A woman installing a light fixture.
Light brown laminate flooring.

4 Steps to Help You Replace a Light Fixture

How to Install a Light Fixture

Here’s an essential task a homeowner should know how to tackle: changing a light fixture. Skip calling your parents or paying an outrageous bill for an electrician by learning how to install a light fixture. Updating an electrical fixture transforms a room (out with the old, in with the new), and all at low cost and relative ease.

Before you get started, know that changing a light fixture requires basic electrical knowledge. If you are not comfortable diving into an electrical project, call a certified electrician instead. When it comes to working with electrical material, always put safety first.

Tools you will need:

  • Wire cutter/stripper.
  • Screwdriver.
  • Circuit tester.
  • Voltage detector.
  • Ladder.

Materials you will need:

  • Your new light fixture.
  • Wire nuts (if these are not included).

Choosing the Right Light Fixture

There are no wrong choices when you are picking out a new light fixture, but if you are looking for some helpful tips, consider these styles:

  • Chandelier: Looking for something classy that is sure to make a statement? Chandeliers never go out of style. These pieces are bound to be the center of attention and can range from a more traditional aesthetic to one that is purely modern.
  • Sconces: Wall sconces are excellent for framing and showcasing. You might see these next to a mantle, framing a striking piece of artwork, or flanking a bathroom mirror. Updating wall sconces can transform a room, going from old to sleek.
  • Recessed lighting: Maybe you do not want to make a statement and instead you are simply wanting light without all of the fuss. Recessed lighting is here to the rescue. Shed some light on the subject by cleaning up your fixtures and making them functional.
  • Pendant lights: Pendant lights come in all different shapes and sizes. If you do not want something as flashy as a chandelier but you want a fixture more noticeable than a recessed light, then peruse the array of pendant lights. They hang on a long pole or wire to make for an eye-level light that is excellent for smaller spaces, tables, or kitchen islands.

Step 1: Turn Off the Power

Here’s how to turn the power off: head to your electrical circuit panel and find the appropriate circuit breaker control for the room with the light fixture you are changing. Switch the circuit off.

Always test to make sure that the power is actually off. Grab your circuit tester and double check — and meanwhile, flip all switches to their off positions.

Step 2: Out With the Old Fixture

Time to remove the old, outdated light fixture. Grab your screwdriver and loosen the hardware. If it does not come off right away, it could be because the fixture was caulked. Use your screwdriver to cut the caulking and remove the old fixture.

The fixture will still be connected to the old wires when it comes off, so you will need to disconnect them. Use your current detector to ensure the wires are not live. Here’s where your basic electrical knowledge will come into play. Your old fixture will have: a black (hot), a neutral (white) and a ground (copper). Disconnect all of them. Keep holding your old fixture while you do so because as soon as all three are disconnected, the fixture will come loose.

Step 3: …And in With the New Fixture

Your new light fixture should come with a bracket. New brackets are universal, meaning they can attach to many electrical box styles, so you should not need to worry about running into difficulty at this step.

Here’s when you will wire your new fixture. The new fixture will come with three wires, just like you saw earlier when you removed your old fixture. Although this is electrical work, it is quite manageable — you will match black to black, white to white and copper to copper.

To wire them together, make sure about a half an inch of wire is exposed. The new fixture’s wires are likely stripped, but if not, grab your wire stripper and clip away just enough to make half of an inch exposure. Start with pairing the two blacks with the provided wire nut, then the two whites, then the two coppers.

What if There’s No Ground Wire?

If your electrical box does not contain a ground/copper wire, that just means an electrician decided to ground the box. If that is your situation, just attach the one ground wire you have with your new fixture to the electrical box itself. Luckily, manufacturers have already thought this one out, so the mounting bracket has a small green screw that you will fit the ground wire around. Loop the copper wire clockwise and secure it tightly with your screwdriver.

Step 4: Secure It!

The new fixture should also come with new mounting hardware. Your last step is securing the fixture to the mounting bracket and the electrical box. The most common type of connection usually requires a bolt and a nut.

Place your new fixture over the mounting bracket. Grab the nut that came with your new fixture and tighten secure it. Tighten the bolt with your hand, as using another tool for this job could strip away the finish, which could be noticeable.

Top it all off with a brand-new lightbulb and any other trim or cover pieces that you need to add. Finally, head back to your circuit breaker and flip the power back on now that you are done.