How to Install a Pendant Light

pendant lights in a kitchen

The Spruce / Ana Cadena

Overview
  • Working Time: 30 mins
  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Installing a new pendant light can often be as simple as taking down an old fixture and hanging a new one. This quick project can provide a refreshing upgrade, especially when combined with other small changes, like freshly painted walls. Pendant lights are particularly easy for homeowners to replace, as they aren't that heavy (with the exception of large chandeliers) and they often use the existing junction box in the ceiling. Given that they are hung from a canopy, the fixture can be held up on a do-it-yourself hook for hands-free work on the wires before installing the cover.

Warning

Before you start removing the old fixture, turn off the power at your electrical panel by flipping the circuit breaker or removing the fuse. Double-check that you got the right breaker or fuse by using a voltage tester to ensure there is no electricity flowing through the wires.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Voltage tester
  • Ladder (if needed)
  • Screwdriver
  • Wire stripper or combination tool
  • Level
  • Coat hanger fashioned into an "S" hook (if needed)

Materials

  • Pendant fixture
  • Wire nuts

Instructions

  1. Remove the Old Light

    Using an appropriate screwdriver, remove the screws holding the light casing. Keep a hand on the fixture when removing the last screws to ensure it doesn't fall.

    Tip

    Consider snapping a photo of the wire connections before removing the light. This can help you navigate connections for the new light.

  2. Note and Mark the Wire Connections

    The fixture should be attached to three wires: The ground wire, the neutral wire, and the hot wire. These wires are color-coded. The hot wire from the switch is usually black or red, but not always. The neutral wires should be white or gray, and the ground wire should be green, or bare copper.

    Make note of which wire in the ceiling is connected to the black fixture wire, as that indicates which one is "hot." Also note which wire is connected to the white fixture wire, or the "neutral" wire. You'll want to replicate this when you attach the new fixture.

    Tip

    If your house was built before about 1970, you might not have a ground wire. If the ceiling box is metal and the old fixture has a bare wire connected to a screw in the box, that's the ground.

  3. Disconnect the Wires

    Take the hot wires apart first, then the neutrals. Take the ground wires apart last.

    Once the old fixture is free, set it aside. Remove any old mounting plate or hardware.

    Using a wire stripper or combination tool, strip the wire insulation, if necessary, to expose about 1/2 inch of wire.

  4. Install the Mounting Bracket

    Your new fixture should have a mounting bracket, plate, or strap. Attach this to the junction box with the included screws. Use a level to ensure the mounting bracket fits straight and true.

  5. Check the Hanging Height

    Lift your new fixture into place and gauge the height. If the final result will be too low or too high, release the set screw in the cover and adjust the cord to the desired length.

  6. Attach the Wires

    Look at the wires on the fixture. If necessary, strip the insulation from the wires, leaving about 1/2 inch of bare wire on each.

    Lift the light fixture again. Employ a helper, if possible, to hold the light fixture while you attach the wires. Connect the ground first, then the neutral, and then the hot wire. Twist the bare wires together and secure each set with wire nuts on the ends.

    Tip

    If you don't have a helper and your light fixture is heavy or bulky, use a piece of coat hanger wire, bent in an "S" shape and hooked onto the mounting bracket, to support the fixture while you connect the wires.

  7. Close Up the Junction Box

    Once all the wires are firmly connected, attach the cover to the junction box with the included screws. Gently tuck the wires into the box, keeping them neat and ensuring no wires are pinched or protruding from the cover.

  8. Test the Light

    Attach the shade cover, if applicable, and use a light bulb of appropriate wattage for that fixture. Turn the power back on and make sure the light works.

always turn the power to your fuse off before removing an old pendant light
The Spruce / Ana Cadena
new fixture ready to be installed with wires exposed
The Spruce / Ana Cadena