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Old 09-03-2016, 10:06 PM   #1
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Removing recessed light housing from mirrored ceiling


Trying to figure out what to do here on a seemingly straight forward problem and it got messier and messier.

I have this house where the previous owner basically turned into a "man cave" so to speak and did a lot of additions which I end up having to get undone for a variety of reasons.

In one of the living room / kitchen area, he has glued mirrors onto the ceiling, and actually he also glued full length mirrors on the walls in the bedroom, which kind of making it look like that endless reflection fight scene in one of the Bruce Lee's movies, but I was successful in removing the wall mirrors.

Now my focus is onto the ceiling, specifically the recessed lights on the ceiling. The purpose of this thread is to see if there is a non-destructive method to remove the recessed light housing from the ceiling safely and painlessly.

He has remodel recessed light housings installed - fitted onto the ceiling sheetrock. Then I believe some time later he got the idea of mounting mirrors up there, so he cut holes in each mirror panel and glued on the mirrors. The problem is the hole size he cut on the mirror allow the trim piece to be installed, but the hole is SMALLER than the bottom flange of the housing. Now that flange is sandwiched between the sheetrock and the mirror and there is no way to remove these housings. He should have removed the housings, mount his mirrors, then reinstall the housing. So now I have to find a way to remove these housings from below.

Here is a sketch of what I am describing.



So let me back up a step here.

Why do I want to remove the housings? There are a number of reasons. But the #1 reason is he installed non-IC rated cans and he got blown insulation in his attic that is too close too these cans. I can see it from 20' away with a flashlight but I cannot get to it due to lack of head room in many areas. Whether I remove the housing and stick my hand up the hole to push the insulation away, or install new IC rated cans, either way, I need to be able to remove these cans. Besides, the remodel can junction boxes are supposed to be accessible (by releasing the clips and lowering the housing), if they aren't accessible, then it's a code violation.

There are a total of 20 recessed lights, of which about half I can get to from above, and half I cannot reach.

What about just breaking the mirrors from below, refinishing the ceiling and leave the lights? Well that is one option. But this option is extremely expensive and time consuming. Because the previous owner has created a "tray ceiling" with a recessed light in each of the "tray". Then he built wood trims all around them. Like this.





So to remove the mirrors mean removing all this stuff. Not really my taste but still...oh and even worse, he set his custom kitchen cabinets and built in pantry, refrigerator and oven cabinets high, only several inches below the ceiling, so there is no way to demo all the ceiling to the edge without having to remove all the cabinetry below.





So back to the problem...is there a relatively pain and safe way to remove a 6" remodel housing from the ceiling, if the bottom flange of the housing is blocked in by a mirror?





Right now, my thinking is to use a dremel tool with a metal cutting disc, to cut the entire housing from the inside, like how you would use an internal pipe cutter, as close to the flange as possible. This will leave the thin slice of flange in place, which I will then try to tease out with an aviation tin snip. But that will end up destroying 20 cans, not to mention long hours on a ladder facing up with a mask and eye protection.

I am hoping someone has a better idea.
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Old 09-03-2016, 10:27 PM   #2
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Re: Removing recessed light housing from mirrored ceiling


I am thinking that there should be some kind of release spring mechanism somewhere inside the can.

If you can release them from the drywall hole, you can then yank them out from the topside by the wiring.

If not you will probably be doing MAJOR remodel work on this one.


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Old 09-03-2016, 10:44 PM   #3
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Re: Removing recessed light housing from mirrored ceiling


There is a pair of release spring to remove the trim ring. That's done.

Then there are 3 clips that secures the can to the top side of the sheetrock. Those clips are off so the can can be removed from below. What is stopping the removal is the bottom flange on the housing has a larger OD then the ID of the mirror hole.

The housing are supposed to be installed from the bottom of the ceiling, not sandwiched between the now "two layers" of the ceiling.

I hope it makes sense.
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Old 09-03-2016, 11:02 PM   #4
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Re: Removing recessed light housing from mirrored ceiling


It made sense, I was hoping that there was just a small flange on the lower side of the sheetrock, and it would pull through from the top with minimum force needed to rip it out.

Maybe you can find a DIAMOND burr cutting bit for your dremel and ream out enough of the mirror to slide the thing down without breaking the mirror for each can. CAUTION USE SAFETY GLASSES , you only get one pair of eyes per lifetime.

I have been minus one for 38 years now and kick myself often for being in too much of a hurry to take proper safety precautions.



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Old 09-04-2016, 09:17 AM   #5
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Re: Removing recessed light housing from mirrored ceiling


Try cutting the circle with the dremel as you describe. Then push the can up out of the way in the ceiling. Reach in the hole with the Dremel and cut the flange into six or eight segments by cutting down through the sheetrock. The flange segments should come out easily.
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Old 09-04-2016, 09:20 AM   #6
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Re: Removing recessed light housing from mirrored ceiling


The flange below, and the clips from above are what holds the light steady. I can free the clips from below. For more than half the lights (over 10 of them) I have no access from above, as the head room gets to 12" and less.

But some lights I do have access from above, even in this hot Florida weather the attic is like 120 degrees. However there is no way the sheetrock will break around the edges, it's 3/4" sheetrock and the holes were cut perfectly with a hole saw as I can see the edges from above. If I try to push, bend, tuck or brute force it, more than likely the mirror would crack before the sheetrock will break enough, or both. Once a mirror cracks, I am committed to remove all mirrors and all wood trimwork and all cabinets etc...

Yes I hear you about working with the mirrors. I know messing with the mirrors with the face up is hazardous. Whatever dust or debris can get into your eyes, ouch.
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Old 09-04-2016, 09:24 AM   #7
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Re: Removing recessed light housing from mirrored ceiling


One other idea. If I get a piece of 3/4" plywood. and cut a 12" wide strip say 4' long, then use a hole saw to cut an 8" diameter hole on the 12" strip of plywood. Then mount the wood across the wood trim with the hole centered around the 6" light.

Is there some sort of a diamond blade hole saw that can cut mirrors that I can use that plywood hole as a drill guide to cut a new 8" hole through the mirror and sheetrock? The light would just fall out and I can install new 8" housings.
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Old 09-04-2016, 12:28 PM   #8
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Re: Removing recessed light housing from mirrored ceiling


Thinking out loud, I have seen Tom Cruise break into a glass building a hundred story high by cutting a large circular hole from the outside...so how hard can this be compared to that right? LOL.

So there are tools that would score circles on mirrors and glass. Like this:



It attaches to the middle with a suction thing, which I know I don't have anything in the middle, but I may be able to fashion something.

Then I score an 8" hole all the way around, and attempt to break it clean...Once the mirror hole is enlarged, the housing would just call out with the clips released. I will just have to enlarge the holes in the sheetrock which is no challenge.

Then it will be ready for 8" housings.

I just have to do it 20 times...
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Old 09-04-2016, 01:31 PM   #9
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Re: Removing recessed light housing from mirrored ceiling


I have cut glass with those tools, it IS NOT as easy as TV / movies show it to be.

But with care and intelligence you too can be a burglar.

The cutter only etches a line in the glass and then you REASE the break to follow the line.

One other point Safety tempered glass , do not even try it, it won't work.


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Old 09-04-2016, 06:35 PM   #10
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Re: Removing recessed light housing from mirrored ceiling


The aluminum in those can is very soft and thin---I bet that you can slit the inside of the can pry the slit and collapse it---thus pulling the flange from between the mirror and the drywall----

I would try making the cut with a Multi-tool---the blade should cut that thin stock nicely.
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Old 09-04-2016, 07:01 PM   #11
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Re: Removing recessed light housing from mirrored ceiling


Are you 100% positive those are not IC cans ? What is the make and model of them ?

While they are definately not air tight, they do appear to be aluminum.
Most aluminum cans are IC rated. The non IC cans are generally painted steel.
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Old 09-10-2016, 12:01 PM   #12
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Re: Removing recessed light housing from mirrored ceiling


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Are you 100% positive those are not IC cans ? What is the make and model of them ?

While they are definately not air tight, they do appear to be aluminum.
Most aluminum cans are IC rated. The non IC cans are generally painted steel.
Duhhhh...I think you are right. On closer inspection the manufacturer and model number is "JIMWAY C7ICR(H2)". So I guess it is IC rated and cellulose insulation contact is OK.

However I still would like to remove them but knowing they are IC rated may buy me more time as one of the big worries is gone.

On the above, the electrical connections made to these recessed lights is not correct. He apparently used a flat head screw driver to push the KO hole in then slid the wire into the remodel box on top of the light, then made the connection. There is not any kind of connector, and the original round "disk" is still inside the box, just pushed in. He did that for all 20 or so lights. If anyone in the attic walks on these wires and get them under any tension they could be pulled loose and create a short. To make the proper connection I also need to be able to access the remodel box. So I am back to the same point, half the lights I cannot get to from the attic.

But knowing they are IC rated helps! I can now see what lights I can access and remade the connections from above, and the ones I can't reach, may be I don't remove them but disconnect the wiring from the rest of them, until I either remove them or enlarge the hole size or something else.
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Old 09-10-2016, 12:30 PM   #13
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Re: Removing recessed light housing from mirrored ceiling


With regard to the non-IC, I was going to suggest LED lights ... but not an issue now.

As to the non clamped wiring... can anyone (small person) get back to the cans... there are plastic clamps that can be retrofit (pushed on) from the outside without any rewiring issue.

Or to mitigate potential problems.... can you just staple down your feeds wherever they could be stepped on/disturbed.
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Old 09-10-2016, 01:16 PM   #14
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Re: Removing recessed light housing from mirrored ceiling


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can anyone (small person) get back to the cans...


It would need to be really small where the roof pitched to 12-14" of head room with insulation.
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Old 09-10-2016, 03:25 PM   #15
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Re: Removing recessed light housing from mirrored ceiling


Removing the cans should be fairly simple. But whether you can replace them through the tight hole in the mirrors is another question.

To remove them, I would make one circular cut above the hold down clips and below the adjustable bracket holding the socket. After pushing the upper half of the can clear, I would release the clips.

Then reach up and grasp the cut edge/side wall of the lower half and pull sideways parallel to floor and ceiling. This should pull a portion of the flange out from between the mirrors and drywall. I would then push on that exposed flange to continue the collapse of the cylinder. This should pull two "wings" of the collapsing cylinder inward. Grabbing the wings and folding them inward should get you to a point where you can slip the rest of the flange free of the mirrors.

The IC cans are light gauge aluminum and bend/fold fairly easily. A lot easier than the steel non-IC cans. It should be even easier after cutting away the upper half/cap end of the can.

Depending on which can you replace them with, reinstallation might be a problem depending how tight they cut those holes. With drywall you can always force a tight fitting screw or clip thru. With glass, that may result in edge chipping or a major crack.
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