How to install a pendant light

Difficulty: Medium

Hanging a pendant isn't too hard if you've got some experience - but take care to follow safety procedures. If you're unsure about working with electrical wiring, call a qualified electrician.

Before you get started on any of our 'how to' guides, please take a moment to read through our DIY safety tips.

1. Isolating the lighting circuit

  • First you need to identify and isolate the correct lighting circuit. This is very simple. Just turn on all the lights in the house and isolate each circuit in turn at the fuse box. When the lights go out on the correct circuit, you know which fuse is controlling that circuit.
  • You'll also need to follow some regulations that cover the load a single lighting circuit can carry:

 - up to twelve 100 watt bulbs on a 5 amp rewirable fuse or cartridge fused circuit.

 - up to fourteen 100 watt bulbs on a 6 amp miniature circuit breaker (MCB).

 - in general, it's considered good practice to restrict the circuit to eight fittings 

Be aware...

The Building Regulations recommend that electrical items are fitted by a qualified electrician.

2. Make the right connections

  • Wiring colours in the UK were changed in April 2006. The table below shows the wiring colours for older installations (pre-April 2006), all new wiring, and the right terminals to connect each wire into: 
Older wiring   New wiring   

Connects to   

REDBROWNL or LIVE (fig. 2)   

3. Positioning your new pendant light

  • Decide where you want your light, clear away furniture below it and lay down dustsheets. In the room above, move furniture and the carpet from over the position of the pendant light.
  • Mark the position of the new light on the ceiling. Transfer this spot to the floor above.

4. Finding the cable runs

  • Lighting circuits should be wired with 1mm2 or 1.5mm2 twin and earth cable. Pendant lights can either be connected to existing lighting circuits or feed from a 32 amp ring main via a fused spur unit, fitted with a 5 amp fuse.
  • If the cables are in a roof space, you should find them fairly easily. If they're in the floor, you'll have to lift the floorboards to locate them (figs. 2 and 3).
  • Use a power tester to check that the cable you've located is on the right circuit. Hold the tester on the cable and get someone to turn the circuit on and off at the fuse box or fused spur.
  • Make sure the cable you're dealing with is a main feed cable and not a switch or light supply cable. See possible types of lighting circuits in figs. 1a, 1b and 1c.
Make sure the cable you're dealing with is a main feed cable and not a switch or lighting supply cable
Figures 1a, 1b & 1c

5. Removing the old pendant light

  • Remove the lampshade and light bulb from the old pendant light.
  • Unscrew the cover from the ceiling rose. If this has been painted over, tap it gently a few times. This should crack the paint and allow the cover to be removed.
  • Trace back the wires from the lamp holder flex and unscrew the terminals so the flex can be removed.
  • Using the wiring instructions for your new pendant light, locate and identify the mains supply cables that are terminated on to the back plate of the old ceiling rose. Draw a sketch of where these cables are attached and/or mark each of the wires so you can easily see their position in the new pendant light.
  • Unscrew the terminals securing these cables and straighten each of the wires.
  • Unscrew the base of the old ceiling rose from the ceiling and carefully pass this over the power cables so they're not damaged.
  • If the pendant light is going in a different position, run a light supply cable from the new location to a 6 amp or 20 amp four-terminal junction box. Connect the main feed cables, switch cables and light supply cable as shown in fig. 4.
  • Run the new switch cable to the pendant light or junction box position. Cables in the ceiling space can be run between the joists.
  • If possible, clip the cables to the joists at 250mm intervals. If the cables have to cross over joists, drill through the joists above the centre line, at least 50mm from the top.
Remove any screws holding the boards down, insert a floor bolster and lever back with your foot to prise the board up
Figure 2

6. Reinforcing the ceiling above

  • To reinforce the ceiling above your new light, cut a piece of 25mm thick board to fit between the joists (fig. 5).
  • Screw two pieces of 25mm x 50mm batten to the board and fix it in place with 45mm no.8 screws (fig. 5).
If necessary use a saw to cut the board across the centre line of the joists
Figure 3

7. Wiring the light fitting

If the pendant light is in a new position
  • From below, drill a 32mm hole through the ceiling and the new wood reinforcement.
  • With the circuit still isolated, cut the feed cable and feed both ends, along with the switch cable, through the hole in the ceiling.
  • Alternatively, run a light supply cable from the hole to a 6 amp or 20 amp four-terminal junction box. Connect the main feed cables, switch cable and light supply cable as shown in fig. 4. 
Fitting the new pendant light
  • Remove the 'knockout' from the base of the ceiling rose and smooth the rough edges with a fine file. Take care not to damage or disturb the wires from the lamp holder flex.
  • Pass the base of the ceiling rose over the cables in the ceiling. Screw the base to the ceiling using two wood screws.
  • Connect the wires according to the instructions that came with your pendant light.
  • Connect the earth wires first. These should be covered with green/yellow sleeving.
  • Attach the main supply cables and the switch cables as shown in the wiring instructions.
  • Push each wire into its correct terminal and tighten the screw firmly. Make sure only the copper cores of the wires enter the terminals and that no insulation is trapped under the terminal screws.
  • Double check that the wires are securely connected to the correct terminals before replacing the cover of the ceiling rose.
  • Fit the new lampshade and a light bulb of the correct rating.
  • Switch on the power supply (replace fuse) at the consumer unit (fuse box) and then turn on the light to check everything is working correctly.

The correct wiring for a four-terminal junction box
Figure 4

8: Making good your floorboards

  • Re-lay your floorboards and screw them into joists using 38mm no.8 countersunk woodchip screws.
  • Make sure they don't hit any cables or pipework when you're doing this.
  • If you had to saw through any floorboards at the beginning of the job, you might need to screw in some extra batons to support the cut boards (fig. 5).
Reinforce the ceiling above your new light fitting
Figure 5

Tools for the job

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