Getting the Hang of New Lighting: A Chandelier Installation Guide

Whether delicate and ornate or sleek and modern, the chandelier retains the same associations today as it has for centuries: those of a statement piece in interior decor, a centerpoint of strong lighting and a room’s aesthetic. Many of our recent projects have featured chandeliers in a variety of styles and settings. If you plan to include a chandelier in your interior renovation, read on to learn the basics of installation. While the instructions below apply most directly to a do-it-yourself approach, the information provided remains useful even to those leaving installation to the professionals.

Installation Basics

As a first step, remember to always turn off the electricity to the circuit you’re working on at the main electrical panel. Never attempt to work on live wires. Go to your house’s main electrical panel and turn off the circuit breaker that controls the room where you’ll be working. Test the light switch in the room to confirm that the power is off. 

If removing a pre-existing light fixture, unscrew and lower its canopy (the decorative, bowl-shaped disk against the ceiling) to access the electrical box. Carefully remove the twist-on connectors from the wiring, check the current again with an electrical tester, and remove the fixture (handing it to another person if you’re on a ladder). Next, remove the old electrical box, install the fan brace (if one is being used), and then install the new electrical box, making sure the assembly is secure.

Next, the chandelier’s wiring will be connected to the electrical box. Prior to this, shorten the wires and remove chain links so the chandelier will hang at the right height, and temporarily remove any shades from the chandelier before installing it. Thread the nipple first into the chandelier’s chain holder, then into the fixture-mounting bar. Feed the chandelier wires through the nipple. Lift the fixture and screw the mounting bar to the electrical box. Wrap the cable’s copper ground wire around the grounding screw, tighten it, then connect the wire’s end to the chandelier’s ground wire. Next, strip ½ inch of insulation off the chandelier’s wiring. Use a twist-on connector to join the chandelier’s white wire to the cable’s white wire. Do the same with the chandelier’s and the cable’s black wires. Carefully fold and tuck the wires up into the electrical box. Slide the chandelier’s canopy up the chain and press it tight against the ceiling, making sure the wires aren’t poking out from the canopy. Push the retaining collar up the chain, thread it onto the chain holder, and hand-tighten the collar to hold the canopy tight against the ceiling. Finally, install the lightbulbs and shades, then restore the power to the room. You’re finished!

Design Characteristics and Tips

There are several varieties of fixtures that fall under the category of “chandelier.” Classic chandeliers most typically refract light via the use of crystal prisms, contemporary chandeliers feature a more minimalist design (often of metal), and modern chandeliers combine these elements to varying degrees. As a general guideline for sizing purposes, add up the length and width of the room in feet, and use the same number in inches for your fixture’s diameter. In the case of a dining-room chandelier, opt for a fixture one-half to three-quarters the width of the table, and hang the light 36 to 48 inches above the table. Choose the lower number for more intimacy, the higher one if you want to stand when toasting.


Now that you’ve got a more solid background on the design and installation process of chandeliers, you’ll be able to select a beautiful and functional fixture for your home. Though the considerations listed above may seem complex, rest assured that Gordon James will handle all facets of installation with skill and technical acumen. Contact us today, and we’ll light the way to a lovely new home interior!

Note: This article uses information adapted from original articles by Joseph Truini of This Old House magazine and Emma Kelly of Links to these articles may be accessed below.