How to Wire a Light Fixture

With a little research and the right equipment, changing out a light fixture can become a simple DIY home project. Once you have some experience under your belt, the whole project, from start to finish, should take about an hour. Before you begin your project, consider asking a friend or your spouse to work with you. Two sets of hands are better than one.

How Do You Wire a Light Fixture?

First line up all the tools and parts needed for the wiring project. Lay everything out in the order they will be used; an organized workspace helps with a smooth workflow. In addition to the items that come with the fixture, you will need a ladder, a small saw, some pliers, an assortment of screwdrivers, electrical tape, putty, a drill and drill bits, and wire strippers. Next-and this is probably the most important step of all-turn off the power at both the switch and the circuit breaker.

If you are hanging your light fixture from the ceiling but do not have a ceiling outlet box, you will have to install one. Mark the area where you are placing the light fixture for installation. Cut a hole in the ceiling according to the exact size of the box and feed the hanger bar into the hole up inside the attic and rest it flat on the ceiling and twist the bar to expand it into the studs. Connect the feed cable to the ceiling box and clamp the electrical wire down with a cable clamp. Finally attach the ceiling box and the wire to the hanger bar, connect to a power source and you’re ready to wire the fixture. You will need to fish a wire from the attic space to the outlet box. Begin by drilling a hole; then fish the wire from the attic through the wall cavity to the switch box. You can purchase cable fishing tape at your local hardware store; they will greatly aid you in this process.

There are many different kinds of outlet boxes and mounting devices available depending on the kind of light fixture you’re working with. Speak to the customer service representative at the hardware store if you’re not sure about which one to get.

Once you’ve run the wire to your light box, it’s time to wire the light fixture, do another check to make sure the power is turned off at the circuit breaker before handling the wiring. There will be a black and white wire hanging out of the hole in the ceiling box or the wall. Use wire strippers to cut about half an inch of the insulation off both wires to expose the copper underneath. Affix the mounting bracket for the light fixture. The black wire in the light fixture should be connected to the black wire in the electrical box. Connect the two corresponding white wires in the same way.

The bare copper wire you see in the box is the ground wire. This one usually connects to a green screw. Be sure not to remove the insulation inside the light fixture. This is what keeps the heat from the bulb from over heating the wires inside. Next, fit the fixture over the mounting bolts. The finish trim screws go in last, but not too tightly because doing so might crack the glass.

Some other things to consider when wiring a light fixture include the kind of light fixture: fluorescent light bars, candle chandeliers, or a simple bulb with a lampshade covering it. You also need to plan the route of the wiring. If you want something like having one switch turn on two or three lights or an additional outlet, this can be done, be sure to follow the instructions closely and properly. If this is too advanced for you, it might be time to hire a professional electrician.

If you follow the instructions closely and make sure the power source is switched off while you work, this is a very doable DIY project. Remember, safety is the number one priority. If you are uncertain about any portion of the project, consider hiring a professional electrician.


My name is Julia Ritzenthaler, Founder and President of Unique Vanities, started in 2005. I started this business as an extension of our residential remodeling business, which focused on the design and build of custom cabinetry and architectural trim. I also worked as a financial advisor for 10 years at Ameriprise Financial, helping clients make sound money decisions, including budgeting for home improvement expenses. This expertise led me to start Unique Vanities, which offers a handpicked selection of high quality bathroom vanities, sinks, mirrors and more. You can find me most days sitting in Starbucks, my second office, or in my car driving my daughter across Dallas to gymnastics training.

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