Swapping out an old, outdated light fixture adds instant appeal and value to your home, and it isn’t hard to do. If you’re a novice DIYer, don’t be intimidated by working around electricity. This is a weekend project that can be done by even the most inexperienced homeowner. Just follow the steps below.

Step 1: Choose New Light Fixtures

Find new light fixtures to replace any outdated or damaged ones. The new light fixtures don’t necessarily have to be contemporary or modern in style. There are many antique finishes and old-fashioned choices to consider. Whatever you decide, make sure it is something that integrates with your existing design, or if you’re performing a makeover, something that will complement the new look. Many popular fixture finishes today are brushed nickel, or bronze with glass globes or shades.

Pendant lights and embedded ceiling lights in kitchen

Wall-mounted, vintage-style task light

Step 2: Turn Off Power

Start by turning off the power to the existing light fixture, at the circuit breaker. If you don’t know which breaker controls the light fixture with which you are working, shut off the power to the whole house. Make sure the circuit is truly dead before touching any wires or terminals. Check using a non-contact voltage tester. Test from the black wires to a grounded metal box or other good ground, then to the white wires. Also, test from the white wires to a ground. Also, be sure your tester is functioning by first trying it in a live receptacle. Never trust a light switch to render a light fixture dead. After taking those precautions, now it should be safe to remove the light fixture.

Safety Alerts!

Working with electricity can be dangerous. A current less than that needed to light a 60-watt bulb can be lethal. Always follow proper safety precautions. If you aren’t knowledgeable about working with electricity, call a professional.

If you’re changing a ceiling light fixture, use a fiberglass (not aluminum) ladder to help you reach it. Follow all ladder safety precautions.

Turning off circuit breaker

Step 3: Detach Existing Light Fixture

Remove the light fixture’s enclosure or shade and any bulb currently in the light fixture. Use a screwdriver to detach the light fixture from the wall or ceiling by removing any mounting screws. Keep some pliers handy in case any screws are hard to turn, due to corrosion or plain old stubbornness. Once the light fixture is free, gently detach it from the wall or ceiling, taking care to not yank on any of the wires. If you’re working alone, use a small length of rope or heavy string to carefully secure the light fixture to the junction box or mounting bar, so that it stays in place. Tie the rope around the mounting bar or to the junction box and then to the old light fixture.

Helpful Tip

Get a buddy. Enlist a friend or family member to help you hold the detached light fixture while you disconnect wires or connect them when attaching the new light fixture. It will make the job easier and cut down on the chance of the light fixture falling and causing any damage or injury.

Unscrew the wire nuts connecting the light fixture wires to the circuit wires by turning them counterclockwise. Untwist the connected wires.

Set the old light fixture aside and ready the new light fixture. Read the manufacturer’s information/instructions carefully before installing the new light fixture to be sure you will be installing it correctly. You should have all the mounting parts you need, supplied with the light fixture in the box.

Removing ceiling light fixture

Step 4: Attach New Light Fixture

In most cases, you should be able to install the new light fixture in the same way that the old one was attached. If not, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use the supplied parts that come with the new light fixture. Place the light fixture up to the junction box in the hole and check by sight that everything will fit correctly.

Helpful Tip

Keep a power drill handy, in case you do have to drill new starter holes for any mounting screws to attach the new light fixture. Measure before you drill and mark the screw locations on the wall with pencil to make sure you drill in the right locations.

You should have at least a ½” to ¾” of bare wire on each wire end, on both the light fixture and the circuit. If you don’t, use wire strippers to remove the wire sheathing, or insulation, so that you have enough bare wire to twist two wire ends together. Connect the light fixture wires: black or red (hot), white (neutral) and ground (usually plain copper wire or green-insulated wire) to the corresponding circuit wires, in that order. Note: Follow manufacturer’s directions closely in case the light fixture requires different connections. Twist them together clockwise and then cap each connection with a wire nut. If the circuit wire does not have a ground wire, just cap off the light fixture ground wire and push it into the hole with the other connections or connect the light fixture ground somewhere on the junction box (if it is metal).

After all the connections have been made, install the new light fixture as shown by the manufacturer’s instructions. Usually, it’s a matter of simply screwing it to the junction box or wall, depending on the fixture.

Step 5: Finish Up

Once the light fixture is attached and installed correctly, screw in a bulb or bulbs and restore power to the room. Turn the light on. If the light comes on, you’ve connected all the wiring correctly and you’re done. If it doesn’t light up, turn off power and check the connections to see if something is loose or not connected properly.

Good work! Your rooms should now shine with new light and charm.

Project Shopping List

Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.