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How to Change Light Fixtures in a Rental Apartment – An Easy, Renter-Safe, DIY

How to change a light fixture in your rental apartment without risking your deposit

Within a week of signing the lease on my tiny studio apartment in Seattle, I had one of my favorite vintage chandeliers shipped to me from Missouri. Determined my new life had to have at least one chandelier, I converted it from a light fixture to a lamp with a plug and set about finding a spot to mount it… with no success. My stud finder proved useless and when I did locate a joist to anchor a ceiling hook to I didn’t have the tools in my tiny apartment to make it work.

I shipped this chandelier to myself when I moved to Seattle.
A second hand store bargain in MO but very expensive to replace with something similar, I decided to ship this chandelier to Seattle. To ship this chandelier I first removed light bulbs and crystal baubles, then carefully unscrewed two arms to help it fit in a box, then carefully surrounded with foam wrapping and thick sheets of Styrofoam along the sides of the box

Fast forward six months- six months of a sad, dark chandelier gathering dust on a shelf in my apartment- and the offer of a friend to bring the tools needed to hang this chandelier in its glory.

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How to Hang a Chandelier in Rental Housing:

ceiling hook for hanging a chandelier in an apartment

Rental contracts usually stipulate no damage to walls or ceilings, and that electrical light fixtures not be removed (assuming you could, of course, get access to a breaker box to change a fixture safely in the first place)  To handle my lighting situation and hang a chandelier in my rental apartment without risking my deposit, I took these steps:

  1. Aquire Chandelier – I’m partial to the unique look of vintage chandeliers, and have sourced a few on Etsy’s Vintage listings– where you can choose from original or modernized wiring. 
  2. Convert Chandelier to a plug-in lamp style- (see my entire article about that here)
  3. Install a STRONG ceiling hook in your ceiling. This hook can hold up to 35lbs in drywall without requiring you to locate a joist. (More than enough for the vast majority of chandeliers- my heavy metal chandelier weighed 11 lbs including dozens of crystal baubles!) Because my ceiling is plaster we went ahead and used a stud finder to locate a ceiling joist in order to avoid stressing the brittle plaster.
  4. Hang the chandelier from the hook – Using the now corded chandelier and ceiling hook, I hung the chandelier from the ceiling and swagged the cord over to the wall. By plugging the now-corded chandelier into a remote outlet with wireless switch, I was able to make this chandelier as easy to use as an overhead light. (Read more about how to set up the remote switch in this blog post on lighting a living room with no overhead light.)
    1. TIP: When placing the wireless switch that controls the chandelier on your wall, try attaching with Command Picture Hanging Strips (the re positionable vecro-type).This way, when you’re in the mood you can take the switch off the wall and use it as a remote control for the light.
  5. Grab some wood filler so you have it on hand when you move. Ceilings are (almost) always flat white, so when you move you should be able to unscrew your ceiling hook and fill the small hole left behind with wood filler to restore your ceiling to perfection – keeping your landlord happy and your deposit unscathed. (Wood-filler is also handy to have on hand for filling the pre-drilled holes in pre-fab bookcases, making them look more like custom built-ins)
hanging a chandelier in a rental apartment
once a ceiling hook is securely installed you can hang your chandelier from the ceiling. In this photo you can see where the chandelier’s hard-wiring has been spliced via heat-shrink tubes to an extension cord.

If you really hate your rental grade installed overhead light, check out my article on how I created a shade to cover my ugly rental overhead light.

hanging a chandelier in a rented studio apartment
In the lower right corner of this photo you can see the wireless receiver outlet that is controlled by a switch on my wall. By placing this unit between the male plug connected to the chandelier and the receiver end of my extension cord, I can control the chandelier with a switch as if it was an installed overhead light.
chandelier hung from a ceiling hook in an apartment with swagged cord
In this photo, taken before I added a fabric cord cover, you can see how the chandelier is attached to the ceiling. The chandelier’s chain is anchored to a ceiling hook, while the electrical cords are looped through the chain and then swagged over to the wall.

Other Chandelier Related Posts:


Saturday 15th of October 2016

You are a freakin' genius! I have several ceiling hooks in our rental from the landlord had already installed before we moved in -- this gives me some great ideas to get more light in our living room painted with the color of, as my only way of describing it: roasted red pepper/the Lal Qila/Banteay Srei My question: How did you hide the cord running from the chandelier down to the floor? Or at least not call attention to it in your space? How about using a cloth wire to connect to the chandelier that matches or plays well with the wall colors?


Sunday 16th of October 2016

Thanks Dayalan! I've used a couple different methods to hide the cord! 1. get a fabric cover for the part of the cord on the ceiling. Thankfully, that's in style for now! 2. try to position so you can run the cord down the wall next to a window's trim or another tall feature that can hide it. 3. Paint the cord. In my blue green living room at hawk hill I took the wall color and painted the cord directly to make it a little more discrete.

If all else fails and you can't hide it, you could splice to one of the new extension cord styles that are fabric covered and vintage looking.

Good luck!