How to Install: A Light Fixture

At Emerge2, we believe that learning to install a light fixture by yourself is a valuable addition to your DIY skill set. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how little time it will take and how easy it is, even for a beginner. You will save the expense of a licensed electrician, and once you have installed one fixture it will be easier to install future fixtures.

Follow each step carefully, and refer to the instructions provided by the manufacturer of your light fixture. If you are installing an antique or vintage light fixture, make sure it is up to current standards with safe, up-to-date wiring.

Note: these instructions are for installing a light fixture to replace a fixture, which means there will already be a junction box and wiring.

If you need to install a junction box, or if your project is more complicated, it’s best to call a licensed electrician.

What you need:

  • Light fixture
  • A helper, especially if your fixture is large or heavy
  • Non-contact voltage detector or circuit tester
  • Wire strippers
  • Phillips and flat head screwdriver
  • Work light
  • Wire connectors or Marettes
  • Electrician’s tape
  • Step ladder or stool (wood or fiberglass recommended)
  • Wear rubber soled shoes
  • Work in a dry room

Safety comes first

Keep in mind that with any project involving electricity, you need to take care to follow safety precautions to avoid electrical shock. Caution: while installing your new light fixture, if you discover any wiring that looks brittle, old or unprofessional, it’s always best to call a licensed electrician.

Before you start

Be sure to take your new light fixture out of the box and check that you have all the parts you need.

Step 1: Turn off the power

You don’t need to turn off the power to your entire house, just the circuit breaker that provides power to the wires you will be working with.

As an extra precaution, it’s best not to rely only on turning off the light switch in the room you are working in.

Step 3: Test for live wires

Test for live wires with your voltage detector. Place your voltage detector directly on the wires in the junction box. If your detector indicates that there is no live power, then you can continue the installation. If it does indicate power, determine why the power is still on and check your circuit breakers again.

A word on wires – Most junction boxes have three types of wires: black or hot; white or neutral; and bare copper or grounding wire. It is very important not to mix up the wires during the installation. If this happens, you could get a shock or cause a fire. Black with black, white with white.

Step 4: Disconnect the old fixture wires

Now you need to disconnect the old fixture wires from the wires in the junction box. You do this by twisting and removing the wire connectors, and then untwisting the black and white wires, as well as the ground wire, which is bare copper or silver and should have a green connector or be connected to a green screw on the junction box. Set aside the old fixture and let the wires from the junction box hang freely.

In most cases, you won’t need to strip the wires. If they are frayed, you can cut the wires and strip off about three quarters of an inch of the insulation.

Before you begin to install your new fixture to the electric junction box, make sure the box is strong enough to support the new light fixture. If you will be installing a new fixture of a similar weight to the original fixture, then it should be fine.

Step 5: Do you need a new mounting bracket?

You may need to use a new mounting bracket or crossbar for the fixture you are installing. Screw the new bracket or crossbar, if needed, into the junction box.

Step 6: Fasten the new fixture’s wires

Make sure you can safely support the fixture or have someone hold it for you while you are fastening the new fixture wires to the wires in the junction box.

Another way is to secure the ground wire to the green screw in the junction box. This will allow the fixture to hang safely from the junction box, if it is not too heavy, and keep your hands free to do the installation.

Now twist the white (neutral) wire from the fixture tightly together with the white wire that is connected to the junction box. Place a wire connector or Marette onto the wires by twisting the wires inside until they fit securely.

Do the same with the black (hot) wires.

The grounding wire from the fixture should also be twisted into a green wire connector or green screw.

Wind some electrician’s tape around the wire connectors for added security. This will help prevent the wire connectors from falling off to avoid a short.

Tuck all wires up into the junction box.

Step 7: Install the light fixture

Push the light fixture up into the opening in the ceiling or wall, making sure that all wires and wire connectors are securely inside the opening.

Fasten the light fixture to the ceiling with screws or threading depending on the type of fixture you have.

A hanging fixture usually has a canopy that you push onto the ceiling and secure with nuts. It may have a chain with visible wire or a threaded tube that contains the wires. Screw in the recommended light bulbs.

A flush-to-ceiling fixture is fastened by screws that come through holes in the light fixture’s base. Screw in the recommended light bulbs, then place the glass cover onto the base and fasten with screws and nuts.

Step 8: Turn your power on

Turn your circuit back on, then turn on the light switch.

Your new light should be on! Enjoy your new light fixture and give yourself a pat on the back.

If you have any questions or need more information, visit Emerge2. Our team is always available to help in any way we can.