A hickey fitting is a simple metal part that allows you to connect the threaded nipples of two different sizes to an electrical box. You use a hickey when installing a chandelier or other type of a hanging light fixture. It provides means for secure mounting and allows you to support the weight of the fixture before making the wire connections.
When You Need a Hickey
When mounting a standard ceiling light fixture, you typically install the mounting screws on the fixture into small threaded screw holes on the overhead electrical box. But with drop light fixtures, such as a chandelier, the heavy fixture is supported by a threaded nipple—a small length of metal tubing with threads on both ends. One end threads into a female-threaded opening on the ceiling box mounting strap, while the other end threads into a similar fitting on the base of the light fixture.
Often the threaded openings have different sizes—for example, a 3/8-inch opening in the ceiling box mounting strap and a 5/16-inch mounting nipple for the chandelier. A hickey lets you make this transition with two different sizes of openings: The top side of the hickey is threaded onto the 3/8-inch nipple connected to the ceiling box, while the chandelier's 5/16-inch nipple is threaded onto the lower threaded opening on the hickey. You can find hickeys with many different size variations and combinations. This is especially helpful if you purchase an older chandelier and do not have all of its hanging components.
Where to Buy a Hickey
Specialty lighting stores stock mounting kits and individual parts of all types, including hickeys with various thread sizes. To make sure you get the right part, bring the mounting strap from the electrical box (bring the box, too, if it's not installed yet) and the mounting nipple or other hardware from the light fixture. You can also find hickeys at home centers and hardware stores, but you're more likely to find fixture mounting kits that include all parts for mounting a drop light fixture. Kits often include mounting straps with screws, a hickey fitting, and sometimes short threaded nipples.
Why Hickeys Have Holes
Hickeys have holes to provide a channel to route the chandelier wires for connection. Nipples do the same because they are hollow, like pipes. The light fixture's wire leads can be threaded through the nipples and hickey and connected to circuit wires with wire nuts.
When installing a fixture, first thread the upper nipple onto the mounting strap (or the box opening) of the ceiling box, then thread the hickey onto the upper nipple. Now you're ready for the fixture. Mount the fixture to the hickey using the fixture nipple. With the weight of the fixture supported by the ceiling box, your hands are free to make the wiring connections. Feed the fixture wires up through the nipples and hickey and connect them to the circuit wires in the ceiling box.
Supporting Heavy Fixtures
When replacing a standard ceiling light fixture with a heavier fixture, such as a chandelier, the ceiling box must be securely anchored and up to the task of supporting the heavier load. A standard ceiling box is usually rated for only about 35 pounds and may be supported only by the ceiling drywall. This is not strong enough for a heavy hanging fixture.
Replace a standard box with a heavy-duty metal box rated for more weight than the fixture. These are sold in two different styles: adjustable bar units for ceilings with attic access, or fully adjustable units for use in locations that must be accessed through the finished ceiling. Mount the box to the ceiling framing using mounting bars (sold with heavy-duty ceiling boxes) or to solid-lumber blocking installed between the ceiling joists.