Home Electrical How To Replace A Light Fixture

How To Replace A Light Fixture

How To Replace A Light Fixture

Do you have a light fixture in your house that needs to be repaired? No one wants to burn a hole in their pocket to pay for a handyman when it can be done by themselves. Lucky for you, I have all the tips and tools to share with you to get the job done. Considering we have all been locked inside for quarantine, it does not hurt to learn how to fix things yourself. DIY projects are always fun to look forward to completing. So, learning how to replace a light fixture: DIY edition, will be fun! After this, you can even transfer your retained knowledge to a friend or family for future reference.

Although dealing with electrical projects may seem a little intimidating at first, lucky for you, the best part about changing light fixtures is that it is a universal process. All the lightboxes in your ceiling are always producing from the same three wires being connected or disconnected. You must make sure the size of the fixture itself fits okay in the space you plan to put it in! Another aspect that makes this project more manageable; you can generally go out and buy any light fixture and install it in your home where any light fixture previously existed.

The content of this article will guide you through a step-by-step only to replace old light fixtures with new ones. If you are in a position where you desire to install a brand new light fixture in a new spot, you will need to contact an electrician at that point. It is essential to be smart and on top of your electrical replacements around your home. Know your limits and what makes you feel comfortable, otherwise do not hesitate to contact a professional! Replacing a light fixture: DIY should not intimidate you too much!

If you’re ready, then let’s get to it!

Tools & Materials Needed On How To Replace A Light Fixture:

A Cost You Can’t Beat! 

We all desire to save money and find the best deal available to get the job done. It is crucial that even though we want to save money, we must make sure we are choosing the most efficient option that will last. Remember, quality over quantity! Hiring an electrician to replace a light fixture only is the best option if you feel uncomfortable and unfit to do the job yourself. If you feel comfortable or know someone capable of replacing a light fixture safely, then it should only cost $50 at most.

Replacing a light fixture: DIY Requires You To Clear Your Schedule!

Set aside time, prepare, and plan! It should, on average, take about 2 hours, but it is better to plan and give yourself more time than that. Mainly because things could go wrong, and you may have to go back in and inspect the connections.

1. Turn Off Power To The Old Light Fixture

  • The first step to this project is first and foremost, turning off the power. You must be aware of the location of your power circuit.
  • They typically are located away from main living areas, such as garages, laundry rooms, or even basements. An excellent way to ensure that the power is off is leaving the light switch on. When the light shuts off, it will indicate that the power is turned off.

2. Remove The Canopy To Expose The Fixture And Wiring

The canopy of a light fixture is the rounded covering that holds against the ceiling. It’s the accessory that hides the ugly wiring. Usually, there will be some screw holding the canopy in place of the roof; undo whatever mechanism is in place to allow the canopy to come loose.

3. Unscrew The Three Wires: Black, White, & Copper

  • You will come to notice three wires: a black, white, and copper wire. A quick summary, with the three wires exposed from the ceiling, you will connect them to the wires from the fixture. This step will be followed by mounting the fixture hardware.
  • In detail, once you have successfully removed the canopy from the ceiling, you should see these three wires: black, white, and copper. Likely the third wire could be green if not copper. These three wires must be disconnected. Once they are disconnected, you can properly remove the old light fixture. Unscrew the wire connectors (in image above), and separate the fixture wiring from the ceiling wiring.
Light/Lighting Fixture Removal
This is what you should see; a white, black, and copper wire.

4. Remove The Old Light Fixture.

After you have safely disconnected the three wires, remove the old fixture. Luckily, it is just a simple screw or two to do so. Having an extra pair of hands by your side might make the removal of the old fixture easier.

5. Occasionally, You May Need To Install New Brackets.

All existing light fixtures have a universally-sized, pre-wired box installed in the ceiling. This pre-wired box is where the three electrical wires are exposed. There will be a baseplate that holds the purpose of mounting hardware for your light fixture. It can either be a single bar “strap” with a “nipple” screw (ha ha ha, yes very funny…) or a circular, universal mounting bracket. If your new fixture comes with a new bracket, I recommend you utilize it.

Im learning to replace my lighting fixture
You can get an idea of what the light fixture should look like if it contains that green wire and ground screw.

6. Connect The New Fixture Wires

  • The three wires exposed from the ceiling will have bare ends, while the new cables will have wires what look to be frayed, silver ends.
  • Start by twisting the “frayed” silver ends of the brand new black wire to the exposed end of the existing black wire. Twist on a wire connector and repeat with the white wire. The original fixture’s copper (or possibly green wire) might be a little different than the black and white ones.
  • In some situations, it connects to a green grounding screw; in other cases, it connects to a copper wire exposed from the ceiling. Connect the new wire to the pre-installed copper wire. If you notice a small green screw on the mounting plate, go ahead and wrap the original copper wire around it.
Replace A Light Fixture
Diagram to show all the parts and pieces.

7. Secure The New Fixture & Adjust The Length (If a Chain Exists)

  • If a chain is holding the fixture to the ceiling, it would be proper to adjust the length. The extra length of the chain will be shoved into the ceiling or hidden within the canopy. Do so at this time as well.
  • Once all this is adequately taken care of, you will secure the new fixture. You can obtain it with the simple task of screwing a couple of screws into the mounting plate. You are almost done! Keep going!

8. SAVE THE BEST PART FOR LAST (As If We Had a Choice), Restore The Power, & Test Out The New Fixture!

  • Go back to your electrical box and switch the power back on. If you then restore the power and the light does not work, it is more than likely the black or white wires did not get connected all the way. You will then have to shut the power back off and pull down the fixture to inspect the wires and connections.
  • If you restore the power and the light does work, you have successfully learned how to replace a light fixture. Congratulations!

Frequently Asked Questions: How To Replace a Light Fixture?

Will all older lighting fixtures accept the newer, more efficient bulbs? What if my lampshade connects right to the bulb?

Most older lighting fixtures accept the newer bulbs. The newer energy-saving bulbs will work with conventional, medium screw-based sockets. Manufacturers have worked to build products that are about the same size as the bulbs they are replacing to make it easy on consumers. If in doubt, take the bulb you are replacing to the store and ask for assistance.

What are the voltage testers?

A voltage tester is an inexpensive tool that tests for live current. To use a voltage tester, plug the heads into a receptacle, or, if the cover plate is removed, touch them to the screw terminals. If the current is present, the tester will light up. If you are not sure how to use one, click here for instructions!


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