How to Install a Hanging Light Fixture

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Step 3

If installing a hanging light fixture, guide the wiring through the supporting chain or cable. Most hanging lights have a supporting chain or cable, through which (or next to) the wires should be threaded or hung.

Carefully guide the fixture wires through the canopy, ceiling plate, and hanging bracket of your new fixture. Strip about a half-inch off of the fixture wires and about a half-inch off of the supply wires.

Some jobs are better left to the prosGet free, no-commitment estimates from licensed electricians near you. Find Pros Now ++

Photo: goodceilinglight.com

Photo: goodceilinglight.com

Step 1: Shut the power is off to the fixture

The first step is to ensure you’ll be able to work on the light safely. Head to the electrical panel, find the switch that controls the power to the light you’ll be working on. Flip the switch to the off position. Then head to the light fixture and set up a ladder or step stool. Now turn off the wall switch that controls the light fixture you’ll be working on, too. 

Connect the Wires

Connect the neutral wire from the light fixture to

Connect the neutral wire from the light fixture to the neutral white wire(s) in the box. If your fixture is wired with lamp-style cord rather than white (neutral) and black (hot) wires, identify the neutral wire by looking for silver conductors, writing, squared corners, or ribs or indentations on the insulation.

The unmarked wire is the hot wire. Connect it to the colored (usually black or red) hot wire in the box. Complete the hook-up by looping the ground wire clockwise around the ground screw on the crossbar, tightening the screw, and connecting the end of the wire to the ground wire from the light fixture.

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Add a Ground Wire to a Metal Box

Attach a ground wire to the metal box if it's not

Attach a ground wire to the metal box if it’s not already present (turn power off first). Wrap the end of a 6-in. length of bare copper wire around a No. 10-32 ground screw and drive it into the threaded hole in the bottom of the box. Wrap the wire at least three-quarters of the way around the screw in a clockwise direction. Tighten the screw to secure the ground wire.

Because most light fixtures are metal or have exposed metal parts, they need to have an equipment ground to be safe. First you have to make sure a grounding means is available (Photos 3 and 4).

If your house is wired with plastic-sheathed cable with a bare copper ground wire, you’re probably covered, but test it to be sure, using the same procedure we’re using to test the metal box. Once you’ve determined that a ground exists, it’s simply a matter of making sure that all the metal parts—electrical box, fixture-mounting strap and light fixture—are securely connected to the ground (Photos 5 and 8). If your crossbar doesn’t have a threaded hole for a ground screw, connect a ground wire to it with a special grounding clip.

Make Sure You Get the Polarity Right

The two lamp cord wires on many hanging light fixtures are hard to tell apart. However, it’s critical to correctly identify the neutral wire and connect it to the neutral wire(s) in the box. Connecting it to the hot will energize the threaded bulb socket and create a potential shock hazard. See Photo 8 for clues to identifying the neutral fixture wire.

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Step 6: Secure The Connections

Wire nuts twist the wires around each other while securing them. Give each wire nut a pull to confirm that the connection is tight. Wrap a couple of inches of electrical tape around the wire and nut to secure the connection.

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.

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.

Step 5

Secure the fixture. Screw the ceiling plate to the mounting strap or support rod, then put the mounting stem onto the ceiling plate. At this point, make sure that the installation is secure and that the fixture is hanging at the proper height. (If the chain is too long, you can remove links or loop the extra chain around the mounting stem.)

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Slide the canopy into place so that it covers the mounting hardware; tighten the locknut to hold the canopy in place. Finally, install the correct bulbs, turn the electricity back on, and admire the radiance of your new ceiling light fixture!

Some jobs are better left to the prosGet free, no-commitment estimates from licensed electricians near you. Find Pros Now ++

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