How to Replace a Light Fixture

How to Replace a Light Fixture
What You'll Need
Voltage Tester
Wire Strippers
Electrical Tape
Wire Connectors
New Light Fixture

One change to your home's atmosphere and decor that's both easy and instantaneously effective is replacing an old, outdated light fixture with a more stylish one. Replacing a light fixture is an easy job that most average DIYers should be able to accomplish in about a half hour. If you have an old light fixture you want to replace with a new one and you need a little help, here's how to do it.

Step 1: Turn Off the Power to the Light Fixture

Check the electrical panel's chart to see if the breaker for the light fixture or the part of the home where it is located in is labeled. If it isn't, then turn the light fixture on and turn off the breakers individually until the light goes out. Once you find the correct breaker, place a piece of electrical tape over the breaker and post a sign on the panel cover notifying others that you are working on the power. When you return to the light fixture, turn the wall switch off (if it is controlled by one).

Step 2: Disassemble the Existing Light Fixture

If the fixture was previously on, wait until it has cooled before you start to disassemble it. Remove the cover lens first and then unscrew the light bulbs. Depending on the type of fixture it is, there may be two screws securing it to the mounting bracket or there may be a single threaded nipple with a nut holding the fixture up.

If there are two screws, loosen them and then  turn the fixture so the screw heads can slide through the larger slots on the fixture body to release the fixture from the mounting bracket.

If the fixture has a threaded nipple with a nut, simply remove the nut and slide the fixture down and away from the chase nipple.

Before your disconnect the wire connectors it is important to double check to make sure you turned the correct breaker off. Test the black wire for voltage using a non-touch voltage tester. If the tester does not light up or make a sound, then the circuit is off. Disconnect the wire connectors and remove the old fixture.

Step 3: Prepare the New Light Fixture

Look at the new light fixture and see if the existing mounting bracket will work with it. If it does not, then you have to remove it and install the one that came with the new fixture. Disassemble the new fixture (if it comes pre-assembled) so you're only working with the base of the fixture.

Step 4: Inspect the Ceiling Wires

Check the wires in the ceiling for any signs of deterioration, oxidation or hardening or melting of the wire insulation. If you notice any potential problems, trim away the affected wire and strip 3/4-inch of insulation to reveal fresh copper for a better connection.

Step 5: Wire the Fixture

  1. Take the black wire(s) from the fixture and connect them with the black wire coming from the ceiling box, using an appropriately sized wire connector.
  2. Take the white wire(s) from the fixture and connect them with the white wire coming from the ceiling box, using an appropriately sized wire connector.
  3. Take the ground wire from the fixture and connect it with the ground wire coming from the ceiling box, using an appropriately sized wire connector.
  4. No copper should be noticeable beneath the edge of the wire connector. Wrap a strip of electrical tape over each wire connector where the end of the connector meets the wire.

Step 6: Secure the Fixture to the Mounting Bracket

Carefully push the wires back up into the ceiling box and secure the fixture's base to the mounting bracket as directed in the instructions. Check the outside edges of the fixture to make sure no wires get caught between the fixture and the ceiling and then tighten down the screws so the fixture is tight against the ceiling.

Step 7: Assemble the New Fixture and Finish the Installation

Install properly-rated light bulbs as indicated on the fixture's socket labels and finish the installation by installing the new light fixture's cover lens. Turn the circuit breaker back on and flip the wall switch on to test and admire your new light fixture.