How to change light fixtures

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How to change light fixtures
(Ceiling Fan image by Towards Ithaca from

Changing a wall or ceiling-mounted light fixture is a relatively easy job, especially if the new hardware is compatible with the old fixture. Just follow these steps to install a new light fixture.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Light Fixture
  • Pliers or Vise-Grips
  • Screwdriver
  • Circuit Tester
  • Step Ladder

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  1. 1

    Turn off the circuit breaker for the area where the light is located. Don't skip this step, and don't just turn off the light at the switch.

  2. 2

    Remove light bulbs from fixture if it's a hanging-type light. For a flush-mounted fixture, loosen and remove the nuts on the shade or lamp enclosure and unscrew light bulbs.

  3. 3

    Loosen mounting nuts on fixture base-plate with your fingers. Use pliers to start turning nuts if they are stuck, or use screwdriver if base-plate is screwed into mounting plate. Pull base-plate away from the mounting plate to expose wiring.

  4. 4

    Remove wire nuts by twisting them counter-clockwise. Untwist wires and pull old fixture down from ceiling or wall and set it aside. Carefully note what colour wires were twisted together in the old fixture, and use a circuit tester to make sure which wire is hot, neutral and ground (see Tips).

  5. 5

    Hold new fixture up to mounting plate to check clearance and make sure mounting bolts are long enough. If new fixture base plate is a different shape, you may have to adjust the cross bar or install a different length threaded nipple.

    How to change light fixtures
  6. 6

    Twist three wires of new fixture onto the corresponding house wires, turning clockwise and screw on wire nuts clockwise. Push wires up behind mounting plate.

  7. 7

    Push the base plate of new light fixture onto the mounting bolts and thread on nuts. Tighten the nuts a few turns, then screw in one light bulb and test wiring by turning on circuit breaker.

  8. 8

    Turn off circuit breaker again and tighten mounting bolts and screw in all light bulbs. For flush-mounted fixture, mount shade or enclosure and tighten outside nuts. Turn circuit breaker back on, and you're ready to go.

Tips and warnings

  • If house wiring is black, white and bare wire, the black is hot, white is neutral and bare is ground. If house wiring is red, black and bare, the red wire is hot, black is neutral and bare is ground. It's best to check wiring with a circuit tester to make sure.

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