Replacing a Light Fixture on a Vanity Mirror

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I’ve never written much about my house before, though whenever I take photos around my Christmas tree or Fancy the sparkly reindeer, I usually have requests to see more, which is super nice of y’all!

I’m currently working on fixing up some things that have been long neglected in my house in preparation for selling it (as I revealed here), and thought I’d share some of the progress here. I’d love any feedback in the comments!

Disclaimer: I am NOT an electrician and do very little DIY. Proceed at your own risk. And turn the electricity off before touching anything!

One design conundrum I had was how to change these old Hollywood light fixtures that are all over my circa-1988 house. They are installed on top of a mirror, instead of over a mirror and mounted to drywall. One of my concerns with doing home updates is cost, because dolla dolla bills, y’all. I wasn’t sure how to replace these fixtures without 1) breaking the mirror; 2) misaligning the lights; 3) making it look bad.

The before.

Step 1: Examine the existing light fixture

The first step is to figure out what you’re working with. I measured the light bar, which in this case was 48″. Since this is mounted on top of a mirror, I also looked at the attachment points of the light. There were 2 nuts holding the light onto the backplate. The plate itself is so large that I didn’t think it could be attached at only a center point.  After a lot of inefficient Googling, I came to the assumption that there were only two small holes in the mirror, through which I could mount the light. I didn’t want to replace the mirror, or try to cut more holes in the glass myself. After cutting the power and removing the fixture, I could see without removing the mounting plate that there were indeed two mounting areas in the mirror. So it was off to the Google to find a fixture that matched my aesthetic preferences, matched the size of the backplate, and had the same number of mounting connections as the old one.

Step 2: Search for a new fixture

In order to minimize the amount of retrofitting I’d need to do on the mirror, I looked for fixtures that had:

  1. Desired finish: I chose a brushed nickel.
  2. Same size: Existing fixture was 48″, so I searched for only those of the same size.
  3. Full bar mount: While I may normally gravitate towards a center mount with floating lights (see below), knowing I had 2 holes in the mirror meant going with a full bar behind it versus a center-anchored one.
  4. Mounting with 2 holes to come close to existing mount: This took a little more digging because I had to zoom in to some photos, and also review instructions (if provided on the site.)

Since I needed to search for so many criteria, I found 1800lighting.com had the best filters. I zoomed in pretty quickly on some options that I thought would work. I decided on this 48″ Progress Lighting Gather 6 Light Fixture. Placed the order and waited… (Oh, COUPON ALERT! Get $20 Off your purchase of $100 or more with code SAVE20 at 1800lighting.com) Wayfair also had some good options, as did Amazon.

Step 3: Look for mounting holes

As soon as the package came, I carefully unwrapped it (taking photos for each step, because I didn’t want to forget the packing puzzle if I needed to send it back) and held it up to my existing light. Unfortunately, the mounting points didn’t match up exactly – off maybe 1 inch on each side. I held out a little hope that there may be enough room in the holes in the mirror to nudge it slightly, but after removing the fixture and seeing the mirror holes, no such luck was had. (Don’t forget to kill the electricity before touching any lines to remove the old fixture!)

Not enough wiggle room to match the new fixture to the existing mirror holes. Time to improvise!

Step 4: Match up the plates

I lined up the old mounting plate with the new one, and marked where the mounting holes should be to match the existing mirror holes. I was simply using the old plate as a template for the new one.

Step 5: Drill new mounting holes

I used a drill to create new mounting holes in the areas I marked from Step 4. Having a metal punch would have been faster, but the drill worked just fine.

Step 6: Mount new backplate

Once the new holes are ready, you should be able to easily line the mounting hardware up to the mirror and drywall hole on each side of center. Make sure your anchors are fully open behind the mount before trying to connect the light. We made this mistake and had to catch a falling fixture. Oddly enough, we didn’t make the mistake on the first fixture, but on the second (see end of this post) we did. I think we were rushing through it, which obviously is a bad idea when it comes to lighting!

Step 7: Connect light

Connect the black, white, and grounding wires as indicated. Make sure the light is fully over the mounting plate before trying to tighten the attachment nuts. If it’s not, you won’t be able to tighten the nuts as much as necessary. A little fine-tuned wiggle, and things went into place without incident.

Step 8: Enjoy

While the room is much brighter than before because of the fixture, we also painted the room between the before and after shots. It feels so much larger with the lighter color and new fixture. I ended up using 40W-equivalent LEDs in each light and it’s super bright.

I felt confident after getting this single bar up in a small half bath, so I went ahead and ordered two more to replace the master bathroom lights.

Here’s the halfway point: Talk about a difference!

Here’s the finished product in the master bathroom (the lights, at least… other changes to come in there).

Did you enjoy seeing this project? I’d love your feedback in the comments or on social media! Want me to share more? Let me know as I’ve got a laundry list of items on my list as I prep this house for sale. 

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