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Do you want to restore a chandelier from your kitchen or dining room — or maybe somewhere else? If you’re like me you may have an old chandelier from your house that needs restoration, or you may be interested in buying a used chandelier from Craigslist or eBay that needs refurbishment. This is especially important when you’ve renovated your space with new cabinets and appliances, but the chandelier is letting it down.
Chandeliers are getting to be very expensive, and you can easily find good ones for $5,000 to $10,000 or more. So it’s worthwhile restoring one that came with the house, or one that you can obtain cheaply.
In this article, I will walk you through the steps you need to restore a chandelier, as well as tips and some of the traps to avoid.
Table of Contents
- Preparing to restore a chandelier
- Disassembling the chandelier
- Cleaning chandelier parts for reassembly
- Where to find parts for a chandelier
- Rewiring the chandelier
- Putting the chandelier back together
Preparing to restore a chandelier
Before you start the process to restore a chandelier, it’s important to prepare. You don’t want to get into a project that’s too complicated and then have to pay someone else to complete it.
Much of the work of restoring a chandelier is understanding how it’s assembled and disassembling it without damaging it. However, there are some traps that you may fall into, so I suggest reading this article fully before getting started.
Also, rewiring a chandelier involves working with 120 volt AC power, so if you’re not a qualified electrician, you should ask one to check your work carefully before putting it back together.
Tools you need to restore a chandelier
There are several tools that you will need to restore a chandelier:
- Several sizes of needle nose pliers – These are very important for disassembling the chandelier. Some parts may have been on the chandelier for a hundred years or more, so they need some force to unscrew and remove.
- Large pliers – These can be used to unscrew larger components of the chandelier.
- Gloves – Wear gloves to protect your hands when working with glass.
- Standard size flat and Philips screwdrivers – You will need to remove and reattach screws.
- Eyeglass screwdriver set – There are often small screws that you will need an eyeglass screwdriver set for.
- Allen wrenches – There may be Allen screws in the chandelier, so an Allen wrench set is worth having around.
- Ziploc bags with tags on them – When disassembling, you will find lots of small parts, so it’s a good idea to store them in Ziploc bags and label them properly, so you know where they go during reassembly.
- Butcher’s twine – This is used to pull wire through the chandelier.
- Scissors – To cut the twine and tape.
- A shop vacuum – May be needed for cleaning as well as pulling twine through the chandelier.
- WD-40 – You can use this to penetrate the seams between threaded parts. Try not to get any on the visible components of the chandelier.
- Wire cutters
- Wire strippers
- 16 gauge lamp wire
- Wire nuts
- Electrical tape
Disassembling the chandelier
Disassembling the chandelier is relatively straightforward. Remove it from its current location and put it on a table or large surface so that you have space to work.
First, clean the chandelier as well as possible, and remove all bulbs and easily accessible glass pieces.
Then, start removing parts from the top down. First, try unscrewing or removing the parts by hand. Unfortunately, some can be difficult to remove. If unscrewing by hand doesn’t work, you can try gripping the chandelier with pliers, but be careful not to damage the finish. You can try putting a rubber friction surface between the pliers and the chandelier parts to minimize damage.
If this doesn’t work, the next step is using a penetrating fluid like WD-40. Spray some into the threaded area, taking care to avoid getting it on the finished surfaces. After several minutes, the parts should be removeable.
As you disassembly, take plenty of pictures of each step — this is especially important for the wiring. These pictures will make reassembly much easier.
Take special care with wired parts
There will of course be some parts that are wired. It’s important to take care when disassembling these parts.
If you plan on rewiring the chandelier, then you can cut the wires. However, avoid pulling any wires out of the narrow chandelier components. It can be very difficult to get new wires into some of the tight components, so keeping the old wire in will make it easier to pull new wire later.
Electrical bulb sockets generally have wires held on with screw terminals. Unscrew these terminals but be careful to keep the parts safe for reassembly.
Cleaning chandelier parts for reassembly
There are a lot of good products that you can use to clean the chandelier once it has been disassembled.
My favorite cleaner for the brass and metal components is Bar Keeper’s Friend. It works on so many kitchen and dining surfaces, and it does a great job. Just make sure to test it on a small hidden part of your chandelier first, as some minor differences in makeup of the metal can cause the results to change.
For cleaning the crystal, I use Sparkle Plenty Chandelier Cleaner, which does a great job getting crystal to look like new again.
To help really scrub, I suggest using a Rubbermaid Reveal Power Scrubber, which will save your hands and arms a lot of pain.
When you’re cleaning, just go methodically and keep parts in their labeled bags before and after cleaning. Otherwise, the cleaning process is straightforward.
Where to find parts for a chandelier
Chandelier parts can be hard to come by — and this is especially true for the brass or metal parts. Many old chandeliers were built as one-offs, made by hand, and often parts of the same chandelier don’t perfectly match.
The parts that are relatively easy to find are the crystal parts. The bobeches (the crystal pieces that go under the candles) are often available on eBay or can be found at a specialty retailer like chandelierparts.com. The small crystal teardrops and chains are also easy to find.
The more difficult parts are the brass or metal parts, as well as the large crystal parts. If you’re lucky, you will find similar parts on eBay, but generally, you will have to replace these parts with something different (which may mean replacing an entire set).
Rewiring the chandelier
Old chandeliers may have damaged wires, which can pose a serious fire hazard. The one I was working on in the pictures had lots of damage to its wiring. So I decided to rewire it.
Rewiring a chandelier is often pretty straightforward. However, it can be very dangerous if done incorrectly, so if you’re not a qualified electrician, it’s vital that you have one check over your work before connecting the chandelier to power. Also, make sure you follow all local rules and electrical codes.
When rewiring the chandelier, you will want to use new wire that is rated for lamps. You should try to use 14 or 16 AWG wire that is labeled for 120 or 240V AC. Unfortunately, that wire is thick so it can be difficult to pull through the narrower parts of the chandelier.
The most difficult part of rewiring a chandelier is often pulling wires through some of the narrow parts. This is especially true if you have already removed the old wires from the parts.
If you’ve already removed the old wire
To thread new wire, first try pushing the wire through by hand. The wire may get stuck in the arms or other narrow parts. So the next step is to use a Shop Vac. Put it on the highest power possible and put it over one side of the chandelier part (arm or whatever).
Slowly feed the butcher’s twine through the other side of the part. The suction of the Shop Vac should pull the butcher’s twine straight through to the other side. This process works remarkably well.
Once you have the twine through, you will need to very carefully try to pull the wire through using the twine. You can use electrical tape to tape the wire to the twine, but make sure the tape is strong. If the tape separates from the twine inside the part, you’re out of luck (this has happened to me on more than one occasion).
If the twine just breaks every time you try to pull the wire through, you may be able to use a higher gauge of wire (higher gauges mean thinner wires). But make sure to consult an electrician before you do this!
If you kept the old wire in
If you kept the old wire in, you can use the old wire to pull the new wire through. The benefit of this is that the old wire is likely to be much stronger than twine, so it won’t break when pulling through the new wire.
However, you still need to be careful not to lose tape inside the chandelier part. And since you can only do this once, you should make sure the old wire and new wire are joined as tightly as possible.
Once you have gotten the wire through all of the parts, it’s just a matter of connecting the wires together. Use the photos of the wiring you took earlier to make sure everything is connected properly. In necessary, use wire nuts to connect wires together wherever they were used in the original chandelier.
Finally, after everything is connected, make sure to have a qualified electrician check over your wiring to make sure that everything is safe before proceeding.
Putting the chandelier back together
Putting the chandelier back together is the easiest part of the job. There are no tough screws to remove and no wires to thread. Everything should screw together just as you removed it.
Use the pictures that you took during disassembly in order to help you determine where everything goes.
You can save a lot of money if you restore a chandelier by yourself, instead of buying a new one or having it professionally restored. And if you follow the steps above, the process should be very doable.
Let us know if you’ve restored a chandelier, and if you have any tips or questions about the process.