Here are the tools you’ll need to replace a light fixture… DIY style:
- Flathead and Phillips screw drivers
- Wire nuts (should come with the fixture)
- Non-contact tester
- Electric tape (optional, to reinforce wire nuts)
- Wire hanger (if you’re alone)
And now for the fun part… here’s how to successfully get the job done, step-by-step:
REMINDER: Don’t forget to follow ALL the safety steps included in my earlier post on all-things electrical!
1. Kill the power at the service panel.
2. Get up on a ladder and examine how your fixture is mounted. The following describes one of the most common fixture mounts, but the gist is always the same – you have to find the bolts that fasten it in place. Typically, you will see two small bolts that are spaced about 4 inches apart (you may first need to remove the globe or decorative trim). Loosen them by unscrewing a few turns then twist the fixture slightly toward the open end of the bolt slots. The light will then drop free. (If the fixture is stuck in place with paint, gently tap it or pry it loose with a flat screwdriver.)
3. Re-check that the power is off with your tester.
4. Examine how the old fixture’s wires are connected to the ones in the box in the ceiling. There should be a black wire, a white wire, and a ground (green or bare–a thin uncoated wire). Unscrew the wire nuts (caps), separate the wires, disconnect the ground, and remove the fixture (recap the black and white wires in the ceiling box as you’re working – always a good safety practice even though the power if off).
NOTE: If you discover your box has many other wires joined in it, making it look more like a spaghetti bowl than the three wires I describe above, it’s best to call in a pro.
5. Determine if the new fixture’s mount is the same as the old one. You may have to install a piece or two of hardware. (Look at the instructions that come with your light fixture to help guide you – you may not need all the parts that come with the fixture.)
6. Hanging a light fixture is a balancing act – you have to make the connections while holding the fixture in place. You may be able to temporarily hang the fixture from the strap while you work with a bent piece of wire hanger or have a friend hold it for you while you make the connections.
7. Use the wire nuts provided in the light kit and attach white-to-white, black-to-black, and green to bare or directly to the metal box. It is important to ground the fixture, so don’t skip this step.
8. Once all of the wiring is secure, carefully push the wires back up, tucking them all inside the box. Secure the new light in place.
9. Install the bulb(s) in the light. Be careful not to exceed the maximum wattage listed on the sockets.
10. Turn the power back on from the service panel and test the light.
11. If everything looks OK, turn the light off and install the globe, shades, or other decorative trim. If installing a globe, make sure that globe retaining screws are snug, but be careful not to over tighten them or you risk breaking the glass.
Got A DIY Question? Ask-The-Expert!
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Fix-It Friday is an exclusive Women You Should Know® editorial series authored by seasoned veteran of home improvement, Norma Vally. The weekly column is designed to inspire women – weekend warriors, aspiring handywomen, and even seasoned DIYers – to take on home repairs and maintenance projects with confidence and gusto.