How to Replace a Ceiling Light Fixture

November 23, 2021 by No Comments

It is common to replace a ceiling fixture because it has become worn out. However, this can also be done as part of a complete decor overhaul. A new ceiling light fixture can make a big difference in how a room looks and feels. Although the work is relatively straightforward, there are some risks when working with electricity. Before replacing light fixtures, DIYers need to have an understanding of electrical circuits and experience with similar repairs.

Electrical repairs can be as simple as plumbing if they are relatively recent and follow accepted procedures. If the wiring system is old or in poor shape, they can quickly become difficult. If you have any problems with wiring, you should be prepared to call an electrician.

Before You Begin

The wall power switch that controls the light fixture should be turned to the OFF position. If you think that someone could switch on the light fixture while you’re working (e.g. children or spouse), then shut off the main service panel.

What you’ll need

Equipment / Tools

  • Screwdriver
  • Non-contact circuit tester

Materials

  • Ceiling light fixture new
  • Wire nuts (or wire connectors)
  • If necessary, electrical tape

Instructions

  1. Take out the old light fixture

    Take out the globe or shade from the fixture. The type and model of the fixture will determine how you proceed. This can be as simple as loosening the screws that hold the shade in place or removing the mounting clips (as shown below), or simply removing the glass shade from the base.

    After removing the ceiling fixture shade, remove the mounting screws and knurled knob holding the fixture to the ceiling.

  2. Check for power and disconnect the wires

    After the ceiling box has been removed from the fixture base, you can check for power using a non touch circuit tester. This will ensure that there is no current flowing to any wires.

    Unscrew the wire connectors to disconnect the light fixture and the circuit wires. A copper grounding cable may be attached to the fixture’s mounting strap or to the circuit grounding. This should be disconnected. The detached light fixture should be left alone.

    Last, take off the mounting strap that was attached to the ceiling box. Mounting straps will be provided with the new fixture.

  3. Install the new ceiling fixture

    The new ceiling fixture should be unpacked. Remove the glass shade carefully and place it in a safe location. Take out the bag that contained the hardware and put it aside. Take the fixture base out of the box and inspect its wires. It will usually have three wire leads: A black hot wire and a neutral wire. The ground wire is typically bare copper.

    The black and white wires of the lamp sockets may not be connected if there are more than one. This is a common problem. To connect the white wires, use a wire connector (usually provided with the light fixture). Assemble the black wire leads as well.

    To determine how the light fixture will mount to your ceiling box, refer to the instructions. This will vary depending on the size of the light fixture. Sometimes it is as simple as attaching the light fixture base to the ceiling box. For other styles, the mounting strap is attached first to the ceiling box and then the fixture base is secured to the mounting strap. For heavier fixtures, a mounting strap is attached to the ceiling box with a threaded tube. The fixture base is then screwed onto the mounting strap and secured using a screw-on knob.

  4. Mount the Mounting Strap

    First, examine the mounting strap that came with your new light fixture to determine if it requires a mounting strap. There will be several small holes with threaded screws in the strap. Some of these will attach it to the ceiling box while others will support the base of the light fixture. If the light fixture is mounted via a threaded tube that screws into it, the strap will have a larger threaded hole at the center.

    To determine the location of the screw holes that will support the fixture, position the strap against its base.

    Attach the mounting strap to your ceiling box using the screw holes that correspond with the ceiling box. You may find the instructions for attaching the mounting strap in the light fixture manual.

    Screw the mounting rod through the opening in the center of the strap if your fixture requires it. This is used for hanging lights and chandeliers.

  5. Examine the Circuit Wires

    Most cases, the circuit wires that you have previously disconnected can be attached to the new light fixture immediately. One wire will have white insulation (this wire is neutral), one with black insulation and another that’s bare copper or covered in green insulation (this wire is ground). You may connect the circuit ground wire to the green ground screw at the back of your box.

    Tip

    If your wiring is old or cracked, color-coding might not be clear. Wrap the wires with electrical tape to reinforce the insulation. The insulation should be covered with electrical tape, up to the copper at the end.

  6. Connect the ground wires

    The ground connection for a ceiling light fixture’s ceiling fixture can vary depending on its type and the ceiling box it is installed in. Remember that the ground wire for a ceiling light fixture must be connected to a metal path. This ground path is essential in order to safely install ceiling fixtures.

    If the ceiling box is made of plastic, the procedure is simple: Simply attach the circuit ground wire to the fixture’s ground lead using a wire connector.

    If the ceiling box is made of metal, it is more difficult. Both the box and light fixture must be connected to the circuit earth wire. The most common method is to wrap the circuit ground wire around the green ground screw or metal box and then attach the ground lead to the fixture’s ground wire. Alternately the ground wire of the light fixture can be attached to a mounting strap if it is already attached to a metal box.

    Tip

    It can be difficult to make the wiring connections for the light fixtures because you have to hold the fixture in midair while you connect it to the circuit wires. This can be made easier by having a second ladder to hold the fixture while you connect the wires.

  7. Connect the Hot and Neutral Wires

    Use a wire connector to join the circuit neutral wire and the fixture’s lead neutral (both wires are usually white-insulated).

    You can do the same for the fixture hot wires and circuit (both have black insulation).

  8. Mount the Fixture Base

    Next, attach the ceiling box to the fixture base once the wires are connected. The style of the base will determine whether it is attached with two long screws, which thread into the mounting strap’s screw holes, or with a knurled knob, which screws onto the threaded rod.

    It may be difficult to thread long screws into the ceiling box if the installation requires long screws. Most fixtures have keyhole-shaped screws slots. These allow you to insert the screws into the ceiling box first, then push the fixture onto the screws. Finally, twist the fixture to secure the screws. After the fixture is in place, secure the screws so that the base of the fixture is flush against the ceiling.

  9. Install light bulbs and shades

    Install light bulbs, but not more than the total wattage rating for the fixture. To test the operation of your fixture, turn off the power and then switch on the light switch. Install the shade or globe as directed by manufacturer if the fixture works correctly.

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