Join our DIY community and get Helpful DIY tips

Modern ceiling lights: a great way to upgrade your house

Modern Ceiling Lights

You want your house to look awesome, right?

You want that look from a magazine (or Pinterest) yet don’t know where to start!

A good place to begin is with your lighting because it sets the tone for your room.

Think about it, nobody will say your kitchen looks great if the lights are from 1987 (trust me on this one since we had a pool table light over our island, LOL).

It’s no surprise that replacing dated ceiling lights presents challenges though.

Like getting shocked or starting and being confused by all the wires!!

Yes, this has happened to me several times and fortunately I lived through each incident!!

You might need just a few tips to feel more comfortable with this kind of project.

So today I’ll share some techniques that’ll give you more confidence.

It’s way simpler than you probably imagined.

I’m stoked to show you this tutorial, let’s get started and get your house updated one step at a time :)

Here’s your supply list

  • Phillips and Flat Head Screwdrivers
  • Step Stool or Ladder (not metal)
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Combination Strippers
  • Voltage Detector
  • 60 Watt Light Bulbs
  • Safety Glasses
  • Camera or Smartphone

Here’s what you’ll learn

  • How to install modern ceiling lights without getting shocked

Learning new skills is way cool because you can share your knowledge and help friends.

Let me show you some new ideas you can pass forward.

 

There’s one golden rule to electricity: DON’T TOUCH IT

Yep, that’s a good rule to live by.

Every electrical project starts with turning the power off at the electrical panel or fuse box.

Turn off Power

This will save your life.

Figure out what circuit your ceiling light is on and make sure the power is off.

After doing this, turn the light switch on and off to double check the light is electricity-free.

Carefully take your old ceiling light’s shade off. You’ll need to do this to access the screws that hold it to the junction box.

Remove Old Shade

And since light bulbs break easier than eggs you’ll want to remove them, too!

Remove Light Bulbs

Loosen the screws or nuts that hold the light on the junction box.

Loosen Old Mounting Nuts

Here’s super helpful tip if you’re working by yourself: attach blue painter’s tape to your fixture.

Add Blue Tape to Old Light

As you can see, I have 3 pieces of blue painter’s tape (about 12 inches in length) attached to the fixture and ceiling.

The tape is great for supporting the light as you lower it from the junction box. This will allow you to reach the wiring without having to hold the light with one hand.

Yah, I work by myself a lot and brainstormed this idea. Let me know if you have a better suggestion I should try next time :)

Since I really (and I MEAN REALLY) don’t like getting shocked I highly recommend using a voltage detector to check the wiring in the junction box.

Use Voltage Detector

 

Turn on the voltage detector and touch all the wires. If there’s electricity present the voltage detector will beep, and yes it’s a rather annoying sound.

Before disassembling the wiring it’s a genius move to take a picture.

Take Pic of Old Wiring

 

Side note: if you’re a techie you’ll notice I’m actually shooting a video in the picture. Rather than a picture-in-picture I’ve set a precedent and created a video-in-picture, haha.

The next step is to start the installation of the new light. You’ll see that it’s not hard at all.

 

Einstein would agree: installing a ceiling light isn’t rocket science, therefore we can all do it

I wonder if Einstein did his own electrical work?

Just a thought.

Anyhow, unwire the old light by twisting the wire nuts counterclockwise. Then remove the old bracket from the junction box. It’s held in place with two screws (turn these counterclockwise as well).

Remove Light and Old Bracket

 

Add the new mounting bracket to the junction box using the 2 outlet screws that came with your new light. You can also adding the long mounting screws to the new bracket before securing it to the junction box. Tighten the mounting screws 2-3 revolutions.

Adding new mounting bracket

 

Just make sure  the green grounding screw faces you instead of the other way.

At this point check the junction box wires for damage. The wire below is in good shape.

Check junction box wires for damage

If your wires are nicked or kinked in any way you should cut off the damaged portion. Then you can strip off  3/4 of an inch of insulation to reveal a new piece of wire.

The light I’m working on is on a three-way switch. Here’s the wire makeup in the junction box

  • Two bare copper wires (ground wires)
  • Two white wires (neutral wires)
  • Two black wires (hot wires)
  • One red wire (hot wire)

You might have a similar setup. Maybe you don’t.

Make sure to follow the directions that come with your new light.

Chances are very good that you’ll only have to make 3 wire connections.

The light in this example has

  • One bare copper wire (ground wire)
  • Two white wires (neutral wires) and
  • Two black wires (hot wires)

Your first step should be to wrap the light’s ground wire around the green ground screw one clockwise revolution and then connect it with the ground wires coming from the junction box. Use a wire nut that can accommodate 3 wires.

Ground Wires 2

Then twist together the two white neutral wires from the light and wrap them around the white neutral wires from the junction box. In this case, I needed a wire nut that could accommodate 4 wires. And unfortunately sometimes the new light doesn’t come with this size of wire nut. Thus, it’s a good  fantastic idea to buy a pack of wire nuts of this size while at the store.

As I said above, my wiring setup could be different than the one you’re dealing with.

So it makes sense for you to follow the directions that come with your new light. In my case, I wired the black hot wires from the light to the solo red wire coming from the junction box. Then I capped the black wires in the junction box. 

Wire neutrals and hots

Here’s the video that shows the complete step-by-step instructions. I tried to show as many tips as possible so that you’ll be confident in your own installation :)

Modern Ceiling Lights (how to install) -- by Home Repair Tutor
Runtime
10:52
View count
25,192

Modern Ceiling Lights (how to install)

http://youtu.be/fKI5wOwHc2Y

 

Slide the light fixture up onto the mounting screws. The screws will pass through the keyholes.

Slide light onto mounting screws

Frankly, this is sometimes the most frustrating part of installing a ceiling light. Hang in there because you might need additional patience in order to find the darn mounting screws.

Twist the light so that the screws slide into the small section of the keyhole. Once this is the case you can tighten the screws with a screwdriver.

Thread the long nipple into the ceiling light’s coupling.  This will hold the shade. Just make sure to lock the nipple in place using the locking nut.

Thread nipple into coupling

 

Add your light bulbs, I used two 60 watt incandescent bulbs since I had them and that’s what the directions called for. Lately I’ve been trying to switch over to LEDs because they last forever and save a TON of electricity.

Carefully place your shade onto the light and secure it to the nipple. Don’t  feel like you need to make the shade super tight. Mine is made of glass and it could totally break if too much tension is placed on it from the decorative mounting nut.

Add Light Bulbs and Shade

 

Turn your electricity back on at circuit breaker and see if the circuit trips or acts normal.

Hopefully the circuit flips on with no problems. I actually had a tripping incident due to the mounting screw touching one of the wires in the junction box.

OOOOPS!!!

Be smarter than me and make sure that none of your wires in the junction box touch the mounting screws. This never happened to me before but it’s a great learning lesson.

 

You’ve seen the tutorial and now I’d love to hear from you.

Tell me what your biggest fear is when it comes to replacing old lights? 

Have you ever tried to install a light but gave up? If so, tell us what happened?

Or maybe you installed the light and learned some great tips of your own. Add those to the comments below so that we can all learn from you :)

Thanks as always for reading and watching all my videos. I love hearing from you.

Cheers,

Jeff Patterson

 

 

 

Diggin’ this tutorial? Join our community and never miss a tip!


6 comments… add one

  • John @ AZ DIY Guy April 18, 2014, 4:57 PM

    Awesome tips Jeff! I was a sparky-electrician for a bit and love your emphasis on safety. Nothing is worse than getting zapped! You never know if there’s another live circuit tucked up in a junction box, so it’s surely a good call to test first. I also test my tester each time by sticking it in a live outlet. No sense in using it if it’s just a piece of plastic with a dead battery, eh? I’m even more careful, I always stab my hot wire right to the ground too. If everything is off, as it should be, there’s never issue. If it’s miswired and my tester didn’t catch the fact that it’s live,… well then, “PAZOW!” – spark time. The right breaker should trip. (and wear safety glasses!). Keep up the great stuff Jeff!

    • Jeff Patterson April 18, 2014, 5:47 PM

      Great suggestion John about testing the voltage detector before using it. I should have mentioned that in the tutorial.

      I love your descriptive way of explaining things. It’s like I’m talking with you over the phone. You always crack me up, lol. Thanks buddy for your tips and I hope it’s not getting too hot in Arizona.

    • Jack April 20, 2014, 4:17 PM

      Great tutorial, Jeff. Keep them coming. I need all the advice that I can get. Thanks again.

      • Jeff Patterson April 23, 2014, 8:30 PM

        Will do Jack. Thanks buddy for dropping in. I’m sure you have a lot of great ideas yourself :)

  • Greg April 21, 2014, 5:56 PM

    Put up a few lights and ceiling fans in my time, but it’s great to get a few ideas for smoother sailing from you. My greatest fear: Wire slipping out of wire nut and starting a fire–never happened to me, so hopefully just a “healthy concern”! Perhaps being sure all in properly grounded reduces that chance?

    • Jeff Patterson April 23, 2014, 8:32 PM

      Proper grounding definitely helps. I have the same fear and that’s why I try to make sure the wire nuts are super secure. No fires on my end either, knock on wood!!

Leave a Comment