Home renovations don’t need to involve completely gutting rooms and replacing everything in sight. Sometimes, a simple paint update or changing a light fixture can go a long way.

If you’re tired of looking at an out-of-place ceiling light fixture, you have a breadth of possibilities to replace it. A visit to your local home improvement store will leave you in awe of how many options you have.

And the best part? You can learn how to change a ceiling light fixture by yourself! Follow this simple 9-step guide, and you’ll be well on your way to updating your space.

Change a Ceiling Light in 9 Steps

Step 1: Gather the Tools and Materials

This project has an intermediate skill level and can usually be completed in 1-2 hours. It’s a good idea to read up and watch some videos to gather basic knowledge of how electrical circuits work before you start taking things apart. You’ll save yourself time during the actual project if you gather what you need ahead of time and get organized.

You’ll need the following materials:

  • New ceiling light fixture
  • Wire nuts (may be included with your new fixture)
  • Pliers
  • Screwdriver
  • Non-contact circuit tester
  • Ladder or step stool

💡 Tip: Don’t start this project if you aren’t willing to call in a professional electrician for backup if things don’t go as planned.

Step 2: Turn Off the Power

Once you’ve gathered your tools and materials and have read through this guide a few times, it’s time to begin!

Before starting any electrical project, including this one, be sure to turn off the light switch that leads to the fixture. It’s a recommended safety measure to also turn the power off at the breaker. Turn off the appropriate breaker, then flip the light switch on and off to ensure there’s no power coming through.

Step 3: Remove the Old Light Fixture

When the power is off, you can go ahead and remove the old ceiling light fixture. Start by removing the fixture shade or globe covering. You’ll need to use your screwdriver to loosen the screws. You may need to unhook some mounting clips if they were used.

When you’ve removed the shade or globe, separate the fixture base from the ceiling box by unscrewing the mounting screws that hold the fixture to the ceiling box. If it doesn’t detach after loosening the screws, the fixture may also be held in place by caulk. In this case, carefully use a screwdriver to separate the fixture from the ceiling surface.

When the fixture comes off, it will still be attached to electrical wires.

Step 4: Disconnect the Wires

Grab your current detector to test the wires and ensure there’s no electrical current running to the fixture. If you don’t detect a current, you can go ahead and disconnect each of the wires. There should be three color-coded connecting wires:

  • Hot (Black)
  • Neutral (White)
  • Ground (Copper or Green)

Make sure you keep holding onto the fixture as you disconnect the wires so that it doesn’t fall to the ground when all three are disconnected.

Step 5: Attach the New Bracket

Remove the old bracket or mounting strip after you’ve disconnected the wires. Your new light fixture should come with a universal bracket. Use a screwdriver to connect the new bracket to the electrical box.

Step 6: Prep the New Light Fixture

Remove the new fixture from its box and set aside any lamp shades or coverings to the side. Examine the wires to ensure there are black, white, and copper (or green) wires. If there are two or more lamp sockets in your new fixture, you’ll need to connect the black and white wires together.

You always match the colors when connecting electrical wires— black goes with black, white goes with white, etc. Use a wire connecter to combine the wires if one was included in the box; otherwise, you can use pliers.

Read the instructions that come with the new light fixture, as they may vary slightly from the directions we’ve laid out here. Things can vary slightly depending on the style of the fixture.

Step 7: Connect the Wires to the Electrical Box

As stated earlier, both the electrical box in your ceiling and the new light fixture should each have a black, white, and copper wire. Connecting the wires is as simple as attaching the matching colors together.

The wires may already have some of the insulating coating stripped away to expose the metal wire. You need about an inch and a half of exposed wire to make a connection. If the coating isn’t stripped away, you can use pliers to strip away an inch and a half of the insulation to expose the wire underneath.

Use the wire nut provided to connect the two hot (black) wires first. Then, connect the two neutral (white) wires. Finally, connect the two ground (copper) wires.

  • If your electrical box doesn’t contain a ground wire, that just means the electrician chose to ground the box itself. In this case, simply attach the ground wire in the new fixture to the box itself.
  • Many fixture kits include a small green grounding screw for this purpose. Screw in the grounding screw to the bracket. Then, use your pliers to make a U-shaped bend in the ground wire that will fit tightly around the grounding screw. Loop the wire clockwise around the screw and tighten it using a screwdriver.

It can be helpful to have a friend or family member stand on another ladder or stepstool to help you hold the new fixture while you complete this task. Otherwise, it can be a little tricky to hold the fixture in the air and attach the wires at the same time.

Step 8: Mount the Fixture Base

how to change ceiling light fixture mounting fixture base

When the wires are connected, you can move on to attaching the fixture base to the ceiling box. The base may be attached with two long screws that connect into screw holes on the bracket or with a clamping knob that screws onto the threaded mounting rod after the fixture base has been slipped over top.

In the case of using long screws, it may take some patience to get the screws through the base and threaded into the ceiling box. The fixture may have keyhole-shaped slots that allow you to first insert the screws into the bracket, then allow you to slide the fixture base over the screws and lock it into place. Once in place, tighten the screws so that the base is firmly in place.

Step 9: Finish Installing the Fixture

When the base of your fixture is securely attached to your ceiling, you can finish out the project by screwing in lightbulbs with the appropriate wattage. Test the success by turning the power back on and turning on the light switch. If the light turns on, go ahead and install the light shade or globe according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Congrats! You’ve successfully installed your own ceiling light fixture!

If for some reason, the light doesn’t turn on after you’ve turned the power back on, you may need to detach the fixture to ensure the wires were connected properly. If the issue still doesn’t resolve, call in a professional electrician to fix it.

Here to Provide Electrician Support When You Need It

Replacing a ceiling light fixture is something many people can achieve with some patience and education. But if there’s any reason you don’t feel comfortable taking on this project yourself, or if something goes wrong along the way, you can always call Electric City for help.

With over a decade of experience, our electricians know the ins and outs of all sorts of electrical projects. We’re happy to help diagnose an issue or install new lighting fixtures for your home. Simply reach out for a free consultation!