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Replacing An Old Ceiling Light

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You've walked by that dingy ceiling light in the hallway a thousand times and suddenly you've decided it's time to replace it. This is likely a simple DIY project you can do with a few tools and an hour or two. You can probably do it without any help, unless you choose a replacement fixture that is heavy. If you are anxious about working around electricity, it's best to call an electrician to do the job. Otherwise, grab a ladder and your toolbox and change that light fixture.

Tools and Materials You'll Need for This Project

  • screwdriver
  • flashlight
  • electrical tape
  • step ladder

From the lighting store:

  • replacement light fixture
  • light bulbs to fit the new fixture
  • wire nuts (used for holding the wires together)

The replacement light may include wire nuts. Check the side of the box to see if they are listed in the contents. You may also be able to use the wire nuts from the old light. Just to make sure you have all of the parts you need, buy a small package of wire nuts. You'll likely use them on future projects, too.

Removing the Old Light Fixture

  1. Position the ladder where you can safely work on the light fixture.
  2. Turn the power off to the light at the circuit box for the house.
  3. Turn the light switch on and off to verify that there is no power running to it.
  4. Position the flashlight to work on the light or have someone hold the flashlight for you.
  5. Remove the glass or plastic light cover. This varies depending on the style of the old light. There may be a central shaft that extends through the cover with a single nut that holds it on. Or there could be three or four small screws that hold the cover onto the base. While holding onto the cover, unscrew the nut or the screws and gently let down the cover.
  6. Remove the light bulbs.
  7. While holding onto the base of the ceiling light, unscrew the two screws that hold it onto the electrical box in the ceiling.
  8. Lower the base until you can see the two wires connected to it.
  9. Remove any electrical tape around the wires and unscrew the wire nuts connecting them.
  10. You should now be able to remove the base of the light completely.

Installing the New Light Fixture

  1. Take the fixture out of the box and locate the wire nuts, if included. You can also reuse the wire nuts from the old light fixture.
  2. If the new fixture is heavy, or you just need an extra set of hands, lift up the new light fixture base until you can connect the wires in the base to the wires coming down from the ceiling.
  3. Twist the two wires coming out of the ceiling to the two wires in the base, matching the black and white wires to each other.
  4. Screw the wire nuts onto each pair of wires until tight.
  5. Wrap a small piece of electrical tape over the wire nuts and onto each pair of wires to make sure the connections are secure.
  6. Tuck the wires into the ceiling as you lift up the base. Align the screw holes in the base with the holes in the electrical box mounted in the ceiling.
  7. Screw the base to the electrical box to secure it to the ceiling.
  8. Put new light bulbs into the light fixture.
  9. Set the cover onto the base and secure with the nut on the central shaft or the three or four screws around the edge.
  10. Turn the power back on to the light fixture from the circuit box and test the light. 

For further assistance, contact a local outlet, such as Electrolight Enterprises Lighting Store.