It seems like every time I re-do a room, I end up buying a new light fixture…and most of the time, it’s some type of chandelier (my favorite kind of overhead light fixture!)
Hiring someone to install all those new light fixtures can get expensive…so learning how to do it yourself not only saves a lot of money, but means you can change out your light fixtures whenever you feel like it 🙂
Fortunately for me, my ex-husband was an electrician, and we bought an old house that had knob and tube wiring throughout. I got a crash course in how to do wiring while we re-wired the whole house. It’s a skill that has come in handy many times!
And actually, it isn’t nearly as hard as it looks.
Read on to find out how to hang a chandelier.
Assemble the New Fixture
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Most of the time when you order a chandelier, it will arrive only partially assembled (and if you buy the inexpensive kind, chances are it won’t be assembled at all).
The first step to hanging your new light fixture is to put it together. Since every chandelier is different, you’ll need to read the instructions to see how to do this for your fixture.
I usually try to do as much of it as I can at this stage, including hanging crystals. It is much easier to put all of the little bits together when it is on the ground!
The only time I leave some of the bling off is if the fixture is really heavy. If I don’t think I’m going to be able to lift it and hold it up while I’m wiring it, then I will leave some of the crystals off and install them at the end.
Finally, thread the wires through the chain in the chandelier.
Strip The Ends Of The Wire
If the wires on the chandelier have not been stripped, you will need to remove the last ¾” of wire casing to expose the copper wires.
Using a wire stripper makes this easy. But if you don’t have one of those, you can use a pair of scissors to carefully cut the casing (don’t cut all the way through!). Then use a pair of pliers to pull it off.
Turn Off The Power
This is a very important step! Turn the power off at the breaker, not just the switch on the wall. It’s possible that the wires will still be live even though the switch has been turned off.
I usually turn the light on, then go and switch off the breaker, then come back and make sure that the light went off. If your house is anything like mine, you might have to try a few breakers before you get the right one (I always say I’m going to re-label them so I can tell which one to turn off, but never seem to get around to it).
If you want to be extra careful, use a voltage detector to make sure the wires are not live.
Remove The Existing Fixture
Usually, there are some small screws that are holding the existing fixture or canopy to the ceiling. Undo these screws
Then unscrew the wire nuts. Save them since you will need them to install your new fixture.
Detach the fixture wires from the ceiling wires. If there are more than 2 wires in the ceiling box, keep track of which ones were connected to the fixture.
Adjust The Chain Length
Make sure that the chandelier will hang down to the correct height. If the ceiling box isn’t in the right location, you can swag the chain to have the chandelier in the right location. If you are planning to do this, make sure you have enough chain for the swag plus the amount it should hang down.
If the previous fixture was a hanging one, you can measure the length of that chain.
Otherwise, I like to get someone to hold up the fixture so that I can see where I want it. Then remove any chain links that are not needed.
If the wires on the chandelier are longer than the chain, you can also add links if you need to make it hang down lower. Note: It is not a good idea to add an extension to the wire…it will be a very weak connection and could come apart leaving exposed live wires.
Add the Canopy To The Chain
Before you do the wiring, make sure to string the canopy and screw-on connector on to the chain. The connector goes on the chain first.
Then add the canopy with the good side facing down towards the chandelier.
Trust me…there is nothing worse than getting the whole chandelier wired and working, only to realize that you forgot the canopy. That means taking the whole thing down and starting over again.
Install The Metal Mounting Strap
Most chandeliers will come with a metal mounting strap to attach to the ceiling outlet box, and a threaded rod.
If your chandelier did not come with these attachments, you can buy a screw collar loop kit* that includes all of the necessary parts.
Use 2 electrical screws to attach the mounting strap to the ceiling box.
Then screw the threaded rod into the hole in the middle of the mounting strap.
Finally, attach the hanging bracket ring to the rod.
Your chandelier may come with some additional lock nuts or other mounting parts. If so, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to get the light fixture installed correctly.
Hang The Chandelier
If the chandelier comes with a support wire, hook it on to the hanging ring. It will hold the chandelier up while you do the wiring.
If it doesn’t, you will probably want to find something to rest the chandelier on. It is very difficult to be holding up the light fixture while you try to connect the wires.
Push the chandelier wires up through the hole in the hanging post.
Connect The Wires
Find the bare wire coming from the chandelier. This is the ground wire. You can either screw it to the green (ground) screw on the ceiling box, or attach it to the ground wires that are coming from the ceiling.
Next connect the neutral wires together. These are the white wires. If your chandelier does not have a white wire, rub your finger across the outer edge of each wire. One of them will have ridges on it. That is the neutral wire.
To connect them, wrap the wire from the chandelier around the wire coming from the ceiling.
Then screw on a wire nut to completely cover both wires (you don’t want any of the bare wire sticking out from the bottom of the wire nut). Pull on the wires to make sure they are all firmly held in the nut (if any of them come out, you will need to do it again).
Finally, connect the hot wires together in the same way. The hot wires should be black or red. If your chandelier does not have a black wire, it will be the one that does not have any ridges on the outside edge.
Gently push the wires up into the ceiling box.
Test the Power
Now is the moment of truth! Add some light bulbs to your chandelier.
Then turn the power back on at the breaker. You should have light!
If the breaker trips immediately, or your chandelier doesn’t come on, you probably have some lose wire connections. Turn the power off again and re-do the wiring…most of the time that will fix the problem.
Occasionally, you may run into a light fixture that doesn’t work…in that case, there isn’t much you can do but send it back and get a new one.
Secure the Canopy
Turn the power back off at the breaker before continuing.
Bring the canopy up so that it fits over the end that is attached to the plate.
Then bring up the connector and screw it on to keep the canopy in place.
Attach the top of the chain to the hanging ring.
If you had secured the chandelier with a support wire, you can remove it now. Make sure to support the chandelier as you do this so that it doesn’t drop suddenly to the length of the chain. If you want to keep the support wire attached to the chandelier, you can weave it into the chain so that it isn’t visible. This will make it easier to re-install the chandelier in another location at a later date (if you are so inclined).
(Optional) Finish Adding Crystals and Swag the Chain
If you still have some crystals to add, finish those now.
Add the light bulbs.
If you are changing the position of the chandelier, you will need to swag the chain like I did in my dining room. (Click here if you want to see that makeover).
To do this, attach a hook to the ceiling in the location where you want the chandelier to hang from. Make sure the hook is rated to hold the weight of your chandelier.
Then loop one of the chain links over the hook.
Enjoy Your Chandelier
Add the light bulbs and turn the power back on.
Then enjoy the extra sparkle that your chandelier provides to the room!
If you really want to add some ambiance to your room, consider installing a dimmer switch for your chandelier. That will allow you to adjust the amount of light coming from your chandelier to match your mood!
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This post was originally published on July 11, 2016 but was updated with new content on July 7, 2023.