Thursday, January 26, 2012

How to Change a Light Fixture

Ever since I discovered Pinterest, I've had this image floating around in my head.  I love lanterns!

One of my favorite past times is cooking and I love being in the kitchen.  I do not, however, love the light above our sink.

It is outdated and tiny in proportion to the window.  (And I haven't changed the dead bulb in a year!)

I've had this lantern sitting in my basement for almost a year now.  I've tossed around the idea of replacing the light fixture myself but always chicken out...ya know, the whole electrocution thing.  It's my new phobia.

I got it out of the basement this morning to take a look at it.  Almost all of the tutorials and videos I've seen about replacing a light fixture mention, "black wires to black, white wires to white".  This concept seems pretty easy but the lantern I bought has one brown cord (along with the copper wire).  This is usually where I would put it all back in the box and vow to do it another day.  But after searching the web, I discovered that there's a smooth side and a ridged side to my brown cord.  When split apart, the ridged side of the cord corresponds to the white wire (neutral) from the junction box and the smooth side corresponds to the black wire (hot).

With that information I felt comfortable enough to proceed.  These are the steps I took to replace my light fixture:
1.  I turned off the electricity to the entire house.  I wanted to take all precautions.  If you're comfortable just turning off the fuse to the particular light you're working with - go for it.
2.  I unscrewed the old unit from the ceiling.  This is where I stopped taking pictures because I needed both hands (and could have used two more).
3.  I screwed the mounting bracket that came with the lantern to the junction box.  The old unit didn't have one but this lantern is heavy and needs support. 
4.  My next step was to connect the smooth side of the brown cord to the black wire hanging from the ceiling (or your fixture may have a corresponding black wire).  I twisted them together and screwed a cap over the exposed end. 
5. Then, I connected the ridged side of the brown cord to the white wire hanging from the ceiling (your fixture may have a corresponding white wire).  I twisted them together and screwed a cap over the exposed end. 
6.  The copper wire hanging from the ceiling got twisted in a loop around the green "ground" screw on the mounting bracket.  Then I tightened the screw.  Next, I twisted the remaining end of the copper wire with the copper wire coming from the lantern and capped them off. 
7.  The last step is to tighten the plate to the ceiling with the small bolts provided.

  Uh oh...this is where I ran into a problem.  Do I ever complete a project without hitting a bump on the road and making a trip to the hardware store?  Never.

A mounting bracket screw wasn't "catching" the electrical box.  The two screws I used were the exact same size and the side on the left was screwed in tight.  But when I let the weight of the unit hang without my support, the screw on the right side would  pop out of the screw hole (I'm sure that's not the technical term).  It left a gap at the ceiling and the lantern was only holding on by the cords and one screw.  I was so frustrated at this point because I was close to being done, it was time to pick up my daughter from school and my arms were killing me.  I have a new found appreciation for electricians.  They have to have some serious muscles.
Off I went to pick up my daughter and shop for a new screw.  Thankfully, after explaining my situation to the guy at the hardware store we both came to the conclusion that the junction box on the right side must be stripped.  Replacing an electrical box is obviously beyond my realm of repairs and calling an electrician to finish my job would cost money (and technically my husband didn't even know this little project was going on while he was at work).  The guy at the hardware store suggested I buy a screw with a different, "more aggressive" thread, as he called it.  I couldn't buy a larger screw because it wouldn't fit through the hole on the mounting bracket.  Long story short, a screw of the same size but with a different, more aggressive thread worked!

I hope my instructions make sense.  Writing tutorials is not my forte.  The directions that came with the lantern were actually very helpful and easy to read.  It stated that the whole project should take ten minutes.  It took me about 45 minutes (minus the trip to the store) but this was also the first fixture I've replaced.  I wouldn't hesitate to change another now - easy peasy!
Next, I will be painting over the ugly ring the old fixture (which had a larger plate) left behind.

I have a hard time taking photos of this area in my kitchen.  This window is really the only natural light coming in and I end up having to over-expose the image which makes the cabinets look yellow and the walls mint green.


It casts the prettiest reflection at night!
This is the other light in the kitchen.  I hate it more the old light over the sink.  It throws off zero light.  I swear the whole room is like a cave.

We need recessed lighting.  Kinda like this...

Notice anything else in the Country Living picture that I used for inspiration in my own kitchen?  How about the black window trim with the white molding. 
You know what they say...every room needs a little black!

I'm linking up with:
Hookin Up With HOH @ House of Hepworths
Coffee & Conversation @ Passionately Perfect
Feathered Nest Friday @ French Country Cottage
Transformation Thursdays @ The Shabby Creek Cottage
Crafty Scrappy Happy Me Thursdays @ Crafty Scrappy Happy
Open House Party @ No Minimalist Here
Catch as Catch Can @ My Repurposed Life
Whatcha Got Weekend @ Lolly Jane Boutique
Saturday Night Special @ Funky Junk Interiors


  1. Electrical has always been one of those projects that I've been fearful to try myself! Maybe I'll give it a try! Your lantern looks great over the kitchen sink. Also love the black window frame. It gives that area such beautiful character!

  2. the latern looks great! did you paint the window trims black? i really like how your are pulling it all together. i have so many projects on my to do list, but generally my fear of messing things up stops me from even starting!

  3. so pretty! i've never changed a light before, for the same reason. When we bought our first house, the first thing I told my husband we would do was change out the dining light. 3 1/2 years later when we sold the house, that light was still hanging, but everything else in the house had been transformed one way or another. I'll blame it on the fear of not knowing how, lol. Love the look of your kitchen so far!


  4. The lantern looks great! I'm flattered to be a source of pinterest inspiration! Thanks for the email so I could come and see- very ironic about young house love!
    Amy at Casablanca

  5. Ooh! Nice lantern! I share your feelings of nervousness when it comes to changing anything electrical... thanks for the post, though; it definitely alleviates some fear of being electrocuted! ;)
    -Jane @

  6. saws? no problem, but electricity scares me. ;)
    you new light fixture looks really great.

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