Uncle Bobs Tips

Installing Ceiling Lights

Installing Ceiling Lights

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If you're tired of staring at an ugly old bulb hanging from the ceiling or need a change from your current ceiling scenery, you may want to try your hand at this easy install ceiling lights project. Installing ceiling lights can be done in half an hour and you are left with an impressive looking fixture to replace the bare bulb or flat fixture that once was. Here is how to install a ceiling light quickly and easily.


NOTE: Depending on your fixture and present lighting situation, this procedure may vary slightly.

1. First you have to get rid of the old fixture (if there is one). Remove the decorative dome and unscrew the crossbar. Carefully lower the old fixture. NOTE: A common problem people encounter during this stage is that the old fixture was larger than the new fixture being installed. Therefore the hole is bigger than the provided mounting bracket. The solution to this problem is to install a new electric box either screwed directly into the joist or one with a resizing bracket.

2. Turn off power before you begin. You should test the wires using a wire tester (make sure the switch to the light is on, obviously) to ensure that power has been properly shut off to all wires you'll be working with.

3. If installing a flush mount dome, make your life easier and measure the height of the dome on a flat surface. This will tell you how long the threaded tube should be (attached to the mounting strap), instead of having to adjust while you're already balancing up in the air. You should also measure the distance and adjust properly the pipe length when installing a hanging fixture. Be sure to tighten the nut at the end so the tube doesn't move out of place, negating your careful measuring and planning.

4. Take out the old fixture as described above and disconnect the wires. Some fixtures will come with their own electric boxes, so you should remove the old one if this is the case (though, you don't have to). Note: If you are replacing an old fixture for a new one, adjustments may be necessary to ensure that the mounting screws can be properly grounded into the ceiling.

5. Attach the threaded tube and mounting bar to the electrical box. You will probably need an extra pair of hands to help support the weight of the fixture while you attach and tighten screws.

6. Now you can start connecting the wires according to color. The green or bare copper wire will be wrapped around the green or bare copper ground screw on the mounting strap/metal box. The black wires should be connected with wire nuts, and the white wires, as well.

7. Secure the light fixture to the ceiling once all wire connections have been made. With a flush mount unit, use a washer and a nut to secure the base unit in place.

8. Replace light bulb(s) and attach the glass dome using whatever finials the fixture is provided with.


Running wires- If there is no convenient space (such as an open basement ceiling, extra room in a vent area or under a gap in the baseboard), you can run the necessary wires through the back of a closet. Conceal these wires with an inconspicuous and neat wire channel (these can be metal or plastic and are sometimes called raceways).

Connecting the electrical wires- This is a simple procedure that is wonderfully color-coded for your convenience. Simply connect black (live) to the black or dark colored screw/wire, the white (neutral) to the light colored brass screw/white wire and ground to ground (green or bare copper wire).

When connecting a new fixture to the wiring system of an old one, use a wire nut and pigtail to make the connection. (Never attach both wires under the fixtures terminal screw.) Take the black wire from the old fixture and join it to the new black wire using the wire nut. The pigtail is used to connect to the terminal of the old black wire. Do the same thing for the white wires. Finish off connecting the ground wires with a final wire nut and closing the fixture back up.

Warning: Pre-1985 wiring systems are not equipped to handle fixtures that require 90-degree rated supply wires. These fixtures can overheat and cause electrical fires to occur. If you have non-metallic sheathed cable, you can check for the letter coding NM-B or UF-B to signify whether or not your system can handle this type of fixture.

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