How to update a light fixture with spray paint

Update an outdated light fixture with spray paint.

on January 10 | in DIY, Home, Interior Decorating, Tutorials | by | with 30 Comments

How to update a light fixture with spray paint

Our home was built in 1996, which really has a lot of advantages–such as extra large room sizes, and a few disadvantages–such as an over abundance of outdated brass light fixtures.  I realize that mixed metals are making a small comeback in decorating trends, but I believe the trend is towards actual brass and not the “bright” brass that was so popular twenty years ago. The good news is that changing outdated lighting fixtures is a simple and easy DIY project that will only cost you the price of a can of spray paint. If you have ever considered buying a whole new light fixture just because the existing one seems outdated, think again. Step back and examine the curves and lines of the fixture itself, and imagine how that same light might look with a simple coat of spray paint on it.  Is it a good candidate for an upcycle?

Quick Fix! Update a brass light fixture with spraypaint

My  dining room chandelier was a prime upcycling candidate.  It had excellent lines and curves… it just needed a little facelift.

Here is the light fixture in the room BEFORE:

Brass light fixture "before" photo

And here it is AFTER:

Update a brass light fixture with a coat of spraypaint


The difference is astonishing, right?

I realize that there is a healthy dose of fear and/or respect that surrounds DIY light fixture removal and installation.  And rightfully so, because electricity definitely deserves plenty of respect.  But don’t let that stop you from attempting this DIY project.   I think the fear of all things electrical is what makes a lot of folks tolerate the same old builder grade lighting for years instead of finding something new that they love or upgrading their existing with a coat of paint. Even if you grow tired of a light fixture, it seems like a hassle to hire an electrician to come out just to change a few lights. Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s really not that hard to DIY this type of thing if you have a few basic tools and a ladder.  I do recommend having another person to help with the job if it’s a very heavy fixture such as a dining room chandelier.  My project would never have happened without the help of my wonderful handy husband. He has no fear of electricity like I do. Plus he is tall and can reach the ceiling fairly easily on a step stool. And he can hold his arms above his head for an extended period of time. That always helps.  My husband has become an old pro at changing fixtures in our home, so I am going to share some of the basics here with you today.

Ready?  Let’s get started!

1.  Turn off the power to the light fixture at the breaker box.  This is the most important step!  Do not skip this step or Very Bad Things could happen.  You’ve been warned.  Flip that breaker off.  Not just the light switch– flip the CIRCUIT BREAKER inside the panel box off.  If you don’t know what a breaker box is and how to find the fuse for your light fixture, stop now and hire an electrician.

2. Remove all light bulbs and glass pieces from the light fixture while it’s still hanging.  If you skip this part and then accidentally drop the fixture you’ll have a dozen broken light bulbs on the floor beneath your feet. Make sure you’re wearing sturdy shoes.  And safety glasses too, since sheetrock dust can fall down in your eyes.  Safety first!

3. Unscrew the cover of the fixture.  Usually this requires a screw driver.

4.  Once you remove the cover, you’ll see wires with caps on them.  Unscrew the caps and put them in a safe place. You’ll need them later during reassembly.   Note that the wires are connected white to white, black to black, and a copper ground wire.

DIY light fixture removal

4.  Carefully unscrew the fixture from the mounting bracket and lower the light fixture to the ground.  This is where two people come in handy because light fixtures can be heavy! After we shut off the power at the panel box (VERY IMPORTANT STEP!) I held the weight of the light fixture while he removed it from the hard wiring. Then he unscrewed it from the mount and it was down. I didn’t realize it would be that easy! I was pleasantly surprised by how simple it was, actually.

5. Take the fixture outside and hang it in a spot that won’t matter if it receives any paint over spray.  I hung mine from a tree in the backyard using a sturdy S hook.  I won’t lie.  It did cross my mind to set up a red checkered table cloth out there and serve my two Labrador retrievers a romantic al fresco spaghetti dinner.

6. Insert rolled up pieces of paper towel or foam inside each light bulb hole to prevent paint from getting inside.

7. Wipe down the fixture with a damp towel to remove any dust.  Allow it to dry completely before painting.

8. Spray!  I used Rustoleum oil rubbed bronze metallic spray paint on my fixture with an “any angle” trigger spray.   Get every angle, every nook, every cranny.   There are lots of nooks and crannies on this chandelier.  Just keep spraying from all angles and looking at it from the top, bottom and all sides to make sure you don’t leave any brass shining through.   After it dries, give it another thin coat until you have covered every inch 100%.  I even sprayed the chain that attached it to the ceiling.

before and after of spray paint on brass fixtures

9. After letting it dry outside for a few hours, bring your light fixture inside and put it back up exactly the same way you took it down, but in reverse.  Just remember… black wire to black wire, white wire to white wire, copper ground to copper ground.  And be sure to have help with lifting! Do not let the weight of the fixture be unsupported until you are sure you have bolted it back to the support bracket properly and securely.

10. Put your light bulbs back in, flip the breaker back on, and stand back to enjoy your new, updated light fixture!  Pat yourself on the back for a job well done.


How to update a dining room chandelier with spray paint

Disclaimer: (you knew that was coming, right?) Please be careful and use caution with this project.  DO NOT attempt this alone if you are unsure of your ability to lift heavy objects above your head while standing on a ladder.  Use the utmost of caution when attempting this maneuver and please don’t hurt yourself! Save yourself a medical copay and hire the electrician if you do not feel you are capable of handling this project.  Do not ever touch a live wire with an electrical current running through it.  I’ll say it again–flip that breaker off.  Not just the light switch– flip the CIRCUIT BREAKER inside the panel box off.  If you don’t know what a breaker box is and how to find the fuse for your light fixture, hire an electrician.     Your ceiling junction box and wiring might not look exactly like mine.  This is only a demonstration of my lighting and yours may be different.

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30 Responses to Update an outdated light fixture with spray paint.

  1. Jenny says:

    oh ya!! mucho better!! nice job! amazing what a little paint can do…

  2. SuzyMcQ says:

    Beautiful job with great instructions. I’d love to see how some cute shades, maybe in a coordinating print might look?

  3. Ann says:

    Oh Beth would you please come to my house and do this? My dining room light is brass too and was a gift from my parents. I don’t want to get rid of it but I would love to update it. Thanks for the great how to!

  4. Judy Bidwell says:

    I have to say, this surprised me! I find these brass chandeliers all the time at yard sales. Next time I am going to pick up one or two and do exactly this! I resell chandeliers when I can find them on the cheap. Always looking for white ones, but this colors strikes me as just funky enough to be a good seller. I can attach a cord and plug to any chandelier.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

  5. Jacque says:

    Yay!!! the chandelier looks fabulous! We did the exact same thing to the ones in our home – talk about easy update for low cost! Awesome tutorial!

  6. Karen says:

    ALERT!!! ALERT!!!! I spray painted a brass chandy and parts of it became a crackled mess and pretty much ruined it. I asked a friend who paints quite a bit of lamps and she said sometimes but not always this happens. The solution is to use a de-glosser for metal first.
    I only paid $2.00 for it but was really disappointed. I could see where it did not crackled that it would have looked really nice.
    Hope this helps.

    P.S. I have yet to use a de-glosser And I would love to here if anyone has a solution on how to fix the crackled paint on my chandy. For now it comes out on Halloween. It’s that scarey!


  7. Courtenay says:

    She’s a stunner! Thanks so much for sharing such a complete tutorial on this project. I’ve been looking for an old fixture like this to do just the same as you did!

  8. Wow, Beth! What a difference the paint made! My mom recently passed down one of my grandmother’s chandeliers, and the would be gorgeous repainted. Thanks for the inspiration!

  9. It looks so much better updated – nicely done Beth!

  10. Vanessa says:

    It looks gorgeous Beth!! You gave such great tips and really showed just how easy this is to do. I’m loving your entire dining room. Beautiful!!!

  11. I have a couple of these awful things gathering cobwebs in my basement – my house is over 150 years old but at some point – someone thought those brass nightmares were a good idea. We’ve been here for 15 years so it WAS probably about 20 years ago. . .
    I was thinking about fixing one up – without wires – and using it as a pretty decorative piece in my daughter’s room – thanks for the motivation!

  12. Excellent instructions and yeah… I have a few to change out as well. Big time. All your excuses listed were right on! Just the fear of the electrician. Thanks for breaking it down so easily… it really is easy!! :)

    p.s. it’s gorgeous!

  13. What a night and day difference! Thanks for the tutorial!

  14. Nice work, Beth! Great minds think alike! Now if I could only get my photography to be as beautiful as yours, I might actually be legit! Love your paint choice!! xo

  15. Tia says:

    Ok…that just looks absolutely fabulous! And I L.O.V.E. the china cabinet!! <3

  16. I love it Beth! We did that to our new construction home in April as soon as we moved in-sprayed all the builder grade brushed nickel fixtures with Oil Rubbed Bronze. It made such a difference for so cheap!

  17. Tanya says:

    Gorgeous redo! We have a lot of brushed nickel which I am ok with, but like 100 boob lights in our house, where to start!!!

    xoxo, Tanya

  18. Wow, that made a WORLD of difference! This is a really great project, thanks for sharing!

  19. wow–big transformation! It looks great. I have a chandelier I’m thinking of doing that to–it makes me a little nervous, but seeing projects like yours might make me brave enough to try it :)

  20. Gail says:

    Super tutorial. I have one to work on next week along with many other brass leftovers. Thanks.

  21. What an amazing transformation. Love it!

  22. A creative and affordable solution! As a home stager, advising clients to replace their dated light fixtures gives them a cost-conscious change with an impactful return on their investment. On a tight budget, this is an even better solution, which offers the same result.

  23. [...] Light Fixture Update @ Folk Live Authentic [...]

  24. Ann says:

    I have that same light and wow yours looks so much better I need to try that!!

  25. What a difference. I love the finish you choose. I did a light fiixture makeover with spray paint also but my light fixture wasn’t as fancy as yours is. Love it!

  26. Thanks Beth! Why? Because not only did you walk us through the spray-painting, but more importantly you showed us how to get over our fear of the electrical part of things! :) I have a brass chandelier in our dining room – came with our house, and I’ve got a tall husband too… so I think this will be a project to add to our list! :)

  27. Debbie says:

    Love it! I’ll be doing ours for sure, and hubby will handle the taking down and putting back up parts. lol
    Debbie :)

  28. frehatton says:

    My house was built in the 90s too and I have the.exact.same.chandelier! You have just inspired me to finally do something about it and get rid of the ugly shiny brass color. Thanks for this great idea and how-to!

  29. Erin says:

    Great job! I am wondering if you painted the elecrical cords that run through the chain. Also, how is the color holding up? Did you sand or prime? Thanks!

  30. Linda says:

    I have the exact same chandelier only one tier. I have been contiplating spray painting it with the same spray paint you used but didn’t know for sure if I would like it. Now that I know what it will look like, I have decided it’s my next project. How many cans of spray paint did you use?

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