How-To: Replace a Fluorescent Light (Tube)


While most people feel confident changing a standard bulb, a fluorescent light (sometimes improperly called neon tube) might be intimidating. Even I, although I rarely look for instruction, did a bit a research the first time I replaced one. The research did not last long though and you too will be amazed at how straightforward it is.

Be very careful not to break the tube, old or new, in the process. The chemical inside (mercury) is toxic. It must be disposed of properly.

1. Switch off

For safety reason, switch the light off. While you do not need to switch the entire power supply off for this operation (the light wall switch is enough, or if available the switch on the device), if you have any doubt I suggest you to do so.

2. Get a stepladder

It is likely that you will need a stepladder to reach the light. Even if you can touch it standing on the floor, it is better to make yourself comfortable and get a good look at the device.

3. Remove old tube

Reach for the tube and gently grip it with both hands. Now rotate for a quarter turn until it stops. This will rotate the socket in which the prongs sits and allow you to slide the tube downward.

Here is how the mechanism work:


Fluorescent light


The old tube is now removed. Please note the fluorescent tube are harmful to the environnement so avoid breaking it and dispose them properly (check with your local recycling service).

4. Install new

Slide the prongs new tube in the now open socket. Both sides at the same time. When it is in place, rotate the tube for a quarter turn to lock it in position.

5. Switch on

Now you may switch on the light (either at the device, wall or general power supply) and bask in the light your achievement.

How-to: Zen and the Art of Assembling IKEA

Zen IKEA Le Handyman
"Assembling of Japanese bicycle require great peace of mind" - Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig.

This advice is given by Phaedrus, the main character in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, during a discussion about instructions. Phaedrus argues that to assemble is to test our own serenity. If we do not have it when we start a project and maintain throughout the task, we are likely to build our own personal problems into the machine, or furniture in our case. The furniture cannot be right or wrong: its Quality lies within our relation with it. Or simply put, the satisfaction it gives you.

Later in the book, the author Robert Pirsig explains that to maintain that serenity, one must be aware of gumption traps and avoid them. He defined gumption trap as an event or mindset that can cause a person to lose enthusiasm for what she is doing and become discouraged from starting or continuing a project.

To simplify there are setbacks, which are cause by external events (i.e. you are missing a piece) or lack of knowledge, and hang-ups, which are internal factors that distract from the job (i.e. you got impatient and damaged a piece).

Before we get too philosophical, here is some down-to-earth advice to avoid falling into these traps when assembling IKEA furniture. It's all about the preparation.

You might find some of the advice here a bit excessive but remember the goal is to retain peace of mind. And I guarantee it works.


1. Choose the right box

It seems obvious but if you chose a dented package there is a good chance the furniture inside is damaged/scratch. The packaging is very thin, only a cardboard, and does not offer much protection to the pieces inside. Since you have made the trip to Ikea, you can choose the package yourself so carefully inspect them and pick the right one.

2. Bring it home Safely

Once again, because of the low protection you will need to be careful when loading/unloading the package in your car. Do not force it. (If you happen to live in Lille, we provide a pick-up service).

3. Know Thyself

Although IKEA is known for designing easy-to-assemble furniture, I have witnessed a great sophistication in their method lately. If you adventure above your current skill level, which I encourage, you should expect to experience setbacks.

We often underestimate of the amount of time a job will take. When doing something for the first time, we are likely to make mistakes or at least be quite slow. As a result we first become impatient and then plainly angry. Which inevitably leads to more mistakes.

A simple solution for this is to approach to task with modesty, allow more time and if necessary break the job into smaller parts.

This one holds true for any DIY project.

If you feel it is just too difficult for you, hire a pro.

4. Make Space

Clean the room you will work in to have as much floor space as possible. This will allow you to have a good overview of all the pieces and easily move around them.

5. Gather the Tools

While Ikea is known for providing the tool, I would recommend you get your own. It will save you a lot of time while being more enjoyable as well.

Ikea commonly require hex bits. Their hex key (little bended tool) can be useful at the end to hand-tighten but you should do most of the work with a proper screwdriver, or even a electric screwdriver. It will be way easier.

A screwdriver with interchangeable bits will be your best allie here. It is commonly sold with all types of bits, including the hex ones (we recommended this one in a previous article).

Another tool you might also need is a rubber mallet. Simply put, it is a soft hammer, allowing you to push the pieces in place without damaging them. If you do not have a rubber mallet, you can also wrap a towel around a regular hammer.

6. Layout everything

Layout all the pieces on the floor, arranging them by category. Check the inventory. There is nothing more frustrating than realising you miss something when you are way further into the process. Be careful not to damage the pieces, the wood -melamine- is fragile.

Open the plastic with the hardware and display them in a white plate or bowl. This allow you to quickly identify the one you need. And also not to lose them. It is okay to have leftovers.

7. Read the instructionS

I would advise to first check that the pages are in the right order and re-arrange if needed. Read it from start to finish to get a good understanding of the tasks.

What can be frustrating about instructions is that it implies there is only one way to assemble the furniture. It is done this way so it fits most people's logic but we are not all wired the same way. The key is to understand how the different parts relate to each other. Therefore instead of following closely each step, you can proceed in the sequence you feel is the most appropriate.

8. Start Assembling

Now you may start assembling.

How-to: Replace a shower head


Replacing a shower head is the simplest renovation you can do to upgrade your bathroom.

There are a few reason why you might consider changer a shower head. 

  • Your old shower head did not age well. Limescale is created by heating hard water. If you - or the previous owner/renter - did not clean it regularly, it accumulates over time and looks dirty.

  • You want to dramatically reduce your water consumption. Most recent shower head use a low-flow technology that reduce the amount of water running per minute.

Since your are working after the valve, you do not need to shut the entire water supply. You are not taking too much of a risk by attempting this operation either. Your are essentially just plugging a hose on a tap. As long as the valve is shut you can work freely; if you see leaking when the valve is opened just turn it back off while you fix it.


Most of the time you do not need tools at all.

If you do need some assistance (old shower head tied too strongly for instance) here are the tools you can use:


The same instruction applies wether your are dealing with a fixed mounted shower head or a hand-held showerhead.

1. Remove old shower head

Grip the shower head with your hand and turn counter-clockwise to remove it. It should come off easily.

If it was too tightened and you are unable to remove it by hand, wrap the towel around the piece. Now adjust your crescent wrench around it and unscrew. This should give you the extra strength necessary.

The towel improves traction while also avoiding scratches, in case you want to re-use the old piece.

Clean the dirt or any excess material on the pipe before moving to the next step.

2. Wrap with the teflon tape

The teflon tape seals the installation so it does not leak.

Cut a section a teflon tape and wrap it clockwise around the thread three times. When the tape is in place, press with your finger to smooth it in.

3. Install the replacement

Take your new kit and screw it onto the arm. Do not force too much, a careful hand-tightening is enough.

Even if you had to use a crescent wrench when removing the old one, stick to hand-tightening.

4. Check your installation

Open the valve and check for leaks. If you find any, start by tightening the head a bit more. If it persists, remove the shower head, improve the sealing with the teflon tape, place it back on and check again.

If there is no leak, congratulations you have succeeded!


DIY stores in Lille (FR)

Lille Le Handyman

Here are a few addresses for shopping hardware, tools and supplies in Lille (Métropole).

Big Retailers

There are various options in Lille Métropole. Depending on your situation, you might choose between the following:

Leroy Merlin

This one is my favorite on the list. It is the biggest of all three options. There is a huge selection of tools and supplies.

The only issue is that is it located in Villeneuve D'Asq so you will probably need a car to get there (Or combine public transportation with a 15-minute walk).

You can check their real-time stock online. It is also possible to buy online and pick up a few hours later.

Leroy Merlin Website:

Zac de Valmy, Rue de Versailles
59650 Villeneuve D'Asq


Although Bricomarché, as most retailers, are usually located in the outskirt of the cities, this one is conveniently right in the city center (near the train station). The store opened only a few months ago (in December 2017).

Personally I plan my larger projects as much as possible in advance and use different suppliers for different supplies. Bricomarché is not one of them, I either work with B2B suppliers or Leroy Merlin. However, it happens every now and then that I need something quickly and having the opportunity to simply walk to Bricomarché is great. But honestly their offer is wide enough to cover most DIY project you may have as an individual.

If you live in the city center, I recommend you check this store.

Bricomarché Website:

71, rue Pierre Mauroy
59000 Lille


Same logic as with Bricomarché but now for people living in Cormontaigne Montebello (south-west of Lille).

I bought tools there before Bricomarché opened (which is closer to my apartment). 

Bricorama and Bricomarché belong to the same group, Les Mousquetaires, which you may know from Intermarché. In fact, despite the apparent diversity of the European Home Improvement market, most retailers belongs to only a handful of corporation (Kingfisher PLC, Adeo, etc.)

Bricorama Website:

21 ter, rue Turenne
59000 Lille

Independent Shop

If you are looking for a more authentic experience and want to support local businesses, here is a place you can go to.

Quincaillerie Belot

"Quincaillerie" is french for hardware store. The store is located in le Vieux-Lille. It specialises in Antique and Luxury door handles, stairwell post and curtain rods. If you are looking for a marvellous crystal door knob that is the place to go.

There is something I love about this store that seems to be a common trait in this kind of venture: to the untrained eye it might look like a mess but make no mistake, the owner knows exactly what he has and where it is. Go to the counter and make your request. There is no "Maybe, let me check." The answer is always either "Yes" or "No". And they never try to sell you something you did not request. I highly recommend this place.

7, rue du curé Saint Etienne
59000 Lille

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