I'm in my first house and have zero experience with installing light fixtures. I finally decided to install the new hanging fixture my wife bought online. With no experience and crappy instructions I was able to get it hooked up and attached to the ceiling after fighting with it for a while. Now I'm concerned that I may have done it improperly.

After taking off the old fixture I found some exposed copper wiring at the top of the wire box. Nothing from the old fixture was connected to it, it's just two ends coming in on either side and they're twisted together. Thought it was weird but I moved on. I hooked up the house wiring to the light with wire nuts and then connected the copper wire with the hoop on it from the base of the light to the green ground screw. Then I pretty indiscriminately shoved the extra wiring from the light into the wire box because it didn't seem like I had much choice.

Everything turns on but now I'm worried that maybe the extra wiring I shoved in there could cause a fire. It's shielded with a white woven sleeve but I'm not sure if that's adequate. I'm also worried that maybe the extra slack on the copper ground wire could come in contact with something and cause an issue. Would a messy job like this worry any of you? Should I just take the light off and have an electrician put it back on?

UPDATE: I took the fixture back off because I was nervous about it. Here are some photos of the box. I assume the exposed copper wire at the top is for grounding and I was incorrect to just attach the wire from the light to the ground screw since the box is apparently not metal.


  • 1
    you need to do some research on the web and find out what the black, white, and bare wires are for.
    – jsotola
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 1:11
  • @jsotola The only wiring I am unsure about is the bare copper wire at the top. My best (uneducated) guess would be that it's for grounding purposes. I searched around a while before submitting this post but wasn't able to find any pictures or descriptions that matched what I have, but that could be poor querying on my part.
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 1:22
  • Can you post photos of the inside of the box? Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 2:26
  • @ThreePhaseEel just added a link for photos
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 2:52

1 Answer 1


Just a preliminary note for all diy-ers, the first thing I teach beginning electricians is the basic skill of properly splicing (wire-nutting) wires. A loose connection may seem to work for a while but it creates a lot of heat and may start a fire without ever tripping a breaker or blowing a fuse. The most important thing you should remember when you're doing your own wiring is to test all your splices. Grab each wire independently and tug on it to see if it will slip out of the wire nut newly twisted onto it. And before splicing make sure there will be plenty of copper to copper connection underneath those wire nuts between all the wires to be spliced. Do not allow any of them to back out while you are twisting.

From your description of everything (I am answering this before any pictures have been shared), it sounds like your installation is probably safe. I say that with some reservations, of course. One thing I couldn't tell from your description is where the green ground screw is located and what you tied to it. Another question I would have for you, are the exposed copper wires at the top of the box coming from the house-wiring cables where the rest of the wires enter the box, or are they completely separate from them? If they are part of the cable assembly, they are your equipment grounding conductors and you should tie your bare wire from the fixture in with it. Even if they are separate from the other wiring, they are probably your equipment grounding system and could be tied in with the bare copper from the light fixture, but this is only a precaution to prevent shock hazards and fire if something else went wrong first.

As for stuffing all the extra wire back into the box, don't be afraid to cut some of the extra stuff you don't need off. But I would say if you got it to all go back in there and you are certain you've made tight connections it is probably good. Things are working, you don't smell smoke or see it, that's good. Hopefully that helps alleviates any fears you may still have.

  • 1
    Thank you for your help! I just posted pictures if you are interested in viewing. The exposed copper wire does come in through the same holes in the box as the house wiring. There are actually three separate copper wires that are twisted together. I did take the fixture out so I will definitely make sure that the wire nuts have everything secure when I reattach everything.
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 3:20
  • I just saw you'd added the link for the pictures. Yes, the bare wires are equipment grounding conductors and you can wire nut that stranded bare wire from the light fixture onto them, then I usually put a horseshoe-shaped wrap of the stranded bare wire around the screw and tighten it down. This will bond the metal parts of the fan itself to the equipment grounding network. If there is ever a short-circuit situation where the hot wire touches the metal box or fan parts it should trip the breaker rather than become a shock hazard. Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 3:21
  • Thanks again for your detailed explanation. I feel much better about all of this now. I'm glad I disconnected it already since it wasn't grounded at all.
    – Tim
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 3:26
  • Thanks for the good question, Tim, and if I've helped, please consider giving me an upvote. Every little bit helps here as I'm new to the site. Thanks again! Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 3:34
  • 1
    I would not cut the wires unless they are longer than 6" that is the minimum length.
    – Ed Beal
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 14:10

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