How to Install a Light Fixture for a Fast Room Refresh

Cross this project off your home improvement checklist in only a few hours.

blue and white dining room
Photo: Laurie Black Photography
Project Overview
  • Working Time: 2 hours
  • Total Time: 2 hours
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

Replacing a light fixture is a quick and easy way to update the look of your space. Plus, it can be an affordable swap that makes a major impact. Although wiring a light fixture might seem complicated, with our help, you can complete this home improvement project in an afternoon. Remember to always keep safety in mind and follow our steps carefully for a new hanging light fixture you'll love.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Ladder
  • Screwdriver
  • Masking tape
  • Pliers
  • Wire Strippers


  • Ceiling light fixture
  • Wire nuts


  1. breaker

    Prep Space and Turn Off Power

    If possible, try to change a light fixture during the daylight hours so there's natural light to help you see what you're doing. Find a sturdy step stool or ladder that can safely support you within easy reaching distance of the ceiling. Lessen the weight of the existing fixture as much as possible by removing any heavy glass globes or other parts.

    You want to make sure no electrical current is flowing to the light fixture. Be sure the fixture you are replacing is turned on, then find your home's electrical service panel lined with fuses or circuit breakers. Start at the top of the box, and remove and replace each fuse or flip each circuit breaker to "Off" momentarily. Have someone watch for when the fixture's light turns off, and leave that circuit disconnected. Back in the room where you're working, flip the light switch on and off to double-check the circuit is offline.

  2. Remove Metal Plate

    To start changing a ceiling light fixture, loosen the nut that holds the metal plate covering the junction box (the plastic or steel box within the ceiling that houses the connected electrical wires). Pull the wires down from the junction box, and turn the plastic wire nuts on the wires counterclockwise until they unscrew from the wires completely.

    Holding the weight of the fixture in one hand, remove the screws that hold the thin metal crossbar to the junction box with the other hand. Remove crossbar and light fixture. Leave only a hole with wires and the junction box behind.

  3. light fixture
    Adam Albright

    Optional: Determine Chain Length

    If your ceiling light fixture features a chain, it will likely come with more than you need. To shorten the chain, first hang the fixture from the collar loop. Then hold it at its hanging height and mark with tape the chain link above the one you need to open. Remove the link below the one marked with tape by bending it open using two locking pliers.

    Connect the new end of the chain to the loop atop the light fixture using the special link provided with the new fixture. Then weave the fixture's insulated wire and bare ground wire through the length of chain, going in and out of each link. At the top end of the chain, weave the wire through the collar nut and canopy.

  4. Rewire New Light Fixture

    Thread the wire through the collar loop and nipple so all of the excess wire extends into the junction box. Do the same for the bare ground wire. Bend all the wires down and out of the junction box so you can work with them, and hang the end chain link onto the collar loop if using a chained ceiling fixture.

  5. light fixture
    Adam Albright

    Separate Wires

    Split the fixture wire into two for its last 6 inches—you can do this by grasping the ends of the two wires and pulling them in opposite directions. Strip about 1/2 inch of plastic coating off the ends of both fixture wires.

    Connect the white wire in the ceiling to the white wire on the fixture, and the black wire on the fixture to the red or black wire in the ceiling. Twist their ends together, and tightly secure them with the wire nuts that came with the fixture.

  6. Attach Wire to Crossbar

    About 4 inches from the end of the fixture ground wire, twist it around the ground screw (leaving a few inches untwisted) on the crossbar, and tighten the screw. Then join the end of that wire with the end of the supply ground wire in the ceiling using a wire nut. Carefully tuck all the wires back into the junction box, keeping the connections to the black/red and white supply wires well separated. Raise the canopy to the ceiling and secure it with the collar nut.

    Wondering why your light won't turn on? Make sure you head back to your circuit breaker and replace the fuse or flip the circuit to the on position. Congratulations on your DIY light fixture installation!

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