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Back to Basics: How to Replace a Light Fixture

By Wife in Progress on Oct 22, 2013

DIY 101: A new series for homeowners

When Brian and I bought our house (our first house!) almost three years ago, neither of us had ever painted a wall, never mind tackle all of the DIY projects that we’ve since become accustomed to.

I used to spend days trawling through blogs in order to find the information I needed to help me with my projects – whether it was the correct finish of paint to use, the best methods of removing wallpaper, to figuring out how to replace light fixtures and outlets.

I’ve since amassed quite a lot of essential tips that every homeowner – and wife in progress – should know in order to survive the world of DIY!

Do you want to shell out $100 + for an electrician to come to your home to replace an old light fixture? I know I don’t! This is a simple task that anyone – with some time and patience – can do. Read on for your first DIY 101 lesson!

DIY 101: Replacing a Light Fixture

In the first of my DIY 101 series, I will show you how to replace a light fixture.

**Disclaimer: The following product was supplied free of charge by National Builder Supply. All opinions are my own.**

The light fixture that was in dire need of an update was the builder-grade boob light in my hallway. It did the job, lighting the area well, but aesthetically it just wasn’t following the transitional style of the rest of my home.

When National Builder Supply offered me the opportunity to showcase another one of their products (check out the pendants they previously sponsored), I instantly knew the perfect project and the perfect product. I went from having an ugly boob light the beautiful Trans Globe modern flush mount light in polished chrome.

Ugly old boob light

Ugly old boob light

Modern flushmount courtesy of National Builder Supply

Modern flushmount fixture courtesy of National Builder Supply

Tools Needed:

  • Ladder
  • Wire strippers
  • Voltage detector (optional)
  • Screwdrivers
  • Flashlight (if working in any area that doesn’t have a lot of natural light)
  • Your new light fixture, its instructions and whatever bulbs you need
    (click here to see the product info for mine!)

Step 1: Cut the power to the light fixture. I usually leave the light turned on, then go downstairs to the circuit panel and flip the circuit breaker. If it the light turns off, I know I’ve killed the electricity correctly. This is especially important to check in case your circuits are not labeled or in case they are labeled incorrectly! If you own a voltage detector, now would be the time to use it.

Step 2: Remove the old fixture. I had to pop off the glass piece first, then unscrew the bulbs. The silver circular part was screwed into the ceiling, so I unscrewed that. Once that is done, you should be left with a fixture dangling from the connected wires.

old light

old_connections

Step 3: Disconnect the wiring. Remove the plastic caps and either untwist or, using a wire cutter, cut the wires.

wiring1

Step 4: The metal grounding bar that goes across the electrical box will need to be replaced to match the fixture you are installing. This will have been provided with your new fixture. Unscrew the old one and replace it with the new one.

new_crossbar

Step 5: Connect the wires. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions as to how to match the wires correctly. However, typically, the black (live) wires connect to each other, and the white wires (neutral) connect to each other. The ground wire, which is usually green or exposed copper, connects to a green screw on the grounding bar (or to a green wire if there is one).

Sometimes instead of being black and white, the cables may have a ridged side and a smooth side. In that instance, theridged side of the cable corresponds to the white wire and the smooth side corresponds to the black wire .

Using a wire stripper, you should remove about an inch of the plastic coating from the wires to expose enough wire to connect to the wires coming from the electrical box (how many times can you say wire in once sentence!?!)

Using the wire cutters, hold both ends of the wire and twist together. Then screw on the orange connector caps. Connect the grounding wire by winding around the green screw.

labeled_electricbox

It’s important that the black live wire does not touch the ground wire. I always make sure that it’s on the opposite side of the grounding bar to the other wires.

Step 6: Once the wires have all been re-connected, push them up onto the cavity, again making sure that the black wire is not touching the ground wire. Screw the base of the new fixture into the grounding plate and electrical box.

install new light1

Step 7: Attach the rest of the fixture as per the manufacturer’s instructions and put the bulbs back in. Turn the power back on and enjoy your new light fixture!

new light2
new light new light at night

My pictures don’t do this light justice at all. I love it when it’s lit up…it’s all circley (yes, I know it’s not a word!) and glowing.

Now, shoo! Go give it a shot! I bet you have a light fixture that you’ve been meaning to replace – and now you have no excuse!

Disclaimer: I am not, nor do I claim to be, an electrician. If you electrocute yourself during this process, I hold no responsibility! That being said, it’s a simple project. Just be smart and safe! The light fixture was supplied free of charge by National Builder Supply. All opinions are my own.

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