Replacing a light fixture can be a relatively inexpensive way to jazz up an apartment — or maybe the fixture that’s currently in there is just in dire need of an update. Either way, why hire an electrician to change it when you can give it a go yourself? Obviously, you’ll need a little DIY experience for this job, as well as the ability to follow any manufacturer’s instructions on how to install a particular fixture safely, but we’ve found that it’s actually surprisingly easy as long as you go through all the proper steps. Here’s how to get it done:
Check to see if you need a permit to replace the light fixture in your house or apartment. If you’re renting, make sure you have permission from your landlord before undertaking anything like this, as they may prefer to hire a professional to take it on for you, or worse, they may not allow you to do it at all. And of course, don’t forget to observe any applicable building and electrical codes. If you have any doubts or questions about the connections, or if your home’s wiring doesn’t appear to be compatible with a new fixture, contact a licensed electrician. While this is usually a simple job to do, that’s only the case if the system you have is relatively new and has been built in compliance with all standard regulations. There can be lots of unforeseen complications with older and poorer-condition systems, so you’ll find it’s best left to the pros in those cases.
You also need to make sure you gather all the necessary equipment before attempting to remove the existing light fixture. The last thing you want is to take it down and realize that you don’t have the right tools for the job. If the new light fixture needs assembling, don’t forget to do that beforehand, too.
- new light fixture
- electrical tape
- wire connectors
- wire strippers
- voltage tester
It may also be a good idea to have a friend come and help you out. This is especially true if either of the light fixtures are particularly large or heavy, as you’ll have your hands full at various points throughout the installation process.
Step 1: Turn Off the Electricity
Now that you’re ready to get to work, you need to make sure it’s safe for you to replace the light fixture. Go to your electrical circuit panel, find the breaker control for the room in which you’ll be working, and switch it off. If you’re not sure which one it is, turn the lights in that room on and turn the breakers off one at a time until you find it.
Step 2: Remove the Old Fixture
Next, you’ll want to remove any of the old fixture’s detachable parts like light bulbs, covers, shades, etc. These will all need to come off before you can get to the wires. Carefully loosen any screws holding parts in place, and use your friend to hold the fixture so the weight doesn’t rip it out of the wall.
Step 3: Test for Power and Remove Wiring
Before you do anything involving the wires, run a test to confirm that the power is properly off (crazy professor hair vibes are not the look we’re going for here!). Just use your voltage tester on the exposed part of the wires to make sure that there’s no electricity running through them. When you’re satisfied that it’s safe, unscrew the wire connectors (plastic caps) to disconnect the fixture from the circuit wires. Note that it might be a good idea to take a photo of the way they’re connected here to ensure you can match it for your new fixture. Lastly, take down the old mounting strap that’s attached to the ceiling, as new fixtures usually come with their own mounting strap designed to fit them specifically. Now you can remove the fixture entirely and set it aside.
Step 4: Prepare the New Fixture
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for matching the wires on the new fixture up to the wires you have in your wall or ceiling. These instructions should also help you figure out exactly how it will be fixed to the lighting box.
Step 5: Swap Hardware Plates
Replace the old hardware plate or mounting strap with the one that came with your new light fixture, making sure to line up the screw holes with the holes in the lighting box.
Step 6: Connect Wires
Next, connect the new fixture’s black wire to the exposed end of the black wire in the wall or ceiling and screw on the wire connectors. Do this for the white wires, too. If you have a grounding wire (usually green or bare copper), do the same here, as well. Tape over the wire connectors when you’re finished for that extra bit of security.
Again, having a second person to hold the light fixture can really help at this stage, as it leaves both of your hands free for fiddling with wires.
Step 7: Install the Bulbs
Make sure the wires are all inside the electrical box, then attach the fixture base to it. Now it’s bulb time. Consider using more efficient bulbs such as LED ones. Whichever bulb you choose, just make sure that you don’t exceed the recommended total wattage for the new fixture you’ve chosen.
Step 8: Turn the Electricity Back On
Next, it’s time to check that everything is working okay. Switch on the breaker at your electrical panel first, and then flip the individual switch to the light fixture. If the bulbs don’t come on, turn the switch and the circuit back off again, and then go back through and check your connections.
Step 9: Add Any Trim or Shade
Now you know that the lights are working, install any trim, cover, globe, or shade, following the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Finally, you can enjoy the new light fixture, and be proud of yourself for an awesome DIY job!