Cover Up:

Building A Custom Valance
For A Fluorescent Strip Light

In This Article:

We rout some 1x lumber to make an interesting profile, assemble it into a partial box using biscuits and glue, and screw it up.

Related Articles:
Skill Level: 3 (Moderate) Time Taken: 2 Hours

By , Editor


This kitchen had a tricky problem... there was a very narrow strip of wall above the window next to the sink. Previously we had run an electrical cable to this spot from a switch nearby. But we could not find a decent looking basic fluorescent light fixture, or any sort of narrow fixture, that could be directly wired to the cable we had provided.


I installed a plain 2-foot long fluorescent light fixture above the window over the kitchen sink. In the past I have seen people leave these fixtures fully exposed, but the plain fixture is downright ugly by today's standards.


So I decided to dress up the fixture by hiding it behind a valance. Since I was already scheduled to install some custom trim between the ceiling and the wall, I figured I could also build a valance for little additional cost.

The basic elements of this design:
  • The long board on the left spanned the entire width of the valance.
  • The short board in the foreground is one of the side pieces.
  • The short board on the right is merely an attachment tab, to provide something to mount this unit to the wall. A simple metal angle bracket could have been used.

These boards were cut from 1x8 pine stock, and the decorative edge was made on a router table, using a Roman Ogee bit. I took this complex approach only because I was set up for making custom trim for this recently remodeled kitchen. Normally I would use off-the-shelf trim, such as colonial baseboard.


I used a standard-sized biscuit joiner to make slots for biscuits. A mini-biscuit joiner should also work.


I glued the mitered cuts together.


Then I secured the miter joints with small brad nails.

Before installing it, I coated the inside of the valance with oil-based primer, to better reflect the light.

After I pre-drilled some holes, I installed the assembly around the light fixture. 

In this case, because of the unusual method of house construction, I was able to just drive screws anywhere above the window and reach a sturdy wood structure. Most normal houses would require either locating a stud, or use of heavy-duty drywall anchors (such as toggle bolts).

This Strange Old House:

This is absolutely the weirdest house I have ever worked on. Sections of the house date back to 1885... but it's not the kind of nice charming old house that you're thinking.  I counted what appear to be at least 6 additions to the original house. It seems that they built it one room at a time. There is still knob-and-tube wiring in the place, which is okay according to the electrician that replaced the fuse box with a proper breaker panel.

I helped the homeowner remodel the kitchen of this house. We tore off about 12 layers of wallpaper plus a layer of thin Masonite. Directly behind that was either exterior wood siding or 3/4 inch thick wood sheathing, or both. There was solid wood sheathing on the inside and outside of the studs. But on the exterior wall (which was a load-bearing wall), the studs were placed at 30 inch centers (zoinks!) and above the window... there was no header! I have no idea what the load bearing capacity of solid wood sheathing is... but there was no sag problem over the window. This weird form of construction is why I was able to easily mount a fluorescent light right above the window trim. On most houses there would be a solid wood header above the window, which could be as tall as a 2x12.


The basic valance mounted on the wall


After the basic valance was installed, I added some smaller trim at the top, just for kicks. Again, I used 3/4 inch thick stock that I milled on a router table, but colonial door stop trim would work just as well.

Then I filled the nail holes with wood filler and primed the wood.


I think it's a respectable-looking fixture (considering the oddness of the house). It sure beats spending hours shopping for an expensive fluorescent light fixture that can fit in the small strip of wall between the window and the ceiling.


About The Tools Used:

I used a few professional-grade tools for this project... but this can be built with simpler tools. The only truly necessary tools are the miter saw (and a miter box could suffice) and a drill. The mitered corners could be attached with ordinary finishing nails and glue. Standard trim shapes could be used. The expensive tools I used merely make this work easier and faster... and more fun.



Tools Used:

  • Miter Saw
  • Router Table
  • Brad Nailer
  • Biscuit Joiner (a.k.a. Plate Joiner)
  • Cordless Drill/Driver

Materials Used:

  • Lumber, 1x6, 1x4
  • Brad Nails
  • Caulk
  • Oil-Based Primer


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Copyright © 2001, 2005

Written January 3, 2001
Revised January 10, 2005