How to Install Wall Sconces for a Quick Room Refresh

Follow these simple steps to brighten a narrow hallway, bathroom, or staircase.

Bathroom with dark walls and wooden cabinets
Photo: Edmund Barr
Project Overview
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Make the most of a small or narrow space with wall-mounted lights. These sleek luminaries provide indirect lighting for bathrooms, hallways, stairways, and other tight spots. Plus, they can add an attractive accent to an otherwise blank wall. For the ideal placement, install wall-mounted (wall sconce) lighting just above eye level. In bathrooms, it's best to install wall-mounted lighting on both sides of a mirror. A strip of lights over a bathroom mirror or medicine cabinet calls for a similar installation method. These wall light fixtures use low-wattage bulbs to reduce glare while providing plenty of light.

To install a wall-mounted light you'll use a ceiling box and wire just as you would for a ceiling light. Most sconces mount with a center stud so you can level the fixture even if the box isn't level. It should take about three hours to run cable, install a switch, and mount two wall sconces. Before you begin, make sure you know how to strip, splice, and connect wires, install electrical boxes, and run cable through walls and ceilings. Then follow these step-by-step instructions on how to install wall sconces.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 Voltage tester
  • 1 Utility knife
  • 1 Drywall saw
  • 1 Drill
  • 1 Screwdriver
  • 1 Wire Strippers
  • 1 Long-nose pliers
  • 1 Lineman's pliers

Materials

  • 1 Fish tape
  • 1 Sconces
  • 1 Ceiling boxes and a switch box with clamps
  • 1 Cable
  • 1 Switch
  • 1 Wire nuts
  • 1 Electrician's tape

Instructions

  1. Run Cable

    Running cable into wall hole
    Dan Stultz

    To run cable:

    1. Shut off power to the circuit.
    2. Use a voltage tester to check that the power is off.
    3. Mark the area where you plan to place the wall sconce.
    4. To cut wall holes for the sconce boxes and light switch, use a utility knife to trace the outline and cut the hole with a drywall saw.
    5. Run cable from the power source to the switch, then to the sconces.
    6. Install the Box

      Installing box for wall sconce
      Dan Stultz
      1. Clamp the cable to the wall box, tugging gently to make sure the clamp is tight.
      2. Push the box into the hole in the wall, enlarging the hole with a utility knife if needed.
      3. Tighten the screws until the box is firmly attached.

      Most wall-mounted lighting comes with all the necessary hardware. This usually includes a strap with a center stud (The strap also helps carry heat away from the fixture).

  2. Wire the Sconce

    Wiring the sconce on wall
    Dan Stultz

    To wire a sconce:

    1. Splice the white fixture lead to the white wire and the black lead to the black wire.
    2. Connect the grounds. If desired, you can test the power at this point to make sure the light is functional.
    3. Remember to turn the power off again before completing installation.
    4. Attach Wall Sconce

      Attaching sconce to wiring
      Dan Stultz
      1. Slip the wall-mount light fixture over the center stud and start to tighten the nut.
      2. Stand back and check that the base is plumb, adjusting as needed.
      3. Once level, tighten the base.
    5. Install Lights and Wire Switch

      Installing lights and wire switch
      Dan Stultz
      1. Install a lightbulb that doesn't exceed the manufacturer's recommended wattage.
      2. Clip the lens into place.
      3. Wire the switch.

      Editor's Tip: If you'd prefer to mount lights on a mirror, you have two options. To install a bathroom strip light, center the box over the mirror or medicine cabinet. Attach the fixture over the box, wire the fixture, and attach the cover.

      To install a light fixture directly onto a mirror:

      1. Have a glass supplier cut three holes to match the fixture: a large hole for the electrical box and two smaller holes for mounting screws.
      2. Wire the fixture.
      3. Apply a thin bead of clear silicone caulk to its back to act as an adhesive.
      4. Attach with mounting screws but don't overtighten them—you might break the mirror.
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