Easy and Cheap Upgrades for Outdated Light Fixtures


Homeowners and real estate investors both know the added value of updated light fixtures. New fixtures can cost hundreds of dollars. Cost-conscious property owners can often save money by upgrading their light fixtures with paint instead of replacing them; follow these easy tips for an inexpensive light-fixture makeover.

Remove the Light Fixture

To remove the fixture, go to the electrical panel and flip the switch for the fixture's circuit. Take off any decorative plates and bulbs before removing the fixture. Pull off any electrical tape and discard. Keep the plastic wire nuts so you can use them to reinstall the fixture. Make a mental note of where the copper wire was connected to the box as a ground.

Buy the Paint

Carefully wipe the surface with a 50:50 mixture of rubbing alcohol and distilled water. As it dries, visit a light fixture store to get an idea of the current trends in light fixture finishes. Keep in mind the style of your home. If your house is decorated like a Spanish hacienda, for example, then a black matte finish would be a great match. A contemporary or modern home might benefit from a painted chrome finish. Buy spray cans of Rustoleum paint for metal, or another product designed for use on your light fixture's material.

Buy the Bulbs and Globes

Some of the builder-grade light fixtures have a simple design that accommodates upgrades beautifully. The ugly part of the fixture may be the bulbs or the globe that covers the bulbs. Take a bulb and globe shopping with you. While you are at the light fixture store, notice the trend in globes. Measure the old globe and bulb to ensure you purchase the right sizes.

Paint the Light Fixture

In a well-ventilated area, spray the fixture and follow directions. Start with primer, let it dry, then apply the finish paint. For light fixtures, you will want a smooth, seamless paint job.

Install the Fixture

Make sure the power is still off. Otherwise, someone might flip the switch and accidentally give you quite a shock. If the fixture involves a screw mount, screw the fixture to the mount before connecting the wires. Otherwise, you will end up with a tangled, potentially hazardous mess. Match red wires to red, white to white (or whatever colors your system uses).

Once you twist the exposed ends of the wires together, cover with a wire nut and turn to the right. (Remember: righty tighty, lefty loosey.) Wrap with electrical tape. Be sure to ground the copper wire in the same manner as it had been before. Affix any cover plate and install the new bulbs and globes. Turn the power on at the panel and test your switch.

You might want to hire a professional electrician to help with this part.

Updated August 30, 2018.

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