from Lowe’s a whole new toilet seat, an expensive one with metal hinges. It fits perfectly.

  14. Sorry for a cruddy week! I vote rewire the lights, so you know they’re safe inside, but still have the look you want outside. I vote not mucking with the trim too much. I know you’ll “see” the difference, but the rest of us won’t. 🙂

  15. On a single-bulb lamp, the colors of the wires shouldn’t make a huge difference as long as there’s only two. The difference is that one goes to the bottom of the socket (where the bottom of the bulb would hit the bottom of the socket) and the other goes to the side (the screw threads). The current can flow either way and will light the bulb. The only danger is if you wire them backwards, the hot can end-up on the screw instead of base of the socket/bulb, with a very minor risk that when changing the bulb, you could complete the ground with your hand and get a shock.

    To give you an idea of the risk, it’s the same exact thing as if when have an older plug-in lamp without the wider plug prong and you can plug it in upside-down. It works fine. It’s just technically safer the other way, which is why newer manufacturing adds the colors to the wire and the wider prongs.

    As for the ground, it’ll work fine without the ground. Again, older homes (like mine) didn’t have ground wires and we’re just instructed to screw the ground wire on a light to the metal work box (typically, you’d have a metal work box in an older home). I’m not sure if you’re supposed to do the same with your new wiring (you probably don’t have a metal box anyway) or if you should just cap it. You might be able to google this or ask one of the guys/gals at Home Depot.

    1. Oh…and the “risk” is probably none in your case. The risk only exists when you’re using a switch leg because the power comes into the light box, not the switch. In that case, if your hand were to touch the screw threads while unscrewing the builb, you could complete the circuit (you become the switch).

      I’m betting your power comes into the switch box (newer way of wiring), tho, which means the power is cut to the builb when the switch is off.

  16. We’ve stopped ordering stuff on Amazon with the long ship dates. Means it’s coming from China and our experience is it usually breaks. Early. And often.

    1. yep I never buy direct from China anymore because there is no such thing as quality when you go that route. I bought a chandelier once and it was laughable, when I pulled it out of the box, it looked nothing like the advertised picture because they were simply knocking off another company’s fixture. It was total plastic garbage. lol

    2. I order quite a bit from eBay, and I see (just for example) light fixtures that one seller is shipping direct from China, but another seller selling the exact same light fixture has an American flag on his ad and advertises “US Seller!” It’s exactly the same item, but they’re selling it out of warehouses located in the states! I’m sure there’s sellers doing similarly on Amazon.

      1. We have found that if it’s shipped directly from China it takes forever and it’s usually a knock off and doesn’t work. Some US products don’t have replacement parts (certain brands of men’s razors) and the chinese replacement part doesn’t work. Also, the shipping costs are astronomical. We don’t do if not Prime, unless shipping within US.

        1. We had a razor experience a few months ago when I ordered blades from eBay. It as for an older electric razor and wound up being the only place that I could find them. After a long wait—my husband used them for the first time and said they felt like they were tearing off hunks of his flesh! Long story short, he bought a new razor just like he should’ve in the first place. lol

  17. I would just add a total of 2″ to the top of that molding using something like a fluted molding and then capped off. Treat it as though that double door is intentionally a bit more important than the other doorways. From the pics anyway, it appears that would work but not being there in person, I might be all wet on that.

    1. I agree. I had to do that with two exterior doors on either side of my fireplace that led out from my living room to a porch They were shorter than the large window in the room on the adjoining wall and my eye couldn’t stand it. So I made the doors more “important” by adding extra molding. My eye liked it so much it insisted on the same treatment with the front entry door.

  18. I would get different light to be safe, or completely rewire these if you want to keep them. Sorry you had such a frustrating week. Hate when that happens to me, it just puts me in a negative frame of mind. Maybe you should have a Netflix and chill weekend!

  19. I’ve installed many pocket doors, so I know they can be tookey. I almost always have to fiddle with them to get them just right.
    I see your right jamb extends above the horizontal above your door. If you cut off the top of that jamb, you can pull it over to cover the edge of the door. You’ll be putting in a horizontal piece above the door that will cover your cut.

  20. What if you tried putting a piece of black painted trim above the French doors to give the illusion they are the same height as the other doors,and then adding back your white trim. Seems like a fairly easy thing for you to try to see if it would work?

  21. I know you are a perfectionist but if you needed a measuring tape to confirm it I am sure that anyone else that looks at it will assume it is a matter of perspective if they notice it at all. As long as the two untrimmed doors match each other just take a deep breath and tell yourself “it is a 1948 home and not everything can be perfect.”

  22. You are an amazing artist and craftswoman. Don’t stress on failures or delays as you have accomplished l

  23. Hi Kristi. I am picky and my worst critic like you. I understand your French door dilemma. I had the same exact issue as you and this is what I did. I wish I had a picture but it is my vacation home and I’m not there!! I too wanted my set of french doors to have more “importance”. I took all my molding off including side pieces, cut a board the width of only the doors (at what ever height you needed to raise it maybe 2 or 3″) painted it the same color as the doors and installed over doors. I put the top molding back on on top of the new board. I cut new side boards (which now have to be longer to reach the top molding) & put them on. Sounds tacky but it really worked and not one person including my husband has ever noticed. It is not doors I ever leave open so it is not like a “black” board is floating above an open door on the wall. Just a thought.

  24. So sorry about your frustrating week. Sounds like there are good ideas about both your problem areas. The thought I keep having is that the area you are having trouble with is brand new, not a renovation. I think you seem generally happy with the contractor who framed the room but keep these details in mind when you start work on the bedroom and bathroom. May be a good idea to let him see what you have to fix before you cover it. Just thinking ahead.

  25. I agree about the doors. I had to do that with two exterior doors on either side of my fireplace that led out from my living room to a porch They were shorter than the large window in the room on the adjoining wall and my eye couldn’t stand it. So I made the doors more “important” by adding extra molding. My eye liked it so much it insisted on the same treatment with the front entry door.

  26. My husband is a master electrician and said the hot wire’s the one that goes to the center post inside the socket and the ground wire goes to the metal part on the outside of the socket. also that you might need a continuity checker he says to determine what’s going on. He says that you could probably do it the opposite way but if someone is fooling around with the light bulb and touches the metal they might get shocked. I once order from China all the stone tile to do the floor of a church sanctuary and it was months of promises on shipping. Then they sold it to someone else who offered them more when it arrived on the dock! The church was opening before Easter and I had to quickly source a suitable local substitute. NEVER again.

  27. Kristy, this is off topic but I am headed to Lowe’s for a 2×4 to make the hanging basket you wrote about with all the 1/2” pieces. It’s my birthday present to myself today! I have had it in my head to make it for Christmas presents for all of my family, so by end of today I will know if I care to make another 19 or so! My question is how has yours held up? Did you seal yours? My husband is concerned the brad nails and glue might need to be replaced with screws in the handle area. Hope you can let me know, before we begin making so many for what I hope will be a sentimental keepsake for our kids, parents and siblings. Thanks so much!

    1. I wouldn’t recommend screws. They will split the wood. The small brad nail are only there to hold the piece together while the wood glue dries. It’s the wood glue that holds the piece together for the long run, so be sure to use the good stuff! (I prefer Gorilla brand.) I didn’t seal mine, and it lasted about three years hung in my tree year round out in the Texas weather. I plan on making another one, and this time, I will be sealing it with two or three coats of a clear coat for outdoor use (which provides UV protection) in a matte finish. My favorite brand for clear coats is General Finishes, which I purchase on Amazon, and I Think they have one for outdoor use. I’m not 100% sure, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen one. I designed the hanging basket based on one that my neighbor has. Hers is painted, and it has lasted the six years that we’ve been here, and it’s still going strong.

      1. Thanks so much for the information. Storms stopped my progress after picking up mylumber, but ready to get started at first dry day!

  28. Didn’t you recently have a post about rewiring your door lamp? Can’t you just get rid of these wires and re-construct the lamps? Would probably make them safer too…

  29. I think all the same height is boring. You MEANT to do this! And who’s looking at door heights? They’re looking at your cool light.