How to Replace a Light Fixture

Replace a light fixture without the hassle with these electrical tips from veteran pros.

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Replace a light fixture more quickly, safely and with more confidence with the electrical tips and techniques used by pros. These electrical tips solve the most common problems you're likely to encounter.

Tools Required

  • Chain pliers (optional)
  • Non-contact voltage detector
  • Wire stripper/cutter

Materials Required

  • Box extender
  • Mounting brackets
  • Stab-in connectors

Replacing Light Fixtures: Solving Unanticipated Electrical Problems

Replacing a light fixture is one of those DIY jobs that’s theoretically quick and simple, but often becomes a three-hour series of problems.

So we talked with two of our master electricians. They’ve seen — and solved — all those frustrations and offered these tips to help DIYers through the job quicker and safer. We won’t show you here, but this article will walk you through how to hang a ceiling light fixture and how to hang a pendant light fixture. But, if you plan on giving your home a makeover: getting new lights altogether is a great solution. Worry not, we’ve got you covered! Here’s how you can install a ceiling light all by yourself!

Project step-by-step (14)

Step 1

Flipping the Breaker isn’t Enough

  • Even after you turn off the breaker that controls the light’s circuit, you can still get shocked. How? Some junction boxes contain wiring from multiple circuits.
    • Pro tip: So even if you cut the power to the light fixture, there may still be live wires in the junction box.
  • To be safe, check all the wires in the box with a non-contact voltage detector before you disconnect any wires.
  • Just touch each wire’s insulation with the tester. If the light glows, the wire is live.
    • Pro tip: You don’t have to actually touch a bare wire to check for voltage with this detector. Holding the tip on or close to the wire’s insulation is enough.

voltage tester circuit pen

Step 2

Buy Extra Mounting Brackets

  • The mounting brackets supplied with your fixture may not work with your junction box.
  • So when you buy your new fixture, also pick up a few other styles of mounting brackets.
    • Pro tip: Better to spend an extra five bucks than to make a trip to the hardware store in the middle of the job.

mounting bracketsFamily Handyman