This topic in the series
is - Lighting. The first thing to point out is that fitting working
lights into your dolls house is easier than most people think.
Lighting will add warmth and feeling to your dolls house and give
it a more realistic look.
first thing to decide is what type of system you are going to
use. The two most common systems are:
Whilst there may be specific reasons where one would be used
in preference to the other, we at Dolls House Parade will almost
always recommend the use of the "twin wire" method.
Furthermore, when we install lighting for our customers we always
use this method. Because of this we feel more qualified to base
this feature on the "twin wire" method rather than "copper
Why do we recommend the "twin wire" method over the
- Easier to install
- Less to go wrong
Read all about it in our Lighting
Twin Wire - How It Works
The transformer plugs into the mains and the wires from this
are attached to the power strip, which is normally attached to
the back of the house. Most lights come with 24 inches (60cm)
of wire with a plug on the end, which fits as standard into this
system. Simply plug your light in to the power strip sockets (a
standard power strip will have 12). So that you are able to test
your lights you will need a transformer and power strip to get
started, but other than that you need only buy a single light
(or as many lights as you want).
Where possible it is always better to plan your lighting right
at the outset of your dolls house project. The best time to prepare
is when your house is still in kit form.
Firstly you must decide upon the location of your lights and
the routes the wires (on your lights) will take. Ideally, preparations
should be made before other tasks such as wallpapering and flooring
are undertaken. This will avoid causing damage to your decorations
through installing the lighting later.
Once these planning decisions have been made you are ready to
go and buy some or all of your equipment. Because of the individual
nature of "twin wire" the only necessary items required
for you to begin are the transformer and power strip -
and presumably at least one light.
Now you must create the paths for your wiring.
Dusty's Tip: It is much easier if this
work (drilling holes and scoring grooves) can be done before the
house is assembled. If you perform a dry run build (see Hints
& Tips - External Decorating) it is quite easy to map out
where the lights will go which will then enable you to drill and
groove before assembling your house.
If, for example you are fitting a ceiling light then you must
decide on where you want to position it.
Dusty's Tip: To find the centre of
a room simply draw a diagonal line from one opposing corner to
another and then repeat between the other two corners. Where the
lines cross is the centre of the room.
a ceiling light you must now drill two holes - one through the
ceiling above where you want to hang the light and the second
out through the back wall of the house where you want the wire
to exit. This will obviously be dependant on the route, which
you have chosen for your wires to run.
Dusty's Tip: I would always recommend
running wires across a floor rather than a ceiling because it
is easier to hide wires under a floor covering rather than one
for a ceiling.
The holes should be drilled using a drill bit with a slightly
greater diameter than the wire - remember the smaller the holes
the neater the job.
lights are best positioned on the rear wall of the house. This
will save the need to groove walls etc. With a wall light you
will only need to drill one hole (the exit hole). This (unlike
all the other wiring jobs) is best done after the wallpaper has
been hung. Where wires are to run across a floor the neatest possible
job will be achieved by laying the wire in a groove This groove
can usually be created by simply cutting a V-shape in the floor
with a sharp chisel or knife. Always ensure that the groove is
smooth - to avoid sharp edges damaging the wires.
Dusty's Tip: never bury the wires on
a permanent basis with filler etc. - while the lights are usually
reliable you may need to carry out maintenance or even replace
at some time.
Dusty's Tip: Never secure flooring
permanently. If you are using carpet or flooring papers, attach
these to a piece of thin card, i.e. from a cereal box. This can
then be fixed in place by double sided tape - which can then easily
be removed if required.
However, if you are doing the work on a previously constructed
house you must make the best use of the tools and space available
Tip: It is OK to drill angled holes for your wires (i.e. when
using a large drill this may be easier) provided the angle is
in the direction of the wire run.
Again with the exit hole at the rear, the closer to the floor
you drill the hole the neater the job will be, i.e. use the floor
as the exit route by angling the drill - see diagram.
with a table lamp the wire will trail from the lamp as it is designed
to do with this type of light. We recommend that the wire is trailed
to exit from the nearest point on the back wall and as low down
to the floor as desired.
N.B. skirting boards may influence what is the best exit point
for the wire.
Lighting in Attic or Mansard Type Rooms
For a flat roof house we would recommend the use of wall lights
A sloped roof can accommodate ceiling lights. It is always best
to use lights on a chain because the chain is not affected by
the slope of the roof and therefore the light will hang correctly.
A fixed light will poke out at an angle. Drill your hole out onto
the back of the roof and then make a groove down the roof for
your wire to lay in. Your roofing material will then hide the
Dusty's Tip: Always make sure that
no glue goes into the groove where it would fix the wire in position.
You should always try to keep wires free to run - in case they
ever need to be removed.
Selection of Transformer
To power your lights you will need a transformer and you should
get this before you install any lights (this will allow you to
test individual lights before installing them).
Always remember the number of bulbs
and not the number of lights determines the transformer power
The normal rule of thumb is as follows:
||Number of Bulbs
||1 to 18
||1 to 60
You should bear in mind that a 6 room house with a single tulip
lamp in each room adds up to 6 bulbs (and will only require a
1 amp transformer) however a 5 arm chandelier in each room totals
30 bulbs and therefore requires a transformer rated at 2 amps.
Adding Glowell fires and possibly Xmas tree lights further increases
the demand on the transformer. If you use a 2 amp transformer
you should use 2 powerstrips and balance the bulb load evenly
over the two. Clearly for a standard 6 room house with average
lighting, a 1 or 2 amp transformer will be sufficient, however
if further capacity is required, please call one of our shops
and we can advise you.
Now that the route has been prepared and the equipment bought
you can install your light(s).
Dusty's Tip: It is always best to test
your lights before installing them to make sure they work -
simply connect the transformer to the powerstrip and plug in the
Dusty's Tip: If a light comes with
a plug attached it is easily removable.
lights come with a 24inch (60cms) length of wire with a plug attached.
The first step is to remove the plug, which can be done quite
easily. Simply pull out the 2 pins with a pair of tweezers or
small pliers. Do not pull the pins out with your teeth - as dental
bills can greatly increase the cost of your lighting. Then, holding
the plug, pull gently on the wire - this will remove the plug.
You can now feed the wire through the holes (in the ceiling and
rear wall) and if necessary lay it in the groove.
Once you have the wire routed through to the back of your house
you can now refit the plug. This is done by first feeding the
twin wire through the central hole in the plug. Then one wire
is placed into each of the two holes on the other side of the
plug - first ensuring that the end of the wire is bared to ensure
a good contact.
Push the brass pins back - one in each hole.
Dusty's Tip: Always make sure there
are no loose strands of wire poking out from the pins - you should
not be able to see any bare wires - as this can lead to
"shorting". Re-trim the wires if necessary.
If you have laid the wire across the floor, whether in a groove
or not, a piece of thin masking tape should be used to flatten
and hold the wire into position. The wire is very thin and if
you have chosen not to create grooves, a piece of masking tape
will ensure the wire runs very flat against the floor and should
prevent it from showing through your flooring. Now fix the light
itself in place using Tacky Wax.
Dusty's Tip: some lights have sticky
adhesive pads - which we find do not secure the light for long.
It is best to remove these - carefully as wires are soldered under
the pad - and apply Tacky Wax.
Dusty's Tip: we would never recommend
using glue when securing your lights. Tacky wax will achieve a
firm fixing but will still allow the light to be moved for maintenance
are now ready to plug into the power strip and sit back and admire
Hopefully your wires will reach the powerstrip, but if not extension
leads are available and simple to fix. A final tip for tidying
up the wires at the back of the house is to use masking tape to
fix the wires neatly to the house.
What to do if a light doesn't work
Check that the powerstrip works. If the fuse has gone, the light
on the powerstrip will be lit. If necessary replace the fuse (always
use the fuse designed for the powerstrip). You can also test by
plugging in a different light, preferably using the same socket.
Check that the bulb(s) in the light are OK. Replace them to test
Check that the wire and pins in the plug are making a good contact
- remember that no contact will be made if the wires have
not been bared of insulation in the plug.
Check that there are no breaks in the wire - although this will
be very unusual unless you have accidentally cut through it while,
for example cutting out some flooring.
This twin wire method is very easy to install and requires little
or no maintenance. We also feel that once installed it is more
resilient than copper tape and will give less problems in later
However for those still intent on using the copper tape system
we have a booklet available for sale:
to Electrify Using Copper Tape"
Dusty's Tip: If using copper tape always
use non toxic wallpaper pastes when papering - other pastes can
cause a reaction with the copper which causes green staining
If after reading these tips you are still unsure about lighting
your house please contact us and we can give you further advice
- or even install the lighting for you.
N.B. This feature is based on the products we sell and the information
given is based on those products. Where different items are used
this information may not apply.
Obviously space does not permit us to discuss all lighting topics,
however we have tried to cover the questions, which are asked
most frequently in our shops.
Good luck with your lighting and I hope this feature will have
helped to answer some of your questions and also enable you to
avoid some of the pitfalls, which can happen especially when lighting
your first house.
If you have any queries that have not been answered by this feature
please contact us on
Tel: 020 8295 0688
or Fax: 020 8295 1061
We will do our best to answer your questions with the help of
our own expert builder Dave "Dusty" Caswell.
If you need any more help or advice, or have any suggestions
for topics you would like to see featured in the future, or you
have your own hints and tips you would like to share with your
fellow miniaturists, please e-mail us at: