Chandeliers radiate elegance and accent entryways, dining areas and other rooms. Installing one or any other heavy pendant-style light is not much different than standard fixtures but they can often be hefty and cumbersome to handle while making wiring connections. Nevertheless, hanging a chandelier is something you can do as long as you know the right way to go about it.
Step 1: Choose the Perfect Light Fixture
The first step to properly installing a chandelier, is finding the perfect one to install! When picking a light fixture, you must keep in mind the type and size of the room. A chandelier that is too small for your foyer or dining room won’t have the desired aesthetic effect and also may not provide enough light for the space. A fixture that is too large for the room will overwhelm the area and look out of place.
Before you go shopping for your fixture, measure the room. Find the length and the width, say 12’ by 12’. Add these together and “convert” the sum (24’) to inches (24”). So your fixture’s diameter should be approximately 24”. Keep in mind that the fixture doesn’t have to be exactly that size; size can vary by 2” or 3” without issue.
When deciding on the right-sized fixture to suspend over a dining table, take the table’s size into account as well. Measure the length and width or the diameter of the table, depending on the shape. The chandelier should be about 12” smaller than the width or diameter of the table.
Consider the height of the ceiling in the room. Tall ceilings need larger fixtures, so after measuring the room for chandelier size (again, in this example: 12’ x 12’=24”), choose a chandelier on the larger side (27” or so).
The bottom of the chandelier should be at least 7’ from the floor to avoid anyone from bumping their head on it if it’s not hanging over a table or in another area free of foot traffic.
When installing a chandelier to hang over a dining table, the fixture should hang directly above the table. In general, the bottom of your dining room chandelier should hang about 30” above the table.
Step 2: Turn Off Power
Deactivate electrical power to the room where you’re working by turning it off at the main electrical box. If you're unsure which circuit it is, you can also shut off power to the entire house by turning off the main circuit breaker. Verify that power is off using a high-voltage neon circuit tester in the room’s outlets.
Never trust an inoperable light switch as a sign that the circuit is off.
Make sure the circuit is truly "dead" before touching any wires or terminals. Check for current again with a high-voltage neon tester before working. 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.
Step 3: Remove Existing Fixture
Set up a step ladder so that you can reach the existing fixture. Unfasten it by removing its mounting hardware and gently lower it down until you can see the wiring connections. Have an assistant help you hold it if need be. Remove any electrical tape and wirenuts and untwist all of the fixture’s wiring connections. Hand the old fixture off to your assistant or set it aside yourself.
Step 4: Install New Fixture
Before hanging your new light fixture, read all manufacturer documentation, including installation instructions. Mounting hardware/ installation kits and methods may vary. Generally, however; most chandeliers are hung from a manufacturer-supplied or separately available support bar or brace inside the ceiling.
Climb up on your step ladder and remove the existing electrical box and the old fixture’s support bar if one exists. Support bars expand and retract in order to fit needed dimensions. Fully retract the new support bar and slip an end of it up through the hole to guide it in, following with the other end, and then expand it by hand so that it fits snugly between ceiling joists. Use an adjustable wrench to tighten the expansion bolt until the support bar is snugly in place. Be careful — tightening too much can put excessive pressure on the joists and ceiling surface and cause the ceiling drywall to crack. Just tighten it enough so that the support bar is firmly in place. Next, install the electrical box included with the installation kit to the support bar as directed by the manufacturer instructions. Run the wiring through the assigned holes in the bar and electrical box.
Set up another step ladder for your assistant and then have him or her lift up the chandelier and hold it in place so that you can make the electrical connections. Note: You may need more than one assistant for very heavy light fixtures of 50 to 100 pounds. Your helpers will need to be able to bear the weight of the fixture while you make the wiring connections.
Don’t ever have two or more people on a ladder unless the ladder is specifically constructed to handle more than one person at a time.
Attach the house’s black wires to the black wires on the chandelier, white house wires to the white chandelier wires and the house’s green or copper ground wire to the ground wire on the fixture. Twist the ends of each set of wires together using needle-nose pliers and secure each connection with a wire connector. Further secure the connections by wrapping each of them in electrical tape.
Next, line up the chandelier’s mounting bar with the electrical box/support bar and then install the supplied hardware with the necessary tools, such as a screwdriver (may vary by light fixture). Fold and tuck the wires into the electrical box and then press the decorative cover plate against the ceiling. Push the chandelier’s retaining collar up the chain and tighten it so that the cover plate is snug. Install the fixture’s light bulbs and shades.
Use energy-efficient light bulbs in the chandelier if possible. Consult the manufacturer’s instructions to determine the correct wattage or light type for the fixture.
Step 5: Restore Power
Restore power to the circuit and turn on the switch. You now should have a working chandelier. If the light does not come on, again deactivate power to the circuit and re-check all electrical connections and then test power once more.
Install a dimmer switch so you can control the amount of light to set the desired mood.
Congrats! Enjoy the room’s new ambiance courtesy of your newly installed chandelier.
Project Shopping List
Here’s what you’ll need to complete this project successfully.