How to Replace a Light Fixture in 8 Steps

Ben Kissam
Written by Ben Kissam
Updated December 10, 2021
beautiful light fixtures in kitchen
Photo: bmak / Adobe Stock

Let there be light (but like, for real)

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Replacing an old light fixture is a great way to liven up an area of your house or give a room a new look altogether. The task itself isn’t super difficult, but when dealing with electrical components, it’s best to proceed with caution and carefully consider if this task is right for you before flipping any switches. Learn how to replace a light fixture safely and securely below.

Difficulty: 3/5 Perfect for handy homeowners

Time: 1 hour

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Ladder

  • Wire strippers

  • Screwdriver

  • Light source

  • A new light fixture for the space

  • Optional, but recommended: voltage checker

1. Consider the Job Carefully Before Starting

man installing bulb in light fixture
Photo: plysuikvv / Adobe Stock

Ask and answer the questions below, and make sure replacing a light fixture DIY feels like a good project for you. If not, it’s highly recommended that you consult an electrician near you.

  • How high are your ceilings? Do you feel comfortable climbing on a ladder?

  • Do you have someone to help you, both in supporting the ladder and assisting you with removing the light fixture from the ceiling?

  • Do you know which type of electrical box is installed in your ceiling? 

  • Do you know how to work a circuit breaker and electrical panel?

  • Have you carefully read the instructions for installing the new light fixture?

The cost to install a new light fixture is between $151 and $894 on average, although chandeliers and more complex fixtures may cost slightly more.

2. Turn off Your Electricity

Before you start, you’ll need to turn the electricity off in the area you’re working. It’s not enough to shut the power switch off on the wall. Go to your circuit panel and flip the circuit breaker for the room or area you’ll be working. 

If you live in an older house, a voltage checker is highly recommended here. Trace sources of electricity may still be present even after you shut the circuit off. A voltage checker costs $10 to $20 at a hardware store and can ensure you’re able to work safely DIY.

3. Carefully Loosen and Remove the Old Light Fixture

woman changing lamp chandelier
Photo: Tiko / Adobe Stock

Each light fixture is different, so look carefully or do a quick internet search to see how to remove your particular model safely. If the light fixture has a cover, you’ll need to remove that first. Gently unscrew or remove it, then set aside or hand it to someone down the ladder. (This is why it’s best to enlist a helper for this job.)

Once the cover is off and you’re absolutely sure no electricity is running through the source, unscrew the base of the light fixture to expose the wiring and hardware. 

In most cases, you’ll need to unwire a black, copper, and white wire. If there’s trim or a base attached to the ceiling, you may need to unscrew that after the three wires are taken apart before proceeding.

4. Tighten Ceiling Screws

If you installed the old light fixture years ago, the screws holding the electrical box in your ceiling might be loose. Tighten them manually with a screwdriver. 

5. Attach the New Light Fixture’s Wires

Next up, you’ll redo what you’ve just undone—this time with your new light fixture. 

Attach the copper, white, and black wires carefully to your ceiling. Make sure you connect the frayed ends of the new wires securely to the old wires in your ceiling. If you do this part incorrectly, you’ll need to take the entire fixture off the ceiling to troubleshoot.

Then, look for the base in your electrical box on the ceiling to mount the fixture. Secure the new light fixture into place with screws. 

6. Install the New Base Plate orTrim

If there’s a new base plate or trim that needs to be attached to the ceiling first, install that next. You may need a power drill if you can’t manually turn the screws. Reuse old screw holes if possible for simplicity’s sake.

7. Screw In Your New Light Bulbs

woman changing lightbulb
Photo: Andrey Popov / Adobe Stock

Once the base and fixture are in place and secure, add a new light bulb (or bulbs) to your light fixture. Gently screw those in, then add the new cover and secure if necessary.

8. Turn the Electricity Back On and Test

Flip the circuit breaker back and try your new light. If it works, you’re all done!

If yours isn’t turning on, it’s likely that you didn’t connect one of the three wires in your electrical box properly. To troubleshoot, you’ll need to shut off electricity to the room or area again, unscrew everything you’ve attached, and tighten the wires. If troubleshooting still comes up dark, consider enlisting the help of a local electrician who can get the lights turned back on in a snap. 

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