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Any tips on installing fiber optic stars in a sheet rock or finished ceiling?

OVERVIEW: While the installation of a star ceiling into a sheet rock or finished ceiling has some different challenges, the general installation principles are fairly close to the techniques of the suspended ceiling. Here we’re going to cover some installation tips.

NOTE: If your ceiling is already installed, you will need to have access to space above the ceiling. If you do not have access, these installation tips will not apply to you. We recommend installing a suspended (or drop) ceiling. (See our guide for tips on installing a suspended ceiling and how to install the stars into a suspended ceiling.)

Q: Which should I use, Single Strand Filament or Fiber Optic Cable?

YOU HAVE OPTIONS: While you would most likely use fiber optic cable for the installation of stars in a SUSPENDED ceiling. (Running one cable to a ceiling panel is so easy!) The installation of fiber optic stars into a finished ceiling allows you to use single strand fiber optic filament. It actually makes more sense economically to use the single strand filament. It is less expensive per foot and you will have less waste because each star is threaded individually. That said, the single strand filament can be more challenging to work with because the filaments are unprotected. You’ll need to use extra caution when installing.

We have a separate page that covers the Pros & Cons of filament vs cable.

Customer Contribution: One of our customers installed a star ceiling in a room with a finished ceiling. Check out “Tommy’s World”

Before you grab the drill… grab a pencil.

In the room you will be drilling from, (the lower room) mark the location of the ceiling joists. This will help when drilling the holes. When drilling, you want to steer clear of the ceiling joists.


Drill Bits

Where to find small Drill Bits, Two sources:

Drill Bit City

UP or Down? Should I drill (down) from the room above the ceiling? Or, should I drill up from the room below the ceiling?

TIP: AVOID BUCKSHOT! When drilling through the sheet rock, drill UP from with in the room, as opposed to drilling down from the area above the room. When drilling through sheet rock, it tends to ‘buckshot’ or “explode” out the rear of the hole that is being drilled. By drilling from the “bottom up” you’ll keep any ‘buckshot’ off-stage in the area above the room and give you a nice clean hole on the room side.

Ok, I drill from the “bottom up”, should I also thread the fiber from the same direction? (Bottom up)

While it’s possible to thread the fiber from either direction, our experience has been that it goes smoother to thread from the top down.

TIP: Two is better than one! Having a partner assist you in the fiber threading is a godsend! Here’s a unique two person technique. The assumes that you have enough room for two people and that you are using single strand fiber optic filament. (As opposed to fiber optic cable)

P1 = Person #1 NON-moving anchor, stationed at the illuminator location.

P2 = Person #2 Floater who moves from hole to hole.

P1 is your non-moving anchor. Sitting in the area where the illuminator will reside, P1 has the spool of fiber and will feed P2. We call P2 “The Floater” because they will move around, from drilled hole to drilled hole, threading the fiber down through the hole and securing the filament. Once P2 is in position above a hole, P1 un-spools enough fiber to go from the illuminator to the hole, the P1 then tosses the strand of fiber optic filament to P2.

“Hold on…. how does P1 “toss” the filament to P2?” Actually, it’s not that difficult…P1 attaches a small weight or a coin, to the end of the filament that they toss to P2. The fiber is very forgiving and will not be damaged by gently tossing it a few feet with a coin taped to the end. P2 removes the coin and feeds the fiber through the hole. Be sure to feed it through a few extra inches. P2 then can secure the fiber by placing a small drop of epoxy at the hole/fiber junction and/or taping down the fiber to the sheet rock with masking tape. After a few “coin tosses”, P1 and P2 will be in the fiber threading groove!

Instead of a coin, P1 can tape the fiber to the end of a yard stick or broom handle, and ‘hand’ the fiber to P2.

How do I find all these small holes I drilled in the sheet rock?

INSTALLATION TIP: You’re threading from above the ceiling. To assist you in locating all the holes that you drilled, place a very bright light in the room below and shine it up on the ceiling. Then when you’re in the space above the ceiling, the light will shine through, assisting you in locating those drilled holes. (It might help to have the lighting reduced in the space above the ceiling)

” SECURE, CONNECT, CLIP ” Finishing Touches

Here are a couple of pointers that you might want to consider.

  • Secure the fibers / Seal The Holes:
    After you’ve threaded the fiber through the hole, place a small drop of epoxy or plastic friendly sealant on the hole to help adhere the fiber and also close up the hole. In some homes, depending on where you live, it’s important to maintain a vapor barrier. Drilling 700 holes in your ceiling could cause problems with this balance. If you’re not sure, be safe and seal the holes after you’ve threaded the fiber. Your home will thank you.
  • Connect The Fibers
    After you adhered the fibers from the backside, collect them and install them into the illuminator. See our guide for more specific answers on how to accomplish this part of your installation.
  • Clip the Stars!
    It’s time to clip the stars! Be sure to leave a small amount of fiber sticking out from the hole. While it’s tempting, DO NOT CUT THE FIBER FLUSH WITH THE CEILING! Doing so will give your star a halo effect. The light emitted from the end of the filament will fill up the drilled hole, or it will reflect off the ceiling giving a halo effect. To avoid this, you want to leave about 1/8″ to 1/2″ of fiber sticking out. The fibers are so thin, you’ll never see them with the lights on or during the day.