How to Add a Closet Light

Closets are a location in the home in which lighting is often overlooked or omitted. While large walk-in closets will almost always have an overhead lighting fixture installed, smaller closets are rarely equipped with a light. Adding a light fixture to your small closet is an effective way to increase visibility and make your closet more pleasant to use. Learning how to add a closet light is a matter of assessing your needs and working within your constraints.


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    Determine whether you will be able to hardwire a closet light fixture. The most streamlined approach to adding closet lighting is to hardwire a new fixture in the ceiling. However, you may not be able to get permission for this in a rental property. Furthermore, because you will likely hire an electrician for this job, it may be cost-prohibitive. The alternative to hardwiring a light fixture is to install a battery-operated or plug-in fixture; some of these lights are designed specifically for closets.
    • If there is an attic space above the closet, hardwiring a new light will be easier and less expensive. From the attic, you will be able to more easily tie into an existing circuit.
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    Evaluate the desired location and intensity of the light in your closet. If your closet is small and has wire shelves, a single light on the ceiling might suffice. However, if you have solid shelves, you can consider installing lights under each shelf to illuminate the shelf underneath. You may also choose to install several small lights in different locations to increase the overall intensity of the light and reduce the presence of shadows. If you want to install multiple small light fixtures, using small battery-operated units is a good option.
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    Assess the risk associated with the heat the closet light will generate. Because closets are typically filled with flammable materials like clothing, adding lighting presents a new fire hazard. Minimize this hazard by always using either compact fluorescent or LED bulbs, which don't produce much heat. Incandescent bulbs should never be used in a closet unless they will be located away from shelving. If your lights will be mounted very close to or even touching your clothing, always use an LED fixture, as these produce the least heat.
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    Purchase the appropriate light fixtures. After assessing your lighting needs and constraints, you should browse for and purchase your new light(s). If an inexpensive, minimally invasive setup is desired, you can buy battery-operated closet lights. These lights are usually small and dome-shaped, and they are either affixed using screws or a tacky material on their back. If you decide to add a hardwired fixture, make sure to recess it into the ceiling so that the fire risk is minimized. The installation for your particular closet light will depend on the type you buy.
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  • You can also lighten the appearance of your closet without adding a light fixture. Painting the walls a lighter color or adding a mirror may lend the closet a brighter feel. For a more ambitious project, you can add a window to a closet along an exterior wall; the cost of installing the window may even be less than the cost of running electric lights for the remainder of your time in the home.
  • Always consult your local building codes before adding a new light fixture to your closet. Because of the fire risk, many building codes regulate closet lighting specifically.

Things You'll Need

  • Light fixture

Article Info

Categories: Home Improvements and Repairs