Weekend Project: Replace a Ceiling Light Fixture

You’ve given your space a fresh coat of paint and rearranged the furniture. But why stop the home improvement projects there? Give any room in your home a new attitude by simply changing out an old ceiling light fixture. It is easier than you think.

What you need:

  • A jazzy new light fixture
  • Voltage/circuit tester (recommended, though not entirely necessary)
  • Wire strippers
  • Wire connectors (if not included with a new light kit)
  • Screwdriver
  • Safety glasses (also recommended, though not entirely necessary)
  • Ladder
  • Extra pair of hands

1. Turn off the power.
Be safe! Some fixtures can be powered down at the switch, but flipping the switch doesn’t necessarily mean the wires aren’t live. Why chance it? Shut off the power to your old ceiling fixture at the breaker. *If your breaker box is a guessing game, use this opportunity to label the switch to the room you’re working in.

2. Remove light bulb cover and bulbs from the old fixture.
Wear safety goggles to prevent dust from falling into your eyes. Once finished, check to see that the ceiling base is sturdy enough to support a new fixture. If not, gently tighten screws in ceiling panel and grounding bar.

3. Remove the old fixture.
Once the cover from the old fixture is removed, lower the old fixture base and untwist and remove any electrical tape and/or wire nuts from the black (hot) wire, white (neutral) wire, and green (ground) wires. You’ll generally notice wires from the fixture will be paired with same-colored wires within your ceiling panel.

Pro tip: Take a quick photo of the ceiling panel so you can refer to it when you’re attaching your new fixture.

4. Connect new wires.
Use wire strippers to remove roughly ¾ inch of the rubber coating from the tips of your new fixture’s wires, then twist the exposed ends of the neutral (usually white) wires together (from fixture to ceiling panel). Repeat with the tips of the hot (usually black or red) wires. If applicable, connect your fixture’s green wire to the grounding screw in the grounding bar of your ceiling panel.

Pro tip: You may have a fixture with wires that wrap directly around screws to make a connection. In this case, make a U shape with your wire end and loop and clamp it around the color-coordinated screw. This step is when an extra set of hands comes in, well, handy.

5. Secure the base of the new fixture.
Fold excess wire length into your electrical box or into a void in the base, and raise and position your new base plate. Gently tighten the new bolts through the base plate to attach it to the mounting strap in your ceiling. If your fixture is a little wobbly, gently tighten the screws from base to ceiling once again.

6. Let there be light!
Before attaching your new light cover, screw in new energy-efficient light bulbs. Work your way around your light cover, gently tightening screws until they’re all secure. Now it’s time to test your work. And since you labeled your breaker box at the onset, you know exactly which switch to flip.