How to Wire Lighting Circuits

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The light on your wall or ceiling is connected to the circuit box of your home, which feeds it power. The connection runs through the wall switch, allowing you to interrupt the power by flipping off the switch. Wiring is best done when the walls are open during new construction or remodeling. Don't attempt this yourself unless you have some general wiring knowledge and are familiar with your home's system.

Things You'll Need

  • 12-gauge electrical cable with 3 wires (insulated black, insulated white and bare copper)
  • Plastic electrical box for the light fixture
  • Plastic switch box for the wall switch
  • Cable brackets that fit the electrical boxes
  • Screwdriver
  • Utility knife
  • Wire cutters
  • Wire nuts
  • Wall switch
  • Light fixture
  • String your electrical cable from the area of the house circuit box (without connecting it) to the switch box where you want your light switch.

  • Cut the cable by the switch box, using your wire cutters. Cut it so that you can thread the cable into the box and have about six inches of excess cable hanging out.

  • Set a cable bracket into the bottom hole of the switch box. Slide the cable through the bracket. Tighten it in place. Cut open the cable casing that's hanging out of the box and separate the three wires so they're hanging separately.

  • Set a second cable bracket through the top hole in the switch box and clamp and slice a length of cable into it as before, leaving about six inches of wiring hanging out. String the other end up through the wall to the electrical box where the light fixture will go. Clamp and slice the end of the cable through the electrical box, leaving six inches of wires hanging out of it.

  • Install your light switch by stripping 1/2 inch of insulation off the ends of the two black and two white wires coming out of the switch box. Tie the two white wires together with a wire connector. Connect the two black wires to the two receptor screws on the side of the switch. Connect the bare copper wires to the green ground screw on the switch. Wrap electrical tape around all the connections.

  • Wire up the new light fixture by connecting the like-colored wires from the fixture and the box to each other, and connecting the copper wire to the green screw on the fixture.

  • Go to your circuit box and turn off the main house breaker. Slice and strip the cable that runs to the new circuit and connect the wires to the circuit box according to its design. Generally, black wires will be clamped into a bracket at the circuit breaker, and white and copper wires will run together to a grounding area. Turn on the power.

  • Put a light bulb in the fixture and test it via the wall switch. If it works, turn off the circuit box again. Mount the switch and light fixture on their respective boxes using the mounting screws they came with. Turn the power back on. You'll have to loosen the fixture and switch again when you drywall.

Tips & Warnings

  • Turn off the power before working on any circuit.

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