How to Install a Light Fixture
Time Required: Under 2 hours
Replacing old lighting with a new fixture or adding overhead lighting where there previously was none can instantly transform a room.
Many modern light fixtures are energy efficient, making your home improvement project easy on the eyes and the wallet. This guide will teach you how to quickly and safely install a light fixture.
Safety: Before doing any electrical work, shut off the power to the light fixture at the main circuit panel. Flip the light switch on and off a few times to make sure there’s no power running to the existing fixture, then leave in the “off” position as you work. We recommend asking a helper to assist you during the removal and install process.
Tip: Before you begin, make sure your junction box can support the weight of the new light fixture. Junction boxes typically hold up to 50 pounds. If your fixture weighs more, you may need to install a junction box that’s designed to support heavier light fixtures.
If you are removing an existing fixture:
- Have one person support the weight of the existing fixture while the other unbolts any screws and lock nuts that attach the fixture to the ceiling.
- Disconnect the light fixture’s wires from the house wires by twisting off the wire connectors and untwisting the connections. Make note of how these wires are connected because you’ll reconnect the wires of the new fixture the same way.
- A standard box will have three sets of electric wires connected: the black or red current wires; the white neutral wires; and the silver or copper ground wires that you will disconnect last.
- When you have fully disconnected the wires and light fixture, remove the fixture from your work area. Leave the house wires hanging, so that you can connect them to the wires of the new fixture.
If there is no previously installed fixture:
- Use a noncontact voltage tester or a circuit tester to ensure there are no live wires in the junction box. Simply touch each wire to the tester. If the light turns red, the wire is live.
Tip: To avoid broken bulbs and injury, wait to add bulbs to the light fixture until after it’s hung and all wires have been connected.
- Spread the components of your new light fixture on a flat, clean surface.
- Assemble the parts that should be connected to the fixture. You’ll save yourself time and labor by making these adjustments on the ground. Follow manufacturer's instructions when assembling the parts.
- To connect the light fixture to the junction box, screw in the crossbar, the nipple, lock nut and the screw collar loop that supports the fixture.
- If your light fixture includes a chain, adjust the chain to your desired length. Use chain pliers or pliers with a screwdriver to open the link on the end of the chain. Attach the chain to the screw collar, then hold the light fixture up against it. Adjust the length of the chain to the link that best matches your desired length.
- On a flat surface, attach the adjusted chain to the light fixture. Thread the light fixture’s electric wires through every other link in the chain.
- With the light fixture assembled, attach it to the screw collar by the chain. One person should stabilize the ladder while the other installs the fixture.
- Thread the light fixture’s electric wires through the screw collar loop. Connect the house wires and the wires of the new light fixture in the reverse way you used to disconnect the old light fixture.
- Using a wire cutter, cut the length of the light fixture’s electric wires to the length of the house wires. If necessary, use wire strippers to remove the insulation from the light fixture’s electric wires.
- Wrap the copper or silver ground wires from the light fixture around the ground screw. Then, connect it to the supply ground wire of the junction box with a wire connector.
- Connect the black or red current wires and the white neutral wires. Then, push the connected wires into the junction box.
- To complete your new light fixture installation, slide the canopy up against the ceiling and screw it into place with the screw collar nut. Then, screw in the light bulbs that may be included in your package.
- Restore power to the box and enjoy the new light in your room.