By Larry Bilotti
Replacing an old, outdated light fixture can improve the look of any room -- particularly the dining room, where a beautiful new chandelier can add a dramatic focal point to the room. But before you choose a stylish replacement for your old light fixture, be sure to factor in the weight. Hanging light fixtures are supported from a junction box mounted in the ceiling. If the weight of your new chandelier is the same as the weight of the existing one, the support will be fine and the installation a relatively easy do-it-yourself endeavor. If not, you may need to install a new junction box and consider leaving the job in the hands of a professional.
Tape (optional to distinguish wires)
Marker (optional to distinguish wires)
Replacement chandelier (which should come packaged with all necessary hardware)
1. Turn off the power.
Since you will be working with electricity, you must shut off the circuit breaker on your electric panel that feeds power to the fixture you are planning to replace. If you want to be certain the power is off, purchase a circuit tester -- a handy and inexpensive accessory for anyone working with electricity.
2. Remove the old fixture.
Once you are certain the power is off, you can start to disconnect the existing fixture from the junction box on the ceiling. Depending on the type of ceiling mount you have, you will need to loosen whatever screws are holding the light fixture in place. When the wires become visible, take note of how they are connected. In most homes, you will find three wires: a black wire (the hot wire), a white wire (the neutral wire), and a green or exposed copper wire (the ground). If the wires are not differentiated by color, use tape to indicate which wire is which. Disconnect the wires and remove the old light fixture. (NOTE: You may want to recruit an assistant to help you lower the old fixture and raise the new one.)
3. Replace the mounting bracket.
If you are replacing a flush-mounted light fixture, you may need to add a mounting bracket to the junction box. The rectangular metal strap is packaged with your replacement chandelier and is easy to install. If the junction box has a mounting bracket, you may still want to replace it with the new one. The swap will guarantee the support necessary and meet manufacturer installation requirements.
4. Install the new chandelier.
Since every light fixture follows certain steps for installation, be sure to read and follow the manufacturer directions. Once you have done so and have the replacement chandelier in position, reconnect the wires securely and twist on the plastic wire nuts that came with the fixture. Carefully stuff the wires back inside the junction box and tighten the mounting screws. Turn on the power, install lightbulbs, and flip the switch.
Now that you have successfully installed a new chandelier, adding a dimmer switch should be your next DIY project. It will help you control light and mood and save you money by reducing overall energy used by the light fixture.
Larry Bilotti has an extensive background in DIY home improvements and home maintenance, not only from his years as executive editor of Country Living magazine, but from personal hands-on experience restoring his Catskills, N.Y., retreat -- Trout House.
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