Fixture PictureHouse is circa 1920's; no knob and tube anymore but wiring with a fabric type insulation does exist in the ceilings that have not been opened up for renovation to date.

A new chandelier is being installed in the dining room.The old chandelier worked fine but was pretty dated. One switch on the wall to turn chandelier off and on.

Removed the old chandelier. Here is what I found:

  1. 3 blackish(brownish) wires twisted together (Live?) presumably the chandelier live connection
  2. 1 neutral (whitish/brownish insulation connected to the chandelier neutral.
  3. There was no apparent ground wire in the fixture, however the new chandelier does have a ground wire.
  4. Another two wires that looked like neutral (whitish brownish) were hooked up together.No connection to old chandelier.

Breaker turned off. After securely installing the mounting plate into horsehair plaster around the old metal box in the ceiling (round) I proceeded as follows:

  1. Connected the new chandelier live wire to the 3 black live wire bunch

  2. Connected the new chandelier neutral to the neutral wire that was connected to the lone white neutral to the old chandelier.

  3. Left the other white wires (D. above) alone.

  4. Connected new chandelier ground to mounting plate "green" nut and then as best as possible to the old metal fixture.

  5. Turned on the breaker on (but not the wall switch) and the breaker slammed off (presumably due to a short)

  6. Disconnected everything

So now what am I doing wrong?

  • Are there multiple lamps under control of the same switch? Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 22:54
  • The main wrong thing was not remembering/taking a picture of how the old light was connected.
    – crip659
    Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 22:54
  • Harper. No other lamps to same switch.
    – Momentum
    Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 23:14
  • crip659- That would not have added anything because the wires on the old fixture were not labelled or marked or differently colored.
    – Momentum
    Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 23:15
  • B was probably connected to two of the blacks, one black connected to the old black of the light, and the white of the light to the two whites(neutrals), which you could have seen when taking the old light down and labelled. You did undo wire nuts/tape when removing?
    – crip659
    Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 23:37

2 Answers 2


You are creating a short circuit on the neutral side of your lamp by wiring this incorrectly.

Assuming you have power coming in and onward somewhere else, plus a switch loop, which would be typical, you want the three blacks nutted together but not to the lamp, you want one of the whites (the switch one) connected to the lamp's black wire, and the other whites connected together and to the lamp's white wire.

What you need to figure out is which white wire is the switched hot. How to do that: Connect the black wires together, disconnect the white ones, connect a meter to each white one in turn and measure to ground. Turn the switch on and off, and see which one gets switched. Another way: Turn the power off, disconnect all the wires from each other, and measure continuity between the black and white wires coming from each cable. See which pair is actuated by the light switch.

That is almost certainly the reason for the short circuit but another possible reason is insulation failure in your old wires, where the wires enter the box. The insulation cracks and the wire touches the box. However I'd look first at wiring this correctly.


that's what I thought based on what I read on the forum. However, I did try one other thing.... After disconnecting everything and turning the breaker on (i needed power to the other room) but without turning on the wall switch I checked each wire with my voltage tester. One of the black ones in A. is hot but the other two black ones are not. Is it possible the live and neutral on the new fixture are mislabeled?

The hot black comes directly from the breaker. The other two blacks are for switching. One of the other backs is connected to the hot and goes to the switch. Which one I do not know, but you can find out by tracing it to the switch. From switch it comes back to the light and it is a switched hot. In that case you do not connect all blacks together.

  • 1
    Ruskes, I will trace to switch as you suggest tomorrow and will report back what I find.
    – Momentum
    Commented Jan 18, 2023 at 0:56
  • OK, do that ....
    – Traveler
    Commented Jan 18, 2023 at 2:10
  • Here is what I have found: One of the black wires in A is connected to the switch for the fixture...The other black wire seems to be powering a light fixture (3 way) in the rear stairwell (I noticed this last night when I tried to go down the stairwell) and the also a non-switched outlet in the backporch. I don't know what the thought process when someone over the previous 100 years came up with that. I will get the back-stairwell and porch on separate circuits as soon as I can schedule an electrician but that could take a bit of time. Any pointers on how to proceed in the interim?
    – Momentum
    Commented Jan 18, 2023 at 15:32
  • I figured out what happened but not sure why it happened. When I connected up the new fixture and turned on the power the old single pole switch shorted. When I was checking for continuity as Ruskes suggested and removed the old switch it turns out it was dimmer switch DIVA DV600P "Single-Pole Preset Dimmer Incandascent/Halogen" apparently shorted. I replaced with a new regular single pole switch and re-installed the new fixture and turned on the breaker and viola everything is working. Still need an electrician to separate the ccts. Thank you all for your helpful pointers!
    – Momentum
    Commented Jan 18, 2023 at 20:55

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