How To Change Light Bulbs In Cathedral Ceilings (Step By Step)

Last Updated on October 9, 2022 by Barry Gray

Cathedral ceilings or Vaulted ceilings, as they are sometimes referred to, give an airy or open appearance that finds appeal with many people. Still, it tends to create a problem for maintenance, and I wondered how to change light bulbs in Cathedral ceilings.

To change light bulbs in a cathedral ceiling, you must use ways to give you extra reach, like special attachments with a telescopic pole, tall ladders, scaffolding, or other specialized equipment. The method you need to use will be based on your personal needs.

Cathedral ceilings can be as high as 20 to 30 feet from the ground, and reaching light fittings can be challenging for most people. In addition, working in elevated positions is hazardous when a person is not trained. This article will explore different ways of changing light bulbs in cathedral ceilings.

Methods Of Changing Light Bulbs In Cathedral Ceilings

I have seen some scary pictures and videos of people risking their lives by balancing on questionable pieces of furniture or equipment to get enough reach to change light bulbs in their high ceilings. So, to prevent possible injuries or even fatalities, we will look into methods that make it a lot safer.

Working in elevated positions requires training and practice and remains dangerous. Here are the methods that can be used to get the reach advantage to change light bulbs in a cathedral ceiling:

Changing Light Bulbs Using An Extendable Bulb Attachment 

There are a few different models of bulb attachments from various manufacturers that are available on the market. These attachments work by attaching onto a telescopic pole that sucks or fits over the light bulb. The attachments work in different ways to turn the light bulb in or out. 

Here is how you can use an extendable bulb attachment to change a light bulb in a cathedral ceiling:

  • Make sure that the power you switch off at the light switch
  • Secure the bulb attachment into the telescopic pole by reading the instructions.
  • Try to get yourself into the best position possible to use the reach of the telescopic pole.
  • Push the attachment into the unscrewing position and turn the telescopic pole to unscrew the light bulb.
  • Bring the light bulb to the ground using the pole and remove the bulb by pulling the release cord.
  • Attach the new bulb and put it into the screw position of the light fitting using the telescopic pole.
  • Pull-on the release cord, and there you have it, a successful light bulb replacement.  

These extendable bulb attachments work great but are limited in their use in terms of reach because their extendable poles can only extend by a few feet. The attachments work in some places like next to or close to stairs, but in some higher positions, we still need other equipment. It means that we use an extendable attachment as well as a ladder.

Changing Light Bulbs Using A Step Ladder

In some cases, we can gain extra height by using a  step ladder in conjunction with an extendable bulb attachment. However, this method definitely becomes more dangerous because it now creates a fall hazard. Step ladders also have limitations on the height that you can reach, and sometimes that reach is not enough.

The a-frame type of ladder is called a step ladder, and this is how you can use it to change a light bulb in a cathedral ceiling:

  • First, make sure that the power to the light circuit is switched off.
  • Next, open up space under the light fitting by moving furniture away to open enough space around the step ladder.
  • Do not climb up a step ladder with anything inside your hands, so ask someone to hold the step ladder and hand you the materials you will need.
  • You should never stand on the top step of a step ladder, so if you can not reach the light bulb, then use an attachment and telescopic pole on top of the step ladder.
  • We can now follow the steps for the light bulb attachment and the telescopic pole. You can follow the same steps we discussed in the previous subheading.
  • If the reach of the step ladder and the telescopic pole is not enough to reach, then this is not a safe method to follow.

The chance of you having a long enough extendable ladder to get into a suitable reach is slim, so the next option will be to either hire equipment or contact professionals to perform the task.

Using An Extension Ladder To Change Light Bulbs 

Extension Ladder

Using an extension ladder requires some technical training, so it is best to leave this to the professionals. You need to find a suitable place to rest the ladder, and making a mistake here can be life-threatening because of the fall risk. 

Here is how the professionals use an extension ladder to change light bulbs in a cathedral ceiling:

  • They will start by doing a proper risk assessment and a fall protection plan that aligns with health and safety legislation.
  • They will then select a suitable place to support the ladder and climb up the ladder using 3 points of contact. They will be wearing a full-body harness while a fellow worker supports the ladder.
  • When they reach the working position, they will create an anchor point for a fall protection system and secure themselves to the anchor point.
  • They will remove the light bulb and put it into a toolbelt where the lightbulb can not fall. The replacement bulb is also on hand if the person follows the proper and planned method and then installs it.
  • They will remove the fall protection system and climb down the ladder again.

As you can see from this information, this is a job for professionals. The same goes if the bulbs need to be replaced from a scaffold or a mobile elevated work platform(MEWP).


I did not know that changing a light bulb in a cathedral ceiling can become so dangerous, and I hope that the information shared in this post will help you make informed decisions around tasks that involve a fall risk. If you can’t do jobs like these safely, the better option will be to get professionals in to get it done.

Photo of author

Barry Gray

Hi, I’m Barry. I’ve loved woodworking and bringing things back to life for more years than I care to remember. I hope my passion for tools comes across loud and clear in everything you read here on The Tool Square.