Ceiling Lights – or – How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Installing Ceiling Light Fixtures

Time to install new ceiling lights!

Time to install new ceiling lights!

Want to change out those ugly ceiling lights that have been hanging in your bedroom forever but don’t want to pay an electrician lots of $$$ for a five-minute job?  Let us show you exactly how easy replacing those old ceiling lights can be with these tips.  This guide will work for flush mounted ceiling lights and semi-flush mounted ceiling lights

Before You Begin Installing Your Ceiling Lights

Now, hold up there, Rambo.  I know you’re excited and ready to go, but put down that screwdriver and hacksaw, and let’s go through our pre-flight ceiling light (hey, that rhymed) installation checklist first.

First, take that bright shiny box containing your new ceiling lights and open that those suckers up.  Now, find the installation sheet and make sure all referenced parts are present and all pieces are in good shape.  Yeah guys, I know.  This goes strictly against the chief tenant of the Guy Code, but believe me, you’d hate to have the old ceiling lights down and the new ceiling lights halfway up before finding out you’re missing a threaded bar (and that you’ll be sleeping on the sofa that night).  So swallow that guy pride, and make sure all parts are there and in good shape.

Everything in good order?  Sweet.  Now, the most important thing to do is to make sure the electricity is turned off to the room.  Just flipping the light switch won’t cut it; you’ll need to turn off the power at the breaker box.  Why?  Well, imagine you’re twisting wires together and little Suzy comes in the room to show Daddy her new drawing.  Of course Daddy can’t see it in the dark, even though he’s installing new ceiling lights, so what’s she gonna do?  Electricity + bare skin + metal ladder = bad time for everyone involved.

Removing the Old Ceiling Lights

Okay, now that we’ve checked to make sure we have all the parts and have taken our trip to the emergency room, we’re ready to take down the old ceiling lights. You’re going to need a screwdriver, probably both Phillips and a flathead, and possibly a knife and prybar. This is the part that is a little subjective, as while most ceiling lights follow the same principle, there are a few exceptions out there. We’ll cover the industry standard design for ceiling lights, but your mileage may vary. (Void where prohibited, may cause drowsiness)

Most ceiling lights won't be this scary

Most ceiling lights won’t be this scary

Unscrew the retaining nut at the very bottom of the fixture with one hand while holding the glass up in place.  Once the nut is off, carefully lower the glass off the thread bar, lest it fall and shatter, sending you to the sofa for a second night in a row.  Remove the bulbs, and set those aside.

Now, you should see two screws that go through the fixture to the ceiling.  Time for some thrilling heroics with your handy-dandy screwdriver.  Okay, you’re just going to unscrew some screws, but my way sounds better.  When you get to that last screw, you might want to hold the rest of the ceiling mount up, as it could fall down on you and cause you to suffer an “I told you so” from your significant other.

We now come to the most possible problem part of the whole darn thing.  If your ceiling lights do not want to come down from gravity alone after the two retaining screws are gone, give the fixture a small tug.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, this will get it down.  Now, if you’ve painted around the fixture, you might have to take the hobby knife and cut CAREFULLY around the edge of the ceiling fixture to get through any dried paint.  If you’ve done that, and it still won’t come off, now is the time for that prybar, and for the love of all that’s good and decent, be careful when you use that thing.  More than likely, you won’t have to use it, though.

With the light down, it will be hanging by some wires, more than likely white and black wires.  Check to make sure you’ve got the electricity off FOR SURE this time, unscrew the plastic wirenuts and then unhook the wires.  Voila!  You have successfully taken down one of your old, gaudy ceiling lights your significant other has been nagging at you for years to take down.  That wasn’t so hard, was it? Now, unless it’s in horrible condition, please consider donating the light to Habitat for Humanity or some other similar charity instead of throwing it away.

Installing the New Ceiling Lights

Now that we have the old light down, take a few moments to bask in the glory of all that you’ve accomplished in conquering that old light.  That’s it, just bask.  Okay, that’s enough.  No, really, enough.  Seriously, it’s time to get to work.

There should be a hole in your ceiling, and a small metal bar attached to a small box inside.  Compare the bar with the new one that came with the ceiling lights.  If they’re the same, then you don’t need to do anything.  If they’re different, then you’ll need to take out the old metal bar and put the new one up, but all that requires is some more thrilling heroics with that handy-dandy screwdriver (see how good that sounds?).

Once the metal bar is in place, or still in place, the process will be the exact reverse of what you just did. Twist the wires together, making sure white goes with white and black goes with black, and then screw the wirenut on top of each connection.  There will be a copper wire, which is your grounding wire.  Attach this to the little teensy screw in the metal bar in the ceiling.  Line up the holes from the new fixture and the metal bar, and screw in the new screws.  Now, the only difference is at this point, you’ll probably need to screw in the threadbar.  Which, um, involves the highly complex task of just screwing in the threadbar.

Be sure your ceiling lights are mounted secure!

Be sure your ceiling lights are mounted securely!

With the threadbar in place, give the fixture a decent tug downward to make sure it will stay in place.  Once you’re satisfied (though if you’re one of those people who are never satisfied, you’re in trouble at this step) and the fixture will stay in place without falling (note:  important), stick in a couple of light bulbs making sure not to exceed the maximum wattage for the fixture, and then go restore power.  Yes, you have to do it now.  Well, do you want to get it all together, find out the light doesn’t work and then have to get the ladder out again?  I didn’t think so.  It’s okay, we’ll wait.

Alright, flip that wall switch and bask in the warmth of your newly lit room.  You’re a hero!  You’ve done the impossible, and that makes you mighty!  You’re invincible!  You’re still not done!  Flip the wall switch off so you don’t burn your eyes out of their sockets staring at the fixture, climb back up that ladder, and carefully put the glass in place and then screw in the retaining nut at the bottom of the fixture.  If you’re using incandescent bulbs, be sure NOT to touch them, even though they are turned off.  Please refer to this variation of our earlier equation:  Hot Bulb + bare skin = bad time for everyone involved.

On the off chance nothing happened, and the room is still dark, you’ll need to make sure you’ve flipped the breaker, then take down the ceiling light and check the wiring connections to make sure they’re good and connected.

And that’s it; you’re done!  See how easy that was to install your new ceiling lights, and no $75 an hour-minimum one hour-electrician required!  Congratulations, Champ!  Be on the lookout for more excellent installation guides from Lighting and Locks.

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