7 Tips for Rewiring an Antique Light Fixture

Shannon Lee

Antique light fixtures in your old house won't last forever. When the lights begin to flicker and dim, it might be time to inspect that light fixture or rewire it altogether.

How to Rewire an Antique Light Fixture

Rewiring an old light fixture isn't difficult, but it can be a tedious process. One of the most important parts of rewiring a fixture that is original to your old house is the great care that you must take with delicate glass, ceiling medallions, and other aspects that are important to the historical integrity of your light fixtures.

  • Power off. Always make sure the main power is off. Check it, then double check it. Test the fixture wires with a circuit tester to make certain there is no power flowing through them.
  • Mind those fixtures. Make sure to monitor the retaining nut or screws that hold the globes in old fixtures. Keep one hand on the glass at all times. Get a buddy to help if your fixture is rather complex. Remember, many of those old fixtures are much heavier than they look!
  • Mark the wires. As you disconnect wires from the fixture, make notations on a piece of paper, such as "black wire was attached to box," which can be enough to remind you which wire needs to go where when you reattach the wires.
  • Don't let the fixture hang from the wires. This can stretch the wires, break connections that are a good distance away from the fixture, and lead to the headache of having to track down the problem.
  • Restrip the wires. When you reattach a wire, cut off the tip and strip a bit of the remaining wire, down to about 1/2 inch. This ensures fresh, clean wire to twist together before you put the protective nut over the connection.
  • Add an electric box. If your original fixtures had wires that weren't enclosed in a small electric box, you might consider adding one. Although it may not be necessary, it does provide added support and peace of mind.
  • Make sure wiring is up to code. Old houses can have equally old wiring, and depending on when it was installed, that wiring might not be safe. Work on one fixture might be simple, but if the flickering and dimming lights are happening throughout your home, a call to an electrical contractor is in order.

If at any point during the rewiring process you begin to feel overwhelmed or wonder if you have done something correctly, be safe rather than sorry and give an electrician a call.

About the Author

Shannon Dauphin is a freelance writer based near Nashville, Tennessee. Her house was built in 1901, so home repair and renovation have become her hobbies.

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