How to Install a Light Fixture

Light Fixture

Read this article for advice that will save not only time, but also money and effort for your light fixture installation project.

Required Components

With the exception of recessed lighting fixtures, the majority of fixtures attach easily to outlet boxes by use of either a fixture stud or a strap. Sometimes, a nipple will be needed to properly install a lighting fixture.

Most manufacturer's supply special hardware that may be needed. Always follow the packaging instructions.

These are the typical parts required for installing wall or ceiling fixtures.

Ceiling Outlet Boxes

You may find that it is necessary to add a ceiling box prior to installing a fixture. It's a little bit of work, but it is not labor-intensive.

You must first mark the location of the outlet box which you will be installing by cutting a hole which matches the measurements of the new box.

A wide variety of boxes are available; some, such as madison hangers, come with expanding devices. Those boxes are only recommended for fixtures which don't weight much. Other boxes are built with angled holes for nails so that they can be attached to ceiling joists

High-quality mounting bars are manufactured to expand so that they form a tight fit between the joists. To install that kind of unit, you must cut a hole in the ceiling through which you will insert the bars. The amount of space required depends on the fixture you are using. In most cases, the box must rest flat against the ceiling.

Once the hole is cut in the ceiling, you must slide the hanger bar through the hole and set it so that it stays securely in place.

Cut a hole in ceiling to the exact dimensions, and mount the ceiling outlet box with a hanger bar.

Click on drawing above to view animation.

Refer to the image and connect the cables as pictured. Always shut off the electricity when working with live wires.

Once the unit is wired, install not only the nipple, but also the locknut.

Wall Fixtures

In most cases, basic hardware can be used to install a wall fixture. Keep in ind that each fixture has it's own method of attachment.

Boxes with central studs are the easiest to install, as they require a minimal amount of parts. Even without a central stud, wall fixtures are not very difficult to install. Just follow the packaging instructions.

Ceiling Fixtures

If the ceiling fixture you have chosen does not include a central stud, use a ceiling strap and screws to install it.

If a stud is included, just use a strap and a nut to install the fixture.

Connect the wiring according to your local building codes.

To keep fixtures with a greater weight from collapsing, use a hickey as illustrated.


Drop fixtures are often mounted with a hickey that screws to the center fixture stud.

Chandeliers can be installed into standard boxes according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Make sure that the box is attached strongly enough to prevent failure.

If you are upgrading from a regular fixture to a chandelier, shut off the power supply and remove the original piece and leave the wires exposed.

Usually, you don't even need to replace the hickey. Use a bracket which connects to the nipple if your chandelier is one in which the brackets attach directly to the strap.

If your chandelier does not attach as so, then you must use a strap to fix it to the outlet box.

Fluorescent Fixtures

On usually installs fluorescent fixtures by way of either stud, nipples, or in some cases, straps. They are quite easy to install.

Always adhere to the manufacturer's instructions.

Recessed Fixtures

First, locate the joists using a stud finder. They are typically space by 16-inches. Then cut a hole to fit the fixture. Make sure the power is dead, then connect the wires and bolts to install the fixture.

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Information in this article has been furnished by the National Retail Hardware Association (NRHA) and associated contributors.