How to Replace a Ceiling Light

Follow this simple DIY to update your ceiling light fixtures. Learn how to replace a ceiling light and light fixture in your home for less.


Uncovered ceiling light fixture

Expected Project Length:

1 Hour

Skill Level:

Expert

Materials:

Bare copper wire Wire nuts

Tools:

Phillips head screw driver Needle nose pliers Step Ladder Flat head screwdriver



Warning: Turn off the power to the light’s circuit at the circuit breaker. Try to handle insulated wires only by the insulation to avoid shocks from stray voltage. Never stand on the top 2 steps of a stepladder. Make sure your ladder is tall enough for the job.

13 steps on 'How to Replace a Ceiling Light'

1. Remove the fixture globe (if applicable)

Removing the fixture globe



If your existing fixture has is a standard, globe-style, find the mounting screws or nut(s) and loosen or remove them. Be sure to support the globe while you're loosening the mount.


2. Remove any light bulbs

Removing light bulbs from fixture



Remove bulbs to avoid breakage while you're removing the fixture. They may also partially or completely block access to the fixture mounting screws. Note: Avoid touching any exposed wires or terminals at the base of the socket(s). Even with the switch off, there may be stray voltage on these wires.


3. Loosen the mounting screws

Using screwdriver to loosen mounting screws



There should be 2 keyhole-shaped slots in the fixture base, with screws attaching it to the ceiling box. Locate these 2 screws and loosen them by turning counterclockwise with the appropriate screwdriver. You shouldn't need to remove these all the way; just loosen them enough to rotate the base. Note: If there is paint holding the fixture base in place, cut carefully through it with a sharp knife.


4. Lower the fixture base

Pulling fixture base from ceiling to hang lower



Once the fixture base is loose enough, rotate it to align the screw heads with the round part of the mounting holes. Pull down gently to slip the base off the screws. Lower it until you can access the wiring. Note: If the fixture is heavy, you may want to have someone help hold it while you perform next few steps.


5. Inspect the box wiring and expose the light wires

Exposed light wires hanging from ceiling



There may be more wires than you'll need to handle in the ceiling box. Take a moment to look for brittle or cracked insulation or any signs of excess heat in the box. If you see anything that doesn't look right, consider calling an electrician. If the wiring looks alright, follow the black, white and green or bare copper wires from the fixture to their connections to the house wiring. Gently work those connections down from the box so you can access them easily.


6. Note the connection colors and mark if necessary

Sorting wires into like colors



It's possible that the wiring colors in the box may not match your fixture wiring colors. If necessary, mark the insulation on the wire the black wire is connected to with a piece of electrical tape. This should be the switched wire and should be connected to the black wire on your new fixture.


7. Check the light wiring for voltage

Voltmeter checking wires coming out of the box



If you have a voltmeter or test light available, it's a good idea to check the wires coming out of the box for voltage. This can be done at the back of the wire nuts, but I prefer to remove them first. You should show no voltage between the switched wire and ground (green or bare) wire in the box. It's not unusual to see a small amount of voltage between the neutral (white) and ground wires. Remember to avoid touching the bare wire ends.


8. Check the crossbar ground

Copper wire around grounding screw



If your fixture is hung from a crossbar, it's safer if it's connected to the ground circuit. Most will have a grounding screw. This crossbar wasn't grounded, so I added a short piece of bare, 12 gauge solid copper wire to ground it with. Bend one end of the wire into a hook and slip it over the grounding screw so that it travels clockwise around it. Tighten the grounding screw firmly.


9. Check mounting screws and clear holes

Cleaned mounting screw holes



If your new fixture came with longer or shorter mounting screws, switch them out now. Back the screws out as far as you can to make finding them easier. Make sure the holes on the new fixture are clear of insulation, etc. to facilitate lining up the screws and mounting holes.


10. Connect the new fixture wiring

Connecting new light fixture wires



Connect the ground wires first, then the white, then the black. The ground wire will also help support the fixture. (Include the wire from the crossbar when you connect the ground wires.) Lay the stripped end of the fixture wire alongside the corresponding box wire(s) without twisting them. Slide the wire nut over the ends and hold the wires firmly while twisting the nut clockwise. Stop tightening before the wires start to wrap around each other. If any wire nut won't tighten, replace it.


11. Mount the new fixture

Mounting and securing new fixture to ceiling



Align the circular part of the holes on the new fixture with the mounting screws and slip them through, then rotate the base until the screws are fully in the slots. Be careful not to wrap the wiring around a screw or pinch it anywhere on the fixture base. Tighten the mounting screws gradually until the base contacts the ceiling firmly. Don't over-tighten, but make sure the fixture base doesn't rotate.


12. Add bulbs and test the installation

Light bulb screwed into light fixture and on



Install bulbs of the appropriate wattage for your new fixture. (Check the label on the fixture.) Before replacing the globe or cover, turn the circuit breaker on and test the fixture by turning on the light switch.


13. Add the cover(s) or globe(s)

Adding globe to the fixture



Mount the globe or cover as recommended in the instructions for the new fixture. Be careful not to over-tighten any screws or nuts that contact glass globes.