I have a normal, small closet (approximately 46”x24”).

I am doing electrical work and on that occasion I’d like to add some light to the closet.

I was thinking just adding a normal j-box (e.g. Carlon 18cu round ceiling light) above the closet door and running a simple #12-2 to it.

I could immediately put one of these ceramic fixtures with a light bulb on it.

But down the line I’d like to have something fancier … I thinking of a very flat LED light (similar to a recessed light but installed in said jbox), possibly with motion sensor.

Is this the best, future proof way or is there anything else I should consider?

Here is a picture taken upwards into the closet:

enter image description here

You can see the upper part of the door and on the ceiling the hole that I currently cut for other (unrelated) electrical work. It will be closed once the work is done. I marked with the red dot where I thought installing the round box for a closet light later on would be a good idea.

Note, all of this is lath and plaster, not drywall.


2 Answers 2


Two things:

Metal Box

A metal box has a bunch of advantages over a plastic box and really no downsides that I know for this type of application.

Even though there are fixtures with integral boxes, so a separate junction box may not be required, I would still recommend putting in a box as it will keep your options open, including for any future replacements.

If you don't have any wood going across the ceiling in just the right place, one very common solution is an adjustable hanger/box like this example from Amazon:

adjustable hanger

These are the standard solution for fans, because an old work box won't hold up a fan safely even before it starts spinning. But there is nothing wrong with using them on "only" a light.

Light Fixture Limits

See this example for a full explanation but basically code does not allow the old "bare bulb on a ceramic fixture sticking out with a pull string" any more. Not because of the pull string but because of the bare incandescent bulb. Basically you want surface mount, low power (= low heat) LED or fluorescent fixtures designed for this type of space. Surface mount is important (aside from "code") because (a) something sticking out is more likely to get messed up in a crowded closet when moving things around and (b) something sticking out could get inadvertently covered by clothing, and even LED lights produce enough heat that prolonged direct contact (you're rearranging stuff and get a phone call and forget about it...) is serious fire safety issue.

  • Metal Box: I need an old work box version. That only leaves me with plastic, I believe (correct me if I am wrong). Other downside of metal is you need to ground it. Not big issue but just another thing that's annoying, especially when dealing with stiff #12's...
    – divB
    Nov 13, 2023 at 21:25
  • There are plenty of ways to mount a metal box. In fact, that's one of the advantages of a metal box. But yes, if you have an arbitrary section of drywall and no wood already in the wall on one side or another of where you want to put the box and no other reason to rip into the wall then an "old work" box can be easier than a metal box. Grounding is not a big deal. Nov 13, 2023 at 22:46
  • I took a picture upwards into the closet: snipboard.io/HiFhBA.jpg . You can see the closet door. In the ceiling you can see the hole I created for different electrical work. I marked in red where I thought putting the round box for a light above the door. I don't think there is a stud next to it. My idea would have been to drill a hole (angle drill) upwards where I can fish it via the existing ceiling hole (which will be patched later). Additional pain: It's lath and plaster, not drywall and yes, I want to minimize holes in the wall at all cost. Any creative suggestions welcome!
    – divB
    Nov 13, 2023 at 23:42

If you are thinking of a "pancake" thin LED light, they do not require a jbox. Just install it from the beginning.

A motion sensor can replace the switch for any light you install.

If there is some reason that you really want the ceiling box, you are good with your choice of the round. Most any fixture will be able to be attached to it. Just look for "surface mount" fixtures.

Here is a link that has many LED light options with and without the need for jboxes.

The decision is now in your hands.

  • But I do not want to think about all the specifics right now. I just want to close the work and prepare a future proof way to add a light later on. But it seems with a round ceiling box I should be set, also for a "surface mount" LED light with motion sensor...
    – divB
    Nov 13, 2023 at 21:29

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