Light fixture installation might be easier than you think!
After living with a “witch’s hat” pendant light for the past nine years, I finally learned how to install a new light fixture. Here are the steps I took, plus what you should know if you’re considering the DIY route.
- The Basic Steps to Install a Light Fixture
- What Surprised Me About DIY Light Fixture Installation
- Should You Install a Light Fixture Yourself?
- Where to Get Mid-Century Modern Lights
Note: This article contains affiliate links. See my disclosures for details.
The Basic Steps to Install a Light Fixture
Swapping out a light fixture is pretty simple. My husband Eric walks us through the process in this video.
1. Cut the Power to the Light
Head to your electrical panel and turn off the breaker that feeds the light fixture you’re replacing. You can use a volt meter or tester to verify that the power is off.
2. Remove the Old Light
Unscrew the old fixture and pull down the wires. Unscrew the wire nuts and pull off the copper wire to remove the light. Good riddance, witch’s hat!
3. Swap the Mounting Bracket
Unscrew the old mounting bracket and install the new one. Make sure the outlet box wires are running through the hole in the middle of the bracket and the green grounding screw is pointing down toward the floor.
4. Attach the Ground Wires
Make a loop at the end of each copper wire (the one coming out of the outlet box and the one on your new light fixture). Place those around the green grounding screw, crimp them down and tighten the screw.
Black, White and Copper Wires: In a typical light fixture, you’ll see a black (hot) wire, a white (neutral) wire and a copper (ground) wire. If you encounter other colors, you may need to use a meter to determine what’s what. But usually you’re going to connect black to black, white to white and copper to copper.
5. Connect the Wires With Wire Nuts
Twist the ends of the black and white wires clockwise. Then connect black to black and white to white, twisting them together with the new wire nuts. If your wires aren’t pre-stripped, you can use wire strippers in the appropriate size to remove about a half inch of the sheeting off the end of each wire.
6. Tape the Wire Nuts
This part’s optional, but running electrical tape around the wire nuts and part of each pair of wires will help secure the nuts.
7. Attach the Light Fixture
Tuck the wire nuts into the box and lift the new light fixture up to the mounting plate to screw it in place, making sure you don’t pinch any wires. Some lights come with bolts with removable ends, so you can screw in the bolts first, then add the light over the bolts, and then screw on the end caps to hold everything together.
8. Test the Light Fixture
Screw a working light bulb into your new fixture, turn the breaker back on and make sure the light works.
9. Add the Globe!
Finally, if everything is working, carefully place the globe or light shade over the fixture and secure it in place.
What Surprised Me About DIY Light Fixture Installation
I enjoyed this instant gratification project! It only takes about 30 minutes to swap out an ugly old light fixture for a beautiful new one, and it’s more straightforward than I thought. As long as you have the typical black, white and copper wires, then matching them up is a cinch.
For some reason, using the wire nuts made me feel very handy. I had thought of them as an advanced tool, but they are surprisingly easy to use to connect the wires. 😀
The hardest part of installing a light fixture was the physical aspect of it, at least for me. Lifting, holding and screwing in lights over your head can get tiring pretty quickly. My fixture was on the lighter end of the weight scale, but it still had my shoulders screaming by the end of the installation.
I feel confident that I could tackle this DIY on my own in the future, but it’s preferable to have a helper. That way you can have one person holding the light while the other one is screwing it in place.
Should You Install a Light Fixture Yourself?
Here are some factors to consider before you install your own light fixture.
DIY Light Installation Might Be for You If:
- You know your way around your electrical panel.
- You’re comfortable with a screwdriver or electric drill.
- You have a willing assistant.
Finding the right breaker can be a project in itself! It helps to have one person at the electrical panel and the other in the room with the light fixture. Then you can turn off the breakers one-by-one until you find the right one. Phones or Walkie Talkies help to streamline the communication.
If you are used to using a screwdriver or electric drill, the installation should be pretty simple for you. And with a partner the process will be smoother, from locating the breaker to removing the old pendant to screwing in the new one.
DIY Light Installation Might NOT Be for You If:
- You have neck, back or shoulder problems.
- You’ve been known to drop things.
I think the biggest barrier to this DIY is if you have a lot of neck, back or shoulder pain when looking up and lifting things for an extended period. Near the end of the installation process, I started reaching my daily limit for this kind of project.
And if you’re a dropper like me, you might want to outsource this DIY. You’ll see in the video that I kept dropping screws. Luckily I was very careful with the glass globe, but that could have gone a whole other way!
If you have doubts, it’s probably a good idea to hire a licensed and bonded electrician who knows your local code.
Where to Get Mid-Century Modern Lights
I bought this 10-inch glass globe pendant from Practical Props in a satin nickel finish with a standard 16-inch drop.
The era-appropriate globe light is just right for this tricky spot. It fits the style of my kitchen and dining room without distracting from the showier bubble lamp and pinhole pendants. Check out my favorite places to find mid-century modern light fixtures here.