The Essential Guide to Installing Chandeliers and Pendant Lights

You've just acquired an impressive chandelier or pendant light to tie your room together. It can't work it's magic unless you install it, however.

Fortunately, this isn't that difficult of a DIY job. Here's how to install your new lighting safely so that you can wow your neighbors and house guests with your handiness and design sense.

Turn the Power Off At the Breaker

Flipping the wall switch doesn't cut it when you're working with lighting. For instance, someone else might flip it back on while you're uncomfortably close to a wire and standing on a metal ladder.

It's also worth considering that the switch may be situated on the return path from the light. In other words, there could still be electricity running through the box inside the ceiling even if the light isn't on.

Always disable the breaker while the light is still on to confirm that you've de-energized the correct circuit. Then, turn the wall switch off for good measure in case someone flips the breaker back on.

Remove the Old Fixture

Many pendant lights and chandeliers attach to the ceiling via a round or rectangular plate known as a canopy. You can usually remove this fixture by unscrewing its external screws.

Install a temporary hook to hang your current pendant from, or sit it on top of the ladder so that there's some slack in the connecting cable or chain. Eliminating tension from the line this way reduces the chance that the weight of the pendant or chandelier will damage the wiring after you take down the canopy.

If your light attaches to its canopy via a stiff rod or you've already placed it to the side, then you can remove the canopy screws. Inside the newly revealed hole, you should see the wiring that connects to your lighting.

Dealing With the Wiring

Before proceeding, take a picture of the wiring with your phone, or just note which wires from the fixture are connected to the different wiring colors coming from the ceiling. You should see

  • A gray or white "neutral" wire,
  • A green or bare copper "ground" wire, and
  • A black or red "hot" wire.

Older homes don't always have ground wires. If this is absent, however, the fixture's ground wire may be connected directly to the metal wiring box inside the ceiling.

Although the power is off, it's safest to disconnect the hot wires first, followed by the neutral and ground wires. When you make the new connections, you'll do so in the reverse order so that any electricity flowing from a potentially live hot wire always has a return path other than your body.

Replacing the Fixture

After removing the wiring, follow the instructions that came with the new pendant or chandelier. Yours may have a mounting strap or plate that you'll need to attach first. When wiring it up, give yourself some slack by resting the fixture on your ladder or temporary hook so that you're not fighting to make the connection.

After you've wired the replacement fixture, confirm that you matched the right wires together before installing the canopy. Clean up your work zone and power everything on starting with the breaker so that you can enjoy your newly illuminated surroundings.

Do you have questions about this procedure? reach out to one of our experts for help.

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