I recently decided that it's time to install some less hideous lighting in my apartment. Since it's an apartment, my options are limited because I must be able to restore whatever is there now if I move. I got a track lighting set and figured out everything I need to do, but now I'm stuck-- literally.

enter image description here

This is the fixture. It has 3 bulbs, and several screws to hold it on the ceiling. However, I have unscrewed every screw you can see including the central piece, and several screws that are hidden by the fiberglass, and yet the fixture remains completely stuck to the ceiling. I've tried tapping it with a hammer and sticking a butter knife between the ceiling and the fixture; no dice. All the screws are loose; there is no weight held up by them, suggesting something else is gripping the fixture.

I've seen posts on the internet that suggest some fixtures get glued in place by aggressive paint. I suspect that may have happened here, but I am hesitant to aggressively pry the fixture because it is so incredibly stuck. It feels like it's attached to a steel I-beam or something! I am afraid it might be attached to something other than the paint.

Random facts about the apartment:

  • Built in the 60's
  • I am not sure if it's plaster or drywall (unfortunately)

My current plan is to get a putty knife and a variety of paint solvents, and try getting the paint off. I heard that mineral oil might work, but I am not sure if that is a good idea. I'm afraid to damage things by using the wrong solvents.

Update: All the hardware stores are closed today/tomorrow so I won't get to try the great tips until Tuesday.

  • Have you tried twisting/turning the fixture?
    – Tester101
    May 28, 2013 at 10:52

3 Answers 3


Looking at the geometry, it can only be paint holding it up. I would stay away from any solvents.

I would add a second putty knife, with a stiff blade. Use a slightly larger (wider to distribute the force of the lifting blade) putty knife against the ceiling (and under the lip of the fixture). Put the stiffer, skinny blade between the wide blade and the fixture. Pry up slightly, all around the circumference of the fixture. You will break it loose.

The prybar is overkill (in the photo), but illustrates how to protect the underlying drywall. (Guess what happens if you use the prybar alone. Ask me why I know :-O)

enter image description here

Good plan by Christos regarding leaving the new fixture, though I believe you will succeed removing the original.

  • Thanks for the putty knife tip! I can't think of a time where I actually damaged drywall from doing something like this but I can definitely think of times where I wish I had known/thought of this.
    – gregmac
    May 26, 2013 at 21:53

One thing I do in removing lights switch covers etc is take a razor knife & cut around the edges then as I pull coveers away I don't ruin 6 inches of paint wallpaper



Two ways around this.

  1. Use a knife and pry around the outside of the light fixture in an attempt to loosen the fixture. If that does not work buy acetone (Nail Polish Remove with Acetone) and a syringe or turkey baster and squirt acetone in between the light fixture and roof.

  2. Ask your landlord if he permits you to change the lighting as an improvement and show him your proposed fittings. If he is happy he may allow them to stay behind when you move out so you do not need to worry that much about damaging the fitting whilst removing it.

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