How To Replace A Light Fixture

25 November
My kitchen is getting so close to DONE!! Today I worked on the lighting... I wanted to replace the dated 1960's ceiling fixtures to something a little more updated and fun.

I found a metal colander at TJMaxx that I thought would make a super cute light above my kitchen sink.

If you've never changed out a light fixture it is pretty simple, I'm going to show you how right now!

It's easy to change a light fixture, this post will show you how!

Here is what the old 1960's light looked like.

These old lights really are not ideal not only because they aren't much too look at but if you put a high watt bulb in them then all that heat that the light bulb creates is trapped inside that glass shade. Since the part that the glass shade is attached to is metal, it absorbs all that heat and can scorch the wires behind it over time. You'll see what I mean in a little bit when we take this one down!

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Supplies needed to make a colander light

If you are making a light out of a colander (or some other creative object) like I did you'll need to make a hole in the bottom of the colander that is large enough to accommodate the light socket from the pendant kit.

I took mine to my dad because he is a genius with stuff like this ๐Ÿ˜ We used a large (probably 1/2") drill bit made for drilling into metal and drilled several holes around the inside edge of the area we needed to remove. Once we had several holes drilled he used tin snips to cut out the circle, snipping from hole to hole (I totally forgot to take pictures of this part ๐Ÿ˜”, sorry).

Once we had that part cut out, the socket went right in! There is a piece that screws onto the socket that holds the new "shade" in place.

How To Replace an Old Light Fixture

The NUMBER ONE, VERY FIRST thing you'll want to do is flip the breaker to turn off the electricity running the light. Turn ON the light then flip the breaker, when the light goes out then you know you've got the right one! You can also use a multi meter to determine if the electricity is live. I shared how to use a multimeter here: How To Use a Multi-Meter

Then, remove the shade.

Unscrew the base portion that is attached to the ceiling and pull it down.

Those big black plastic caps are called wire nuts or wire connectors. They could be any color (red, blue, black, green, etc.)

Unscrew the wire nuts and then pull the wires apart. If the wires are very hard and thick you may need to use pliers to get them apart... no worries, the electricity is shut off because you did that before you even started this... riiiigggghhhhtttt??? If not, stop right now and go do that!!

You should be left with 2 or 3 wires. There should definitely be a black wire and a white wire. Remember how I said those old light fixtures can scorch the wires over time??

That is what has happened here... the wire on the left is the white wire except it doesn't look too white anymore! As long as the plastic coating covering the wire is not cracking and falling off it should be ok.

The black wire is the "HOT" or live wire (but it isn't live right now because we turned off the electricity at the breaker box... riiiiigggghhhh??)

The white wire is the neutral.

There may also be a bare wire which is a ground. I'm pointing to the ground in my box here. If your box does not have a ground it's ok. Your new light fixture should have a ground that you will use.

The new light will have a metal bracket that you will attach to the breaker box in your ceiling. The breaker box will have a place for a screw to attach the bracket on both sides.

The bracket that came with my light was a two-piece bracket. They may also just be one piece.

The green-colored screw in this piece will be the grounding screw that you'll attach the ground wire to. Make sure you install the bracket with this screw pointing down so you can tighten it. If you cannot see the top of this screw then you have the bracket upside down.

If yours has the what balls on the ends of the screws like mine you can remove them, they are what will hold the new light to the ceiling.

I needed to shorten the length of my pendant so it hung at the length I wanted. My fixture had a little plastic screw that once loosened allowed the wire to slide so I could shorten it.

Cut off the excess wire if you shortened your fixture. Leave about 8 - 10 inches to work with.

Now you'll need to remove the white wire covering. Use a razor blade and gently slice down the length about 3 - 4 inches. Be careful with this part, you don't want to slice through the smaller wires inside!

Then remove the wire covering to reveal your black, white, and ground wires on your fixture (the green wire is the ground... it matches the green screw!).

You will now need wire strippers to remove the wire coating over the small wires.

See right above the yellow handle on this pair where there are holes of different sizes down the center of the tool? You will use this to strip the wires.

You don't want it so tight that it cuts through the wires but it has to be tight enough to strip off the plastic. Place the tool over the wire and hold them tight and pull. It will strip the covering right off!

Leaving just the tiny little wires! Note that you will want more stripped than this.

About like this will be fine!

Now we'll wire up the new light!!

You just match the colors!! The black wire on your fixture to the black wire on the junction box and white to white.

Wrap the wires from your fixture around the wires in the junction box like this.

And then screw on a wire nut! It should be nice and tight and you should be able to tug on your fixture wire and it should stay connected. If it pulls loose then repeat these steps.

Put a wire nut on the white wires once you get them connected.

For the grounding wires wrap the wire coming out of the junction box around that little green screw once or twice (whatever there is room for) leaving the end free and tighten the screw down to hold the wire in place. Then attach the green ground wire from your fixture the same way you did the black and white using a wire nut to secure.

If you do not have a grounding wire coming out of the junction box then just wrap the wires from the fixture around the green screw.

Tuck the wires up and out of the way.

Remember those little white balls? the screws that they were attached to will poke out through the plate on the fixture.

Push the plate up and over those screws.

I'll just tell you right now... this part is sometimes the hardest part of the whole project! All those wires sometimes make it difficult. I was breaking a sweat trying to get mine up there right!!

Eventually, it will work. Tighten those little balls up and you're done... unless you now have to paint your ceiling like I do... ugh. ๐Ÿ˜ฃ

Put a light bulb in your new light and turn on the breaker... clap your hands and pat yourself on the back when the light comes on!!

If it doesn't come on... call dad ๐Ÿ˜‚

I'm so happy with this little colander light!!

The light coming through the little holes is so pretty!

What do you think? Have you changed out light fixtures before? If not, do you think you'd give it a try now?

I have a confession to make though... I only do simple switches like this one... I have another ceiling light in my kitchen that has two bulbs... I thought no big deal, I'll just cap off the set of wires I don't need!

Well, turns out they used to do wiring differently back in the day... there were like a billion wires!!! Ok, a billion might be an exaggeration... there were at least 15 wires though... for real! Ummm... I only need three, what the hell do I do with all these??!!

Shrugs shoulders and undoes them all in true "Tania" fashion... forge ahead with no real plan and deal with the consequences later... forehead slap... none of the kitchen lights work now!!!

I had to call an electrician for that one... DANG IT!!

I guess they used to bundle up big old wads of wires and those big wads somehow control all the lights... I still don't understand it but whatever.

Don't let that scare you though! I've been changing lights for a long time and this is the first time I've come across anything like this. My last house still had the original 1940's wiring and I never saw anything like this there even!


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  1. I've done this before and this is a very good tutorial. I love your colander light---so cheery!

  2. Well, the whole ceiling needs to be painted anyway... the problem is that the ceiling then goes into the dining room and on into the living room, down the hall... oh, and the laundry room!!! GAH!!


  3. Nancy CarrollNovember 25, 2017

    The colander makes the cutest light ever! Good instructions. Too bad the old one was bigger around than this one. I wonder if you could find a ceiling medallion that would work to cover that ridge?

  4. Hi Brenda! I think it would be easier if you actually did it along with the steps on the blog. I often get confused just trying to read how something is done without actually doing it at the same time too :o)


  5. I tried to follow, but really just confused me! I'd love to change out my kitchen lighting, but not sure it would be okay with management. Love what you did with the colander.

  6. Thank you and thanks for visiting!


  7. DazzleWhileFrazzledNovember 26, 2017

    Love the colander fixture! Fun light for the kitchen. Visiting from DIY Show Off.

  8. Angie @ ambient waresDecember 01, 2017

    Now this colander fixture is great! Just so fitting for the kitchen :) Pinned


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