Quick and Budget Friendly Chandelier Update

How to use inexpensive materials to give your outdated chandelier a new look . . . and a bonus budget-friendly, but not-so-quick option

This chandelier has great curves, but she’s not accessorized very well. The dated globes are heavy and dark. I thought I could give her an update by simply removing the globes, but, unfortunately, the thick threaded sockets that were exposed were not the lighter look I was going for.

The Pottery Barn chandelier, below, inspired me to try an update. Obviously, my chandelier will not look just like this, but I can get closer to some of the elements. 

Cover the sockets

The first order of business was to cover the ugly threaded socket. I checked Lowe’s for candle socket covers, but could only find them in a one-inch diameter. I needed 1 5/8 inches to cover the sockets in this chandelier. An online search turned up covers that seemed to be the correct size, so I ordered them. When they arrived, I realized that the outside dimension was the exact size as the sockets, but the inside dimension was too small to slide over the sockets.

I considered buying an inexpensive lamp shade and cutting it into strips to act as covers, but I was concerned that the lampshade might not be heat resistant enough to be used so close to the light bulb. (I’ve seen a lampshade or two develop a brown spot when it was bumped too close to the bulb!) Two of the too-small chandelier candle covers pieced together didn’t work either. The seams overlapped and were, well, unseemly. 
With this problem in mind, I walked into the garage and noticed a section of PVC pipe sticking out over a shelf. I brought it in and tried it over the socket covers. It was the exact size I needed! My handy husband, Dave, said that PVC pipe could easily be cut into smaller sections, so that problem was solved, but the pipe was covered in red and black writing, as is all PVC pipe. I used a lot of elbow grease and every cleaner that I had under the kitchen sink, and nothing worked . . . until I tried Bar Keepers Friend. This stuff had given some of my pots and pans new life, so I thought it was worth a try. The ink on the pipe started to budge immediately. I’m not saying my elbows could relax, but with a little work, the pipe was pristine.

Swap out the globes

I had debated adding new globes throughout this process and settled on this seeded glass option. A new problem arose with this addition—the base of the globe would not fit over the PVC pipe. I solved this by putting the globe on first and dropping the pipe into the globe and over the socket. Unfortunately for Dave, this required cutting the pipe a bit shorter since the globe caused the pipe to stand up a bit higher and cover too much of the base of the candle. 

If you have a similar chandelier, you could update to either look. The candles-only option is very inexpensive. The addition of the globes bumped the cost up by $35, but it’s still a pretty inexpensive fix for the results.

Option 2--still inexpensive but more time intensive

Swap the sockets

I was still thinking of the Pottery Barn inspiration chandelier that I loved. The thick sockets just didn’t fit with this style, no matter how I covered them. Dave has pretty good electrical skills, so we decided to swap out the E26 sockets, which are the larger, ribbed sockets, with E12s, taper-candle-size sockets, to get closer to the look I was hoping for.

The first order of business was to remove the E26 sockets. Note: always turn off the breaker that supplies power to the project that you’re working on. We decided to cut the wires to remove the old sockets. When doing this, cut the wire as close to the socket as possible to keep the maximum length of wire to install the new socket.

Man cutting wires on E26 socket on chandelier

Once the wire is cut, you can remove the E26 socket.

 You’ll be left with a black wire and a white wire coming up through the cup (the black circular object in the photo above)Using wire strippers, remove about a half inch of the insulation covering each of the wires. You can remove the cup to allow easier access to the wires, but you will have to replace the cup before adding the new socket. 

Stripping wires on chandelier
Tops of wires stripped on chandelier socket

Now you’re ready to install the new E12 socket. They come in this six pack

First, remove the cardboard covering from the socket. Save this, as you will replace it once the socket is installed. 

Next, replace your candle cup, feeding the black and white wires through the center hole. Then fit the silver end of the socket over the wires. *Note: we did not replace the candle cup on this illustration in order to allow for a better visual of the wiring process. 

E12 socket placed over wires on chandelier

As you feed the wires into the socket, use needle-nose pliers to pull them through the openings on the sides as shown above. Always refer to the instructions if they are included with your sockets, but typically the black wire connects with the brass terminal (the screw that holds the wire). You can remember it as “black goes to brass.” The white wire connects with the silver terminal. 

Once the wires are pulled through, use your pliers to wrap them around the screws on each side.

Wire wrapped around terminal on chandelier socket
Wires wrapped around terminals on E12 socket on chandelier

Once the wire is wrapped around the screw, tighten the screw with a phillips head screwdriver.

Now you can screw the socket onto the threaded part of the fixture. Once the socket is securely in place, replace the cardboard. At this point, you should put bulbs in the sockets, turn on the electricity and turn on the light. 

If it is working properly, cover the cardboard with candle covers. The covers are included with the sockets. I chose to spray paint mine to match the light. My chandelier is an iron gray rather than black. I found a Krylon spray paint to match. If your chandelier is black, I would use a matte black spray paint on the candle covers. You can also buy black candle covers and save yourself the trouble of painting!

black wrought iron chandelier

My chandelier is much more elegant and updated. I could add the globes for a different look, but I like the simplicity of the candles only. This took a little bit of time, but it was a very inexpensive project with big impact!

Hi! I’m Erin. As life evolves, so does a home. Join me as I share DIY projects to update, renovate, decorate and improve my home to complement my empty-nest lifestyle.

4 Responses

  1. Erin, you are such a problem-solver! You’re approach in working toward two different end-results that are more current and attractive really caught my eye. Your patience in working through the twists and turns of your projects is admirable! I love that Dave also plays a part in the process! Great job, and thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Kristi. I appreciate your comments. Dave and I have DIYing for a long time, and it’s fun to share the process!

  2. This is such a cool update! I would love to do this to the light over our kitchen table. We are having our kitchen cabinets refaced this week so maybe once we finish up that project! Thanks so much for sharing your cute home!

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