DIY Lighting or Hire an Electrician?

Installing a ceiling light fixture

Installing a new light fixture can be a fun DIY project, or a nightmare better handled by a pro.

Been watching home improvement TV shows lately? Of course you have! They make it all look so easy and get us excited about those three little letters: DIY. Take a deep breath and a dose of reality. When it comes to home lighting projects, it’s important to think carefully about what the job requires. Only then can you make a smart decision between hiring an electrician and doing it yourself. Here’s a checklist of questions that may help you figure it out.

Do you understand electrical wiring and connections?

You don’t have to be a pro to complete simple projects, but a basic understanding of electrical outlets and wiring is essential to your safety. Do you know where your circuit breaker panel is? Do you know how to turn off the power supply to the fixture you’re working with? When you pull off the fixture and are confronted with a tangle of wires, will you know which is which? There are guides online to help explain it step by step, but look them over first and see if you can follow along or if it’s all a bit overwhelming.

If installation of a light fixture will involve switching out or rerouting cables, this adds some complexity. In this case, unless you have special knowledge of or prior experience with wiring, hiring an electrician is best.

What tools are required for the lighting installation?

Using a screwdriver to adjust a light switch

You may have all the tools around the house, or the project may require an electrician’s tool bag.

DIY lighting may require particular tools. For example, to replace most fixtures you will want a wire stripper to prep the fixture for attachment to ceiling or wall electrical wiring. If you don’t have a stripper, use a utility knife in its place. A power drill makes mounting new fixtures simple and fast, but a screwdriver is a reliable option as well. We strongly recommend using a voltage tester to confirm that the power is off before you start fiddling with bare wires.

Are you adding a new fixture where none existed before, either on the wall or the ceiling? You’ll need quite a hefty list of tools, from a stud finder to a jab saw, making this an ambitious DIY lighting project.

Does your new light fixture come with mounting materials, and clear instructions?

When you pull your new sconce, ceiling light, or pendant out of the box, you might feel like a kid on Christmas morning. Put your giddiness in check, and check the box for mounting instructions and supplies. Most lights will include a mounting bracket and screws that fit the fixture. Like our stylish 13.5″ Drum Top Ceiling Light, which comes with a plate for semi-flush mounting. Your fixtures should also come with instructions showing materials included, configuration of wiring, and also the maximum wattage for lamping. Fabby’s ceiling fixture installation guide includes a clear, helpful diagram. Easy instructions make do-it-yourself lighting projects simple.

If mounting instructions are not included, the task before you becomes more challenging. Can you fit tab A into slot B based on intuition and clever guesses? Electricians have seen just about every type of fixture out there, so hiring a professional may be easier than trying to figure it out yourself.

Is there any visible damage or wear?

When working with electrical wires, wear and tear is a sign of danger. It can cause shorting and lead to an electrical fire. If you begin to replace a light fixture and notice that the hardwiring in your home looks distressed, then it’s time to hire an electrician.

As long as you disconnect power, have all the right tools, and feel comfortable with a project, DIY lighting installation is a safe and fun project. For more complicated wiring, we recommend letting your electrician take it on. Happy renovating!

6 replies
  1. Noah Jones
    Noah Jones says:

    Great article. Very informative safety tips. Always hire an experienced and expert electrician to fix electrical faults.

    Reply
  2. Jackie Oliver
    Jackie Oliver says:

    My husband and I are finally getting around to finishing our basement. There is some lighting work that needs to be done down there. My husband was thinking about doing it himself, but I think it would be best to have a professional take care of it. Like you said, you need someone with all the right tools and equipment. My husband doesn’t have any of that, so an electrician seems like it would be the best way to go.

    Reply
  3. Barbera Peters
    Barbera Peters says:

    This is the first time I have ever tried flipping a house on my own. I wasn’t sure if I should hire a professional electrician or try it out myself. This article was really helpful in showing me why it is always best to get a professional since they have the required training and tools such as a voltage tester. Thanks for the awesome advice.

    Reply
  4. Taylor Bishop
    Taylor Bishop says:

    I’m glad that you mentioned that someone should probably hire a professional electrician if they don’t have special knowledge or experience with wiring. As far as I know, this is probably one of the safest options, as well as the most efficient. Not only that, but having a professional come over can be a good opportunity to learn from them and ask for some tips and advice.

    Reply
  5. Lauren Jones
    Lauren Jones says:

    We are excited to be remodeling our bathroom to surprise our daughter for when she gets home from summer camp, and I am wondering if we need to hire an electrician to help us with lighting. It is good to know that electricians have seen just about every type of fixture out there. I like what was mentioned about how hiring a professional may be easier than trying to figure it out yourself. Thanks for the information.

    Reply

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