Illuminate a Basement Appartment

Introduction: Illuminate a Basement Appartment

One of my sons lives in a basement apartment. This can be good financially in the big city. It can also be mentally difficult. When the only window is 8" x 24" and at the top edge of the wall, It can begin to feel claustrophobic. I wanted to brighten things up down there for him. The idea came to me one day while looking out a window in my old farm house. It was built by my relatives back in 1864. They weren't big on miter cuts back then. All the trim was made with 90° cuts. This gives these old homes a specific character. The idea bubble above my head wasn't light bulb shaped. It was a large glowing rectangle. What a great idea, I brought up the internet, typed in a search for 2x4 flat panel led. There they were, the answer to the problem at hand. Two flat panel led lights $160. I was excited now.

Step 1: Make It Glow!!

It's pretty hard to take pictures or videos of the windows when lit. The only way to illustrate it is to show you what they can accomplish in a dark room. I was so excited when I hung these and had my son slowly turn them up. Our minds were blown psh!!!

Step 2: So This Is How It Was Done

The panel's measurements were the main thing to keep in mind. That's it 23.74" x 47.71" that is what I built around. Most other measurements were made by an organic process I like to call eyeing it up. I laid some scraps down and made a few executive decisions and jumped in once a shape and size was decided on. I would make enough for two windows worth. I have the wood required kicking around the shop I have a sheet of 3/4" construction grade plywood and enough 1"x4" and 1"x6" pine as well. I don't have a detailed list because it was all there already.

Step 3: Firstly a Backing

The first item was a frame to hold all the pieces. The opening is smaller than the light panel. It will free float in place. I will lie it onto the frame and the trim pieces of the faux window, will screw on to the backing. The cutouts will overlap the light's aluminum frame, hiding it from view while holding the panel in place. That's the master plan.

Step 4: Cut the Pieces

The upright sides were the first trim I cut. Then the upper trim and lower sill. It took some nerve to cut the upper and lower trim that will hold and hide the light frame. I won't explain how it was done, I just hope you will find a safer way if you make one of these.

Step 5: A Fancy Edge

I rounded the edges on most pieces. The upper shelf needed something more, so it was given a nicer edge.

Step 6: Sand and Assemble

I sanded all the pieces nice and smooth. I laid the pieces out and marked where I would need to drill mounting holes.

Step 7: The Electrical Removal

The electrical box was a pain! Double sided tape Arrgh!!

Step 8: Remove the Hangers

Once the electrical box was removed, the hangers had to go as well.

Step 9: Pre Assembly

With the panel ready, I put everything together once before finishing, to be sure all was well.

Step 10: Oh Yeah, Power?

This was when powering up came to mind. I made a run to town.

There is a perfect place in town for all my connections and wires Nutech Electronics.

Step 11: A Controll Box

I love this little Incra jig. It makes box making a breeze.

Step 12: Glue and Drill

I glued it up then made the holes for input and output electrical hookups.

Step 13: Top and Bottom

With the top and bottom screwed on, I sanded all sides flush with a belt sander. Much to dusty for pictures. The Incra protractor came in handy for making the vent hole template.

Step 14: Finishing

I disassembled, stained, and polyurethaned everything. I used brown paper to smooth between coats. It does a great job of polishing the finish to a nice shine.

Step 15: Mount Electrical

I mounted the electrical 110v line and electrical control inside the box.

Step 16: Mounting the 12v Wires

The 12v output connectors are just simple push and insert connectors.

Step 17: Add a Dimmer

These panels have 0 to 10v dimming technology. It works great, there is no buzzing. One problem though, most of the dimmers I found were crazy expensive. I used a VKTECH dimmer from Amazon for this control box. I also ordered one that had a remote. Unfortunately it was advertised as 0 to 10v but wasn't. I then ordered a LUXdrive rotary wall mount from for the other box. Waiting for it to arrive was excruciating. With everything else complete and waiting, I was chomping at the bit to get these delivered. When the dimmer arrived, I was so excited, I forgot to take pictures.

Step 18: Both Controllers

I'm quite pleased with the rotary wall mount control. I was able to disassemble it, and mount the working components. I found a funky retro knob and a great piece of pine for the front of the box. The LUXdrive control is also smoother to operate. The VKTECH didn't come apart, hence the large access hole. The VKTECH also tends to be a bit jumpy when dimming, though it can be set to any brightness. You just have to play around a bit and turn extremely slowly.

Step 19: All Done

I neglected to take pictures of making the 12v cables that connect the controls panel to the windows. It was pretty basic, I just soldered plugs on a 10' wire. I figured with a long wire the control boxes could be set anywhere.

Step 20: Side by Side

Here are both windows in my shop waiting to take the trip to the big city.

Step 21: Home Sweet Home

Here they are hanging in place. One beside the bathroom and one in the kitchen. Now it can always be a sunny day, even when returning home from afternoon shift. Curtains could be added or even a stained glass panel.

Step 22: 110 Watts

These panels are a mere 55 watts, at maximum brightness. It only takes 110 watts to light this entire space. The dimming capability allows you to set the mood nicely.

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    2 years ago

    Thanks! For a title I was thinking something like "False Window for Basement Apartment" but now that you mention it I think you're right about not being able to change the title. At least, I can't tell an obvious way to do it. I like your updated cover photo!


    Reply 2 years ago

    I was originally going to go with "Faux Window for Basement Apartment".
    I just liked the word Illuminate. (-:
    I used Paint Shop Pro to crop the new photo a bit. That did the trick.
    I added a new app to my phone as well. It's called Open Camera. I was able to change the aspect ratio setting to take square pictures. I'll try that in a future Instructable and see if it works better when I publish.


    Reply 2 years ago

    Just a quick update, I found how to change the titles. If you go to edit your instructable and hit save, you'll be brought to a page where you can change the title and tweak the position of your cover photo before you finalize the save.


    Reply 2 years ago

    I still like the word Illuminate I think I'm gonna stick with it.
    Thanks a lot for the info though, and good luck in the Make it Glow contest.


    2 years ago

    Excellent! I've had my mind on doing something like this for years! You did great work here! I think your instructable could get much more visibility with a better title and cover photo. Since you seem to know your stuff, I've got a question for you. The flat panels I've seen all say they are not surface mount, which I assume is because of that box on the back that you removed and relocated. Is the output of that box just 12v DC into the panel? You've got me excited to try it out, thanks for sharing!


    Reply 2 years ago

    Hi gravityisweek,

    Gravity may be weak but it always brings me down.
    I'm not sure I can change the title once it's entered in a contest or not. Though I don't see it listed there yet. I hope it lands beside your Exploding Lamp. Very cool by the way. Any better title suggestions would be welcome though. As for the picture, I was thinking the same thing. Its one of the publishing front end issues at Instructables I need to figure out. I have a few ideas I'm gonna try to see if I can make a better one.
    The power pack is a bit of a pain. I had thought at first, I would incorporate it into the top header panel. Problem then would be running 110v wiring to it, and having to feed the thing with a much thicker wire. Being that the panel is 12v a fairly skinny cable and small connectors can be used. I would also have to have onboard dimming. The control box is an interesting item of conversation as well. I think I made the right choice including it. As for not being surface mount, I do believe that's just because they don't include any frame or hardware for that. I see frames for sale separately though. Just white aluminum though, I think this has more style. Thanks for the compliment. I'm off to your Exploding lamp to reciprocate.