Man School 101: How To Change A Light Fixture

man school 101 how to change a light fixture main

     How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb?

     None… the bulb will change when it’s ready!

OK, I’ll wait for a few minutes to let you catch your breath. There you go… enjoy a good laugh, take your time. Yep, funny stuff… I know. Ha. Yeah OK Jesus Christ, calm down, this is getting weird.

All joking aside, changing a lightbulb is easy. Now if it’s the light fixture itself you want to change? Oh boy… that’s… well, it’s actually pretty easy too, as it turns out. Can you twist two wires together? Can you do that twice? Then you, sir, can change a light fixture.

Whether it’s a ceiling-mounted fixture or a wall-mounted sconce, the steps involved in replacing a fixture are pretty much the same. (Note that some high hats or other more specialized units may require other steps, AKA calling an electrician.)

Let’s take this step by step:

breaker1 – TURN. OFF. THE. POWER.

Find the right circuit to power down, and if you can’t figure that out, shut down the electricity to the whole home. Being shocked is not fun. I know from personal experience(s). Disneyland is fun, but frankly it seems odd that I even brought that up here.

globe cover2 – Remove the Old Fixture

This will likely first involve removing a glass globe, then unscrewing a few screws holding a plate against the ceiling. Be ready to support that plate with one hand while using the other hand to twist the little conical caps (they’re usually orange or yellow) off the wires now hanging out of your wall or ceiling.


Modern light fixtures typically have one black wire and one white wire, as well as one green grinding wire. If the wires sticking out of your ceiling are black and white, things just got easier. If your home has older wiring, often in the form of copper wires without differentiated coating, then you must carefully note the colors if the wiring in the fixture you just removed. Make sure when you attach the new fixture, its black wire connects where the old black wire was, e.g.

electrical box4 – Check the Hardware In the Ceiling

Make sure the “electrical box” is in good working order. This means the box, which is often more of a circular shape, is secure in the ceiling and that its wires are properly coated and have enough wire exposed at their ends to properly intertwine with the new fixture’s wires. A wire stripper can help here; a wiry stripper likely cannot, unless she happens to know about electrical work. Also make sure there are holes through which screws fitted to the new fixture can pass. You can also attach the new light fixture’s plate to wooden studs if need be.

wires5 – Connect the Wires

The black wire gets twisted together with the black wire. Ditto the white. Turn them in a clockwise manner. Then screw those little conical caps over the twisted-together wires, also turning them clockwise until they resist. Next attach the green ground wire to the ground screw on the electrical box. It will likely be green itself or will say ground. Push the excess wiring up into the box area so it won’t be pinched by the fixture.

Fixture Mounting Plate6 – Connect the Plate

In a perfect world, there will be holes in the electrical box that perfectly align with holes in your new light fixture. In the real world, you might have to get creative here. You can screw into wood, drill your own holes into metal, and so forth — most light fixtures aren’t that heavy, just make sure the plate is secure and make sure not to screw with any wires, so to speak.

cooooov7 – Attach the Cover

Maybe it’s a glass globe, maybe it’s a wrought iron housing, maybe it’s vintage Tiffany’s glass. Whatever. Just follow your new fixture’s instructions to attach the part that covers the bulb to the plate you just secured.

light-bulb-dezeen8 – Take the Cover Back Off, Insert a Lightbulb, then Put the Cover Back On

You forgot the lightbulb, ey? Slow clap…