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How DIY Install a Light Fixture

Hi, Kristen Decker Ali here from Candlestickinthelibrary.com. I rewire and refurbish vintage light fixtures, and many of my clients ask me if they can install their chandelier themselves. Absolutely! As long as you follow some basic rules and have a healthy respect for electricity, you can easily install your own light fixture. Here are some general guidelines to help you through the process.

Before you start:

1) Turn the fixture off at the light switch and then find the breaker for that area and turn that off too. Very important!

2) Assemble your tools: a tall, sturdy ladder (NOT a stepladder), a flathead and/or Phillips screwdriver, and possibly a drill and pliers depending on your fixture.

3) Find a friend to help hold the fixture and pass you tools. This makes things SO much easier!

This is what you have in your ceiling that you’re going to be detaching your light from:

Light fixture install Junction Box Ground Wire

I am going to give just a quick run through of the parts, because if I explained everything in depth, and how electricity works, this blog post would turn into a textbook!

The junction box is the metal box that serves as the transition between your house’s electrical wiring and your light fixture. You’ve got the “hot” wire, which is black, the “neutral” wire, which is white, the bracket, which is secured to the junction box with screws and is what is going to hold your fixture up, and probably a ground wire if you live in a newer home. The more recently your house was built the closer you’ll get to this setup; if you have an older house it might look slightly different, but you will still have the same basic components. Most code nowadays requires that you have a ground wire but it is possible to hang a fixture without one; if you don’t have one, you can consult an electrician or DIY install a ground wire. In the ten years I’ve lived in my ground wire-less old house I’ve replaced pretty much every light, so I feel comfortable installing a fixture without using a ground wire. It’s definitely up to you.

Taking the old fixture down:

1) Loosen whatever you need to so that you can access the wiring. This could be a slip ring, a screw holding the base, or a number of different things depending on what type of fixture you have.

2) Remove any covering you have so that the wiring is exposed. Unscrew the wire connectors counterclockwise (facing you) and gently separate the wires. The wires will be twisted around each other, sometimes pretty tightly. The wiring from your old fixture will be soft and flexible, as it consists of lots of very thin wires, and the wiring in the ceiling will be one stiff wire. Just keep gently twisting the wires until they come apart. Set your connectors aside and save them for later.

Junction Box Mockup wire connectors off

3) Remove the fixture by unscrewing the threaded pipe counterclockwise (lefty loosey) from the mounting bracket. At this point it is a good idea to ask your companion to hold the fixture while you unscrew it, or else you will have to support the fixture yourself, which takes considerable strength, can be stressful, and may result in you dropping the dratted thing. The “buddy system” is key!

Junction Box Mockup pipe off

Installing the new fixture:

1) First, it’s a good idea to take a look at the threaded pipe on your new fixture to make sure it will fit in your existing bracket. Most light fixtures use what is called a 1/8 IP threaded pipe, or a pipe that is 3/8 inches in diameter, but there are 1/4 IP pipes and 3/8 IP pipes as well. If the bracket hole size in your junction box doesn’t match your fixture’s threaded pipe, you can easily buy a new bracket that matches your fixture’s pipe diameter.

2) Ask your partner to support the chandelier while you screw the threaded pipe in clockwise into the ceiling bracket (righty tighty). Screw the pipe in enough so that it is securely into the bracket, but not all the way up because you don’t want it to squish any other wires that may be in the box. Once you’ve got the threaded pipe firmly in the bracket, gently lower the fixture and test it to make sure everything is nice and sturdy.

Junction box mockup threaded pipe on

3) Attach the wiring of your fixture to the ceiling wires by twisting the wires clockwise with the ends pointed at you. If your fixture uses color-coded wires, match the colors- black to black, white to white. If it uses clear lamp wire, sometimes the wire will have a ridged side and a smooth side. You can match the smooth side to the black wire and the ridged side to the white wire. Twist the wires and connectors on firmly, as you want everything to stay connected when you exert a fair amount of force on it.

Junction Box Mockup wires on

4) Now you will either push the wires back into the junction box if your fixture is flush with the ceiling, or into your canopy if you have one. Adjust whatever needs to be adjusted or screwed in on your light fixture to hide the wires and you are done!

Flip your breaker back on and bask in the glow of your new fixture and a DIY task completed.

I hope this tutorial helped you. For more on how to install a light fixture, please check out my video: https://youtu.be/88AEZpzSORY

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