I recently bought a house built in 1952 and am trying to change the light fixture in the kitchen ceiling. When I took the old light fixture off, I noticed that the wires coming from the ceiling were coupled with some other random wires.

two sets of wires coming from ceiling

The old and new mounting strap:

old strap to the left and new to the right

My questions are:

  1. What is the second set of wires? My kitchen light switch turns on a second light fixture in the kitchen. Could it be the wire to that light fixture being coupled at the light instead of the switch?
  2. Looking at the state of the wires, is there any maintenance I need to do and can do as an amateur electrician?
  3. Just looking at these wires, can anyone tell me which wire is hot and which is neutral?
  4. The new light fixture has a little pipe through which these wires are supposed to go. Given the thickness of these wires and the fact that there are two sets and given the pipe in the new fixture is way too thin, all these wires don’t fit in there. Is there anything I can do to get these wires in there? They fit but it’s very tight and I’m afraid I’m going to damage something by pushing the pipe in too hard.
  5. While I better understand the situation and figure out a solution, I’ve screwed those plastic caps on here. Is it safe to turn the light on?

I’d really appreciate some guidance on how to proceed from here.

  • how were the wires connected to the old light fixture?
    – jsotola
    Aug 13, 2020 at 0:34
  • @jsotola the old light fixture didn’t have the metal tube that my new one does. So it just came through a wide hole in the metal piece screwed to the ceiling. My new light fixture has specific hardware I need for the light itself. So I cannot use the old piece. I’ll attach pics of the old and new metal pieces in a bit. Aug 13, 2020 at 0:50
  • @CrazyCucumber -- the metal pieces don't matter, what matters is which wires were connected to the wire leads from the light fixture Aug 13, 2020 at 1:34

1 Answer 1


Yes, if they were grouped like this, then it's certainly the case that the other cable is onward to the other light. That's a perfectly reasonable way to do it.

The cable insulation has serious thermal damage. I would get some red and white heat-shrink tubing of appropriate size, slide them over the wires and shrink them down. A long time ago, old Edison style light bulbs were used and they made a LOT of heat. Sometimes people even used bigger bulbs than the fixture was rated for, and that caused excessive damage.

I do not like what looks like a weird lumpy splice buried in electrical tape.

Do not cut the wires shorter than they are; try to save the insulation. Wires need to be at least 6" long from the base of the box, and stick at least 3" beyond the ceiling.

Since the whites were together, they are almost certainly neutral. The other black wires would be switched-hot. I like to mark switched-hot wires with red color, but it's best to mark a wire the same on bot hends.

No. Those wires are not meant to go down the little pipe. The lamp fixture's wires are meant to come up the little pipe. If that is not possible, then you'll need to acquire some wires capable of the task, such as #16 lamp cord (containing 2 conductors or some #14 stranded THHN.

Given the deteriorated condition of the insulation, I would not energize this.

  • 1
    Wonderful! I inserted the wires up the pipe as you suggested and as I was trying to connect the lamps wires to the main lines, the neutral wire just broke into pieces and fell down! Now I’ve officially resigned on this “project” and am about to get the electrician in to fix the main lines. Thank you for your advice! You were spot on about the damage Aug 13, 2020 at 2:25

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