How to Replace a Ceiling Light Fixture

How to Hang a Ceiling Light Fixture Project Overview

Installing a new light fixture is a great way to instantly change a drab room into a dazzling one. Lighting showrooms and catalogs have a wide variety of fixtures to tempt you. And even though the bag of parts included with some fixtures may look daunting, the electrical connections are simple enough for even a beginner.

But poor installation techniques can result in a potentially lethal shock or fire. In this article, we’ll help you choose a fixture that will mount safely on your electrical box and then show you the best techniques for testing a ground and connecting the wires. We’ve even included photos of the two most common mounting systems to help you make sense of all those little parts.

The temperature rating of your existing wires will affect which type of fixture you can install. Before you go shopping, read “Remove the old fixture and inspect the wiring,” below.


Step 4: Check the box

It’s good practice to make sure the box is securely mounted to the structure above the ceiling. Give the box a wiggle, if it moves, tighten the screws holding it in place. The box also has to be grounded to meet the building code. If the box in the ceiling is an older metal style it might not have a bare copper or green-coated copper ground wire. 

You can add a ground wire to the box, but first, check that the box itself is grounded. To do that, turn the circuit back on at the breaker, then using a circuit tester with two probes. Touch one to the box’s hot wire (usually black or red) and the other to the metal box itself. The tester should indicate the box is grounded. If it’s not, you’ll want to call an electrician to ground it—that’s not a job for most DIYers.

How to change a light fixture step-by-step

Once you’re confident your project is a good DIY candidate and you have the proper tools in place, here’s how to go about changing the light fixture. 

Screw the Crossbar to the Box

Position all the wires to one side of the crossbar

Position all the wires to one side of the crossbar. Then screw the crossbar to the electrical box with the screws. You’ll need a helper to support the fixture while you do this.

Fluorescent Light Problems and Repair

Step 2

Examine the junction box. Having confirmed that your existing junction box is securely fastened to the ceiling joist, make sure it will be sturdy enough to handle the weight of your replacement fixture. If the new fixture weighs substantially more than the old one, it may be necessary to install an accessory mounting strap or support rod. (Either can be installed next to the junction box so that, once installed, the fixture hides the hardware.)

Step 2: Detach The Wires

Use a bent piece of coat hanger to hang the fixture from the box in order to support it. Unscrew the wire nuts and detach the wire connections.


Heath installed the 12” Oil Rubbed Bronze 2-Light Ceiling Light, manufactured by Hinkley Lighting.

Expert assistance with this segment was provided by Eaton and Eastman Electric.

article disclosure

To reduce the risk of personal injury and property damage, read and follow all related product manufacturers instruction manuals and information before performing any of the applications shown. Some construction-related applications shown may not be allowed in your local area. Consult your local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) before starting work for information on permits, applicable codes, and other regulations. STANLEY disclaims any responsibility for any damage to property or injury to persons as a result of misuse of the information provided.