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Sunday, November 30, 2014

How to Remove a Broken Lightbulb From a Fixture

Sutton Double Sconce - Restoration Hardware

We've been very happy with the fixtures we chose for our bathroom renovation. The chrome medicine cabinets and sconces complement the console sink and give the room exactly the retro modern look we were going for.

So I have to say I was surprised and a tiny bit annoyed when a bulb blew out in one of the sconces after only 7 months wear, and when I went to replace it, the bulb snapped apart with the metal base remaining stuck in the fixture.

Normally I wouldn't get too worked up about a broken bulb stuck in a light fixture. It has happened before, so I know all about the potato trick.

DIY Network
And the soap trick.


The real problem was with the fixures themselves.

You might think, as I did, that you'd simply shut off the breaker to the bathroom, unscrew the bottom sconce, use your potato or soap to remove the stuck part of the bulb, replace a new bulb, screw in the glass again, restore power, and be on your way. But the Restoration Hardware Sutton Sconce doesn't work like that. Twist and turn as I did, the thing would not come apart. And as you can see the glass is too long and narrow to squeeze a hand-holding-potato inside.

The one bright spot (hi-yo) in all this was that the fixture is still available on the RH site, so I was able to download the installation instructions. I found the sconces had come with a special tool that you slip up inside the glass to tighten (or in my case, remove) the thin nut holding the glass globe in place. Problem was, I didn't know what my contractor had done with the tool after installing the fixtures. It was very likely in a box of leftover tile and plumbing parts that I had stowed in the attic of our summer cottage - a two hour drive away.

Ug. I had been out to the cottage just a few weeks back to look at the roof work, and I wasn't planning to make another trip out before Christmas. But we had guests coming over Thanksgiving weekend and I wanted the house to look its best. I couldn't just leave the lights looking like a missing tooth in a perfect smile.

Was there another method to remove broken bulbs? I googled and found several good bits of information, should this ever happen to you:

1. There is actually a tool for this. Several in fact. They are called light bulb extractors.

2. This very problem has actually happened to another Restoration Hardware Sutton Sconce purchaser, one lucky enough to have the tool on hand (note to anyone considering buying this fixture).

3. And as it turned out, perusing the comments of Ron Hazelton's Handyman site, I stumbled on exactly the right tool for my tall and narrow sconce: the humble paint stick. (Thank you to Ron's reader Barbara!)

Ron Hazelton's Handyman Site

I am enamored with the paint stick solution! First of all, how many handy men and women carry a potato in their tool kit? Second, certainly you've shut off the breaker, but even so, daughter of an electrician, I feel better inserting a wooden stick in a fixture than a wet potato. Third, I've banned bar soap from my bathroom due to the soap scum factor.

So, the paint stick wins first place in my book on availability and safety.

To recap on how to remove a broken lightbulb that's stuck in a fixture:

Step 1: Shut off the power at the breaker box.

Step 2: If you will be standing below your bulb wear safety glasses and take precautions, as you will likely be showered in glass shards and metal bits.

Step 3: Stick the "handle" end of a wooden paint stick firmly into the fixture and turn counter clockwise (lefty-loosey). The metal end will come right out. 

Step 4: Screw in a new bulb.

Step 5: Restore power at the breaker box

Step 6: Flick on the switch and admire your handiwork.