LED lights are inexpensive and very bright – two things that combine to make a great garage light. LED lights use very little electricity, burn cooler, and have a long life – what’s not to like?
If you need a brighter light in your garage or garage shop, replace your ceiling fixture with a store-bought LED shop light (a huge improvement over a fluorescent 2-tube light fixture) or make your own at a fraction of the cost. I wanted more light over my work table, so I built one. Instead of the 4 foot LED fixture, I made one 8 feet long and hung it over my work area.
The one I built cost half of what a store-bought fixture costs, it is much bigger, much brighter, and it works on a remote “clicker” that is a dimmer switch. For something like $25, I had a 16 ½’ spool of LED lights, the dimmer switch, and transformer shipped to my house.
Now I have plenty of light exactly where I need it. The design is simple and if you have all your materials ready to go, the whole project can be done in a couple of hours.
Step 1: Materials
Two 1x6x8' pine boards (Get an extra foot of board if you do not have any scrap wood to make two end pieces.)
Four feet of jack chain
Two screw eyes
S hooks (appropriate size for jack chain opening)
Roll of double-sided adhesive tape
5m spool of LED lights on adhesive-backed strip
Transformer for LED strip
Dimmer remote (optional)
Hammer and small nails or pin nailer
Wire cutter or hack saw (for jack chain)
Wire stripper, wire nuts (if you do not have an electrical outlet within 5 feet of where this light fixture is to go,)
Step 2: Paint
As a first step, consider painting all of your wood with a bright white gloss paint (for maximum reflectivity.)
You can wait to paint until the fixture is constructed just allow time for the paint to dry completely before installing the peel-and-stick tape.
Step 3: Assemble Components
Consider pre-painting all wood surfaces - or paint once you've constructed the fixture - no need to wait for glue to cure once nails have been driven.
The light fixture you will be building is simply an "L" of two 8' boards glued and nailed along one long edge. Two triangles are needed for end pieces and can be made of any material or eliminated all together. Light looks better with end pieces and ends provide an anchoring point for strip light.
Apply yellow carpenter's glue along one long edge of one board and attach down the edge of the other board's face. Two right triangles serve as end pieces.
Step 4: Add Lights
Once your fixture is dry, time to install the lights.
The lights are mounted on a peel-and-stick backing in a narrow strip over 16 feet long. They are low voltage, so you need a transformer to step the current down. The remote control is optional, but for six bucks, I thought it would be handy.
You can order LED strips with 150 lights on a 5 meter strip (16’4”) or 300 lights per 5 meters. There are LED lights that are larger (thus brighter) than others (the chips are 5.0mm x 5.0mm or 3.5 x 2.8mm.) Without getting too complicated, order the higher density of the larger chip and you’ll have the brightest light available.
I chose an 8 foot fixture mostly because one spool of lights is 16.3 feet; making one loop inside my light fixture came out almost perfect (16 feet for sides and a little under a foot for the two ends.) A feature of a strip of LED lights is that the strip can be cut to different lengths with common scissors. The strip of lights has a mark every few inches; cutting the strip on one of these marks will not damage the lights.
The LED light strip peel-and-stick adhesive backing is pretty good, but I learned the hard way that the heat and humidity in my garage shop causes the adhesive to fail over time. To remedy that, first install a good quality double faced adhesive strip around the entire interior of the fixture. That will be 8 feet down one side, another 8 feet up the other side, and figure on a foot more for the ends for a total of 17 feet, so buy a roll at least that long.
Center the double edge tape as you adhere it down one side and up the other. You should remove the protective cover strip from only one side of this tape while installing it; be sure to remove the other protective cover strip once it is in place. Remove the protective cover strip from your LED light strip as you press it into place on the exposed double sided tape. At the one end that requires a bend in the LED strip, just fashion a broad loop and adhere it without making any sharp bends. At the other end, you should have a few inches too much LED light strip; you can cut the LED light strip AT THE MARKING PROVIDED. LED light strips can be cut with regular scissors, but only at the spot on the light strip that is marked for cutting. If in doubt - read the literature that comes with the spool of lights and examine the light strip closely to find the "cut here" marking.
Step 5: Install Light Fixture
The paint is dry and the lights are installed so you are now ready to hang the fixture.
Install small screw eye at each end of fixture where boards join. I felt more comfortable using an eye bolt passing entirely through the wood and fastened with a nut - but I tend to overbuild :-)
Install or locate attachment point on ceiling (if you're lucky, there will be something on the ceiling like a garage door opener L bracket you can use.) If you don't find an attachment point, make sure you go into a ceiling joist with a sturdy screw hook. Do not rely on wall anchors into drywall of ceiling.
Using small S hooks, run jack chain from screw eye up to ceiling attachment point and secure with S hooks or other appropriate fastener.
Another advantage of today's LED strip lights is convenience - they typically require no wiring. You will need to connect your LED strip into a transformer (LED strip lights are low voltage) and the transformer plugs into a wall outlet. If you got the optional dimmer device, it simply plugs into the line from the transformer. The whole thing is "plug-and-play" if you have a nearby electrical outlet. Most garage ceilings have a ceiling-mounted duplex receptacle near the garage door opener motor housing; you can plug your new light into that outlet. If you are too far away or there is no outlet, plan on doing a bit of simple wiring - or hire an electrician!
If there is a ceiling light (normally operated from a wall switch) you can tie into the electrical box underneath that light. This gives you the convenience of having a wall switch for your new LED fixture. When you have the original ceiling light on, the dimmer remote will allow you to dim or turn off the LED fixture independently.
Step 6: Enjoy or Expand
Enjoy your new light - you will be amazed how much light it puts out. But, if you want even MORE light, a nice thing about LED lights is that you can add more lights without much increase in electric load on the circuit. Also, being "plug-and-play," adding another spool of lights (or several spools) is quite easy. You simply plug one into the other - that's it! So if you want to light up all the remote corners of your garage, that's a simple matter of building another fixture, mounting the lights, and plugging the two together.
The literature that accompanies your LED shipment will explain how this is done (and the connectors are shipped with your lights in case you need them.)