Replace a light fixture yourself instead of waiting for the electrician to show up. Tackle this daunting task with a few careful steps.
We’ve almost mastered the art of removing old wallpaper, choosing the ideal paint color for the bathroom and setting the most decadent tablescape for our next party. But somehow, the very thought of messing with electrical wires can leave us frazzled!
Do you want to pay hundreds of dollars for an electrician to spend a half an hour replacing an old light fixture? I know I don’t!
With a bit of time and patience, you can safely handle this job yourself.
Choosing a Light Fixture
The builder-grade boob light fixture that loomed above me was in dire need of an update.
It was adequate for the job, lighting the hallway well, but aesthetically, it didn’t match the transitional style of the rest of my home.
In my hunt for light fixtures for low height ceilings, I fell in love with this beautiful modern flush mount light in polished chrome.
What You Will Need
- Wire strippers
- Voltage detector (optional)
- Flashlight (if working in any area that doesn’t have a lot of natural light)
- Your new light fixture, its instructions and whatever bulbs you need
Step 1: Shut Off the Electricity
Cut the power to the light fixture.
I usually leave the light turned on while I go downstairs to the circuit panel and flip the circuit breaker. If the light turns off, I know I’ve turned off the electricity correctly.
This step is crucial in case your circuits are mislabeled or you’re looking at a barely legible scribble on an ancient piece of tape.
If you own a voltage detector, now would be the time to use it. I have had one instance in the past where even though the correct circuit was terminated, there was still a small bit of electricity flowing to the wires. I had my electrician check it, and he said that’s not uncommon in older homes.
Step 2: Remove the Old Fixture
To begin, I had to pop off the glass piece first; then, remove the light bulbs. The silver, circular part was attached to the ceiling, so I carefully unscrewed that.
Once that is done, you should be left with a fixture dangling from the connected wires.
Step 3: Disconnect the Wiring
Remove the plastic caps and either untwist or, using a wire cutter, cut the wires.
Step 4: Replace the Grounding Bar
The metal grounding bar that goes across the electrical box will need to be replaced to match the fixture you are installing. This will have been provided with your new fixture. Unscrew the old one and replace it with the new one.
Step 5: Connect the Wires
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions as to how to match the wires correctly.
Typically, the black (live) wires connect to each other, and the white wires (neutral) connect to each other. The ground wire, which is usually green or exposed copper, connects to a green screw on the grounding bar (or to a green wire if there is one).
Sometimes, instead of being black and white, the cables may have a ridged side and a smooth side. In that instance, the ridged side of the cable corresponds to the white wire and the smooth side corresponds to the black wire .
Using a wire stripper, you should remove about an inch of the plastic coating from the wires to expose enough of it to connect to the wires coming from the electrical box.
Using the wire cutters, hold both ends of the wire and twist together. Now, screw on the orange connector caps. Connect the grounding wire by winding around the green screw.
It’s important that the black live wire does not touch the ground wire. I always make sure that it’s on the opposite side of the grounding bar to the other wires.
Step 6: Install the New Base
Once the wires have all been re-connected, push them up onto the cavity, again making sure that the black wire is not touching the ground wire. Screw the base of the new fixture into the grounding plate and electrical box.
Step 7: Attach the Bulbs & Cover
Attach the rest of the fixture as per the manufacturer’s instructions and put the bulbs back in. Turn the power back on and enjoy your new light fixture!
I’m very happy with this particular fixture – day or night, it is quite a beauty!
Don’t feel overwhelmed by the electrical aspects of this project – as long as you take your time, you’ll soon be admiring your new light fixture as well.
Disclaimer: I am not, nor do I claim to be, an electrician. If you electrocute yourself during this process, I hold no responsibility! That being said, it’s a simple project. Just be smart and safe!