Sheared lightbulb in recessed socket

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I was doing a routine lightbulb replacement in the recessed ceiling fixture in my entrance hallway when the top of the bulb sheared off cleanly from the threaded metal part. Great.
I yanked off the bulb, but now the metal part is stuck in there, so I have a useless fixture. This would be a pain under any circumstance, but the fact that the socket is recessed makes it impossible to stick a pair of pliers in there to attempt to unscrew the metal part.
The housing for the fixture is attached to the socket, so even if I managed to pry it out, I still would not be able to access the socket with pliers. I suppose I will have to pull the housing out, cut the wire, and replace it with a new housing, splicing the wire coming off the new housing into the cut end.
Am I on the right track here? If so, what do I have to do to remove the housing. After working at it for a while I didn't get very far at all. One would think that one has to rip the ceiling to get that housing out, but I can't believe the system would be that stupid.
How does one fix a situation like this, without ripping out a big chunk of ceiling?
Thanks!
kj
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kj wrote:

go to your fridge and find a raw carrot about the size of the metal bulb base in diameter. jam the carrot in the fixture. it should wedge in enough to turn the bulb base. it might work.

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Pair of needle nose pliers has always worked for me. Grab the side of the bulb socket and turn. if that doesn't work, you can bend the socket enough to get a better hold on it.
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kj wrote:

The baffle/reflector goes in after the fixture itself. Since the bulb is gone, it's easy to remove the baffle, then you should have enough room to get a needlenose pliers in there.
R
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I've seen more sockets chewed up by folks using needle nose pliers on them and I've yet to meet a person that successfully used any type of vegetation. A very easy and reliable method is to turn off the power and unscrew it with a diagonal pliers. It fits right into the socket, grabs the edges neatly and spins it right out

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Thank you all very much for your suggestions. After looking at diagrams of similar recessed lighting housings online I realize that mine is apparently pretty unusual. I now see that, as a rule, in recessed lighting fixtures the bulb goes into the socket vertically; i.e. when one screws the bulb in, the axis of the bulb's rotation is vertical. But that's not the way it is in my fixture. The axis of rotation is (nearly) horizontal. (Yes, even under the best circumstances it takes *forever* to change a lightbulb in these fixtures.)
I guess builders use such an insanely incovenient design because by having the bulb horizontal instead of vertical they can save 1-2 vertical inches per story. (Since this is a family ng, I will not say what I think of such builders.)
So the socket is *at right angles* from the axis of the housing. (I'm sorry for not having mentioned this before; I honestly did not realize that it was such an uncommon design.) Since the housing is about 3 inches in diameter, there is no room to turn a pair of pliers around 90 degrees to align it with the horizonal socket.
Hence my blathering about using a flexible shaft attached to a handheld drill, since otherwise I see no way to exert a torque around the required axis.
Now I have to find a way to affix a carrot or a potato at the end of a flexible drill shaft. Oh, this is going to be fun. :-)
kj
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kj wrote:

Save your acrimony as there is absolutely no validity in your supposition.
There has never been a builder that has determined the depth of the floor joists by considering the height of a recessed fixture. The fixture may be dictated by the height of the floor joists which are in turn based on the design loads.
If the structure was sufficient, and the only reason to increase the height of the floor was those fixtures, each recessed fixture's cost would be figured in the thousands.
The builder/electrician chose that fixture for a reason. Whether or not there were other options available, and whether the right decision was made at the time, is moot.
R
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RicodJour wrote:

Sure there is if the builder did it. If the architect picked those, he was just nuts, appearance over function.

That's right the builder doesn't do those, but what he does is fit what the buyer/designer wants into the space available. You can pick all sorts of fixtures that won't fit in a specific space without having to go to some really screwy fixture design or using a design in a place it is not intended for.

Bull. Increasing the space for the fixture is as simple as adding wood strips to the bottom of the joists. Even you go to the extreme of maintaining ceiling height by increasing the joist height, the cost increase is negligible. Especially in the types of ceilings that typically have those fixtures. It would cost a bit more if you went from standard stud lengths to a bit longer stud, but you would be stupid to make each stud longer, you would just add 2x4 or 2x6 plates to get the height.

Sure he did, profit margin, inability to convince the designer/home owner of the inappropriateness of that design, inability to think up a rational solution, etc.

Not sure why you want to defend a mistake by the builder. Builders make mistakes all the time.
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George E. Cawthon wrote:

Did what? Architect? Two sentences and at least three assumptions.

Please review that last sentence and resubmit. It's unclear what you are trying to say.
I'm looking at two recessed fixtures right now that are of the same type that the OP mentions. They're old, have asbestos lining, and they work. Why are they screwy?

Who said the fixtures were put in when the building was going up? Or were you assuming that they were added later and the entire ceiling should have been dropped for a couple of fixtures? You make a lot of assumptions. The OP gave no information at all on the building, type of construction, location, nothing at all.
As far as increasing the joist depth and building height for those fixtures not adding appreciably to the cost, it would affect the amounts of insulation, wiring, sheathing and siding, drywall, paint...you get the idea. It would add a boat load of money to the cost.
By the way, adding that extra plate "solution" would be a hack. _That_ is a bad builder's choice. You'd be adding poorly insulated area to the building, adding a substantial cost, and increasing the amount of unnecessary "built-in" settlement. But, realistically, as I mentioned in my previous post, no builder would do that for some recessed lights.

Again, how do you know that the wrong decision was made in choosing that fixture? Now you're assuming the builder was greedy, unable to communicate and incompetent. You really have it in for the guy!
Maybe the fixtures are in a ceiling/attic floor - nothing unusual for that to have been framed with 2x4s not that long ago and trusses nowadays. If someone put down some sheathing on that attic floor, something that wasn't intended to have storage, the joist depth would be insufficient for the recessed fixture. Who made the mistake there? The guy who designed the house, the guy who added the sheathing, or the guy who installed the fixtures that fit? It's impossible to tell if it was a mistake and whose fault it was as we have no information.

WHAT mistake?! The OP is kvetching about a fixture that he is unfamiliar with. No other information was given other than his guess that the builder skimped on the depth of the floor joists. I pointed out that the logic was skewed.
You're assuming that there was a mistake with no supporting information. I'm old fashioned - I don't like condemning anyone without some evidence.
In any event, the OP was asking for help on removing a broken bulb base, and I think he got the what he was seeking. All's well.
R
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RicodJour wrote:

Rather difficult to respond to a person who is so dense, so I try to keep it short. But of course, your response will be to say that it is unclear.
First, I used "if A then B" statements. You seem to think those are assumptions. They are not they are logic statements. I think you maybe one of those people that can't get past the if statement.
You ask a lot of questions that indicate you have failed to follow the thread. Individual responses don't exist in a vacuum but require the thread. For example you ask me why I assume the fixtures went in when the building went up. Let me simplify the thread. "A" suggests a reason that builders use inconvenient designs. You say that A's statement has no validity. I respond with comments which are mostly about the design used by the builder. What is it you don't understand? Don't know what a "builder" is or does? Do you think a builder and a remodeler are the same?
Like I said, dense.
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Recessed fixtures with horizontal sockets are sometimes used in shallow depth ceilings as they can fit in a 2x6 space. You need to figure out how to remove the fixture, then the socket snaps off and would be easy to work on

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That's what I needed to know. Originally it had look to me like the socket was of a piece with the housing, but once I pried the housing out (which took a while), I was able to pull out the socket (which took another while). In comparison, getting the bulb thread out was relatively easy after this, since it wasn't screwed in tightly, just inaccessible until the socket was separated from the housing.
I greatly appreciate all the helpful (and very clever) suggestions. Now I feel like the broken lightbulb expert. :-)
kj
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wrote:

They make needle nose pliers that are bent 90 degrees..
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Epoxy a hex bolt into the lamp base, and use a socket ratchet wrench to extract.
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If you do need to remove the baffle or trim from the ceiling, you should be clear as to what is holding it in. There are several types of retaining mechanisms so yanking on it may cause more harm than good

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This is great!
As of today, September 20, I count at least 32 separate posts from at least 21 people.
And still the light bulb has not been changed.
So... how many usenet posts will it take?
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the recessed ceiling

the bulb sheared

stuck in there,

pain under any

recessed makes it

attempt to unscrew

snip
ripping out a big

Have you tried a potato?
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I have had good luck shoving the end of a wooden broom handle up into the light socket and turning counter-clockwise while maintaining pressure. Other people have told me about using a potato, but I have never tried that.
Make sure that the power is off when attempting this.
Recessed lighting housings are generally easy to pull down for access to the junction box. Look around inside the perimeter of the housing. You may see some small screws. If you remove them, the can should loosen and you should be able to pull it down just below the ceiling. Don't attempt to remove it completely with investigating how it is wired.
John Grabowski http://www.mrelectrician.tv

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John Grabowski wrote:

I like the current philosophy. If you didn't pay much, you got ripped off. If you paid an outrageous amount but didn't get much service, you didn't pay enough. I think the basic concept is, "You can never pay too much for service that you don't really need."
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Using a potato is mentioned in some DIY books. It works, but, I'd be a bit worried about debris/moisture left behind.
There's a device manufactured that's specifically for this. It consists of a medium-soft rubber "nose" shaped to fit the open end of the broken-off base. I have one - it has three tips for various size bulbs. It's about 2-4" long (depending on which adapter you use), and has a female thread for a broom handle or extending pole on the other.
Largely intended for removing broken off bulbs from high ceilings.
I have no idea who made the thing. As I recall it was about $10. It's all plastic, reasonably well made.
Overkill for the usual situation, it comes in handy when you have a cathedral ceiling.
--
Chris Lewis, Una confibula non set est
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