What’s all this talk about UL Certified Antique and Vintage light fixtures that I want to put in my new house? My builder says I have to have it. The antique stores around town say that the guys that do their wiring use all new parts with UL marks. Isn’t that enough? What am I supposed to do?
The National Electrical Code book states that all electrical fixtures installed in a new house must be “certified” by an independent testing laboratory. This includes chandeliers, wall sconces, lanterns, recessed ceiling fixtures, and task lighting that is attached to the house. There are several well know testing laboratories, but the one most often mentioned by builders and inspectors is Underwriters Laboratory (aka “UL”).
When doing a new home construction project, it is not uncommon for a builder to insist that their customer only choose lighting fixtures that bear the “UL Mark”. That’s the shiny silver or gold sticker you see on all of your hair dryers, toasters, blenders and just about any other mass produced product in your house that has a plug on the end. The builders insist on this because it is not unusual for the city or county inspectors to ask for UL certified products. Antique and Vintage lighting fixtures are not going to have these UL certified marks because they were produced long before the current standards for light fixtures were established.
Antique Chandeliers are not necessarily unsafe because they don’t have UL stickers on them. They’ve lasted for sometimes 50-100 years and are still around to talk about it, so to speak. However if you are considering old European light fixtures, there are a number of changes that will have to be made just to get them ready for your new American home. First, the sockets are generally not going to be the same as the ones we use here in the US. If the wires are old and frayed or brittle, they must be replaced. and lastly the hardware used to hang the fixture must be configured for an American electrical box. UL also requires the fixtures to be grounded and there are a number of other requirements about how the wires are attached to the fixture and to each other.
Many people that re-wire old light fixtures have the basic skills needed to get the fixture ready to be installed, but very few have the ability to “Certify” the fixture and apply the proof of certification that the inspectors want to see. On some private home construction projects this requirement is loosely enforced, but on commercial jobs such as restaurants, private clubs or large multi-family buildings the requirement is rarely waived. Talk to your electrician, builder, or inspector to get a better understanding of what will or will not be allowed in your jurisdiction.
The Big Chandelier specializes in European light fixtures and we rewire over 500 fixtures every year. We figured out the importance of the UL certification years ago and went through the rigorous process to be a supplier of UL Certified fixtures.