How To DIY: Turn a Hardwire Light Fixture into a Plug-In

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Let me just say, if I may, I am super excited.  Juiced, if you will.  Oh that's a stinky pun.

I love Wallace and Gromit.*
But ok, before you lecture me on electricity and voiding UL whoo-ha and invalidating insurance if a house blows up due to some DIY you read on the internet or what a terrible dangerous awful terrible person I am, know that every precaution has been taken to ensure that these sconces are safe.

In fact, I went above and beyond.  Mmk?

And they're rarely on and when they are on, with their twenty five watt bulbs, we are present in the room at all times.

And ok too, here's more electrical spiel:  I am not an electrician.  I am not licensed, bonded, insured, nor trained to be one (thanks for the reminder, Mike).  The information provided below is for entertainment purposes only.  If you opt to try this, know up and down what you're doing first.  Don't take wiring advice from me.  I am not responsible for your actions.**

Whew, that's always a joy.

And!  Before you yell at me...we were out to dinner the other evening and professional electricians had rewired three vintage chandeliers from hardwire to plug in.  So there.  Pros do it.

I mean truly, it's just basic wiring.

So let's move onto the fun part.

Back in ye ol' theater days, this was a common occurrence.  You unearth a hardwire light fixture that's loved loved loved perfect, it fits the budget, blah blah blah exactly right but in order to control it remotely for each scene, you gotta rewire it.

Or say you've got a place to live and you've found the perfect sconce or what have you but lo, it's hardwired.  And the spot it's going?, no hardwire box.  Ugh.

What do you do?  Tearfully give up?  Not me, thanks.

Do you go to the expense of an electrician, ripping apart your walls in an ugly fashion, running wire and a junction box?  You can, and you probably should.  That does add up fast.

Sure, burning your house down if this is done improperly does too, ehhhhh, yeahhh ok.  But again, I did this based on loads of research.

Now, you may not run into a ground wire in your dream fixture but I did.  Which threw things for a loop and made for a few forehead scrunchies and chin scratches until I figured a safe way to do this.

In my copious answer-seeking, I discovered folks had wired the ground to a green screw on a bracket or wrapped it around who knows what or ignored it completely.  Or even left live wires floating unprotected out in the wild.  Are those advisable routes?  I'm not going to proffer.

Though I will say, as I read, if there's a short and the hot wire touches something it shouldn't and the ground isn't wired properly, the whole fixture electrifies.  Says guy on the internet.  That's enough to freak someone (me).  Into more research.

In the end, my solution is a smidgie more expensive than buying a squish-on plug, an extension cord, and a rocker switch.  But again, my goal was to do this as safely as possible if Imma gonna go on and share this with you.

And granted too, I sprung for cloth covered wire which is not a requirement for this project.  You can do this with regular three wire electrical cord.

So ok.  Remember the vanity fixture I recently tried out in the first floor bathroom?  They make matching sconces.  Hey, what can I say, I'm diggin' on mid-century and in sconce format, these are a definite go.

They were on monster sale so I grabbed them.  At a huuuuugggee brand spankin' new, ridiculously glorious, shiny bright Menards near my parents.  I mean.  Whoa.  Lucky them, jeez louise.  Gigantic?  Two floors?  With people movers?!  Heaven.  Mike is terrified of me going there.  I may never come out again.

All because, to answer your question, I finally decided neh, nope, nuh uh no how, the fixtures in the master bedroom on either side of the headboard were a fail.  Missssstake.  No worries.

Alas, before.  Like the fixture, just not the right place for it.
So here's what I got:
Love my camera, sometimes its focusing drives me batty though.
Tools you'll need:
All righty!

Oh, yes, the reason I got cord switches is because the outlets where these sconces were plugging into are not controlled by a light switch.  If yours are, you can skip the cord switches.

First things first, I chopped my ten foot cord into about four foot long pieces.  Instead of cutting it evenly in half, this left me with tester cord to test whatever before doing it on the real pieces.  Ahhh, see, clever!

Next, on went the plug which sadly was much larger than I had hoped.  Ah well.  This was so super simple:  strip the wire, wrap each wire around the screws, tighten them screws down like mad, close the thing back up, and tighten those screws.
Top left, the inside which they so kindly labelled!  Strip your wires, then at the bottom, hook and tighten.
Tada, easy peasy, right?!

Tada!  Woot!
To keep the cloth from fraying or messing about inside the plug, I electrical taped around the fuzzy bits just inside the plug.  Inside, so the tape won't be seen.

Here I did a quickie wiring test with the plug and hey omg it works!  Weeee!

Mmk, cruising along, I dashed upstairs (ok, dashed is relative) with a sconce and the piece of cord to figure out where best to place the switch in relation to the plug/where the sconce would hang on the wall/ease of reachability.

Dashed back downstairs (down is so much easier) with my marked spot and gave the switch a whirl on the spare cord length.  The trickiest part here was making sure I didn't splice through the three wires so be gentle with those wire strippers.

I shoulda gone right for the gold as my snipping was, mwah!, spot on.
I purchased these specific ones based on reviews of other switches; it sounded like these had the roomiest interiors and wire exits.  Granted and as such, like the plugs, they're bulky (and only in brown, booo!) but ensuring crap would all fit, I did what I had to do.

So you slice away about two and some or so inches of cord cover and nervously snip the black wire in half.  Right?  Yikes omg what if this doesn't work?!  Strip the black wire about a half an inch and wrap around each screw.  Tighten each screw down to kingdom come, screw the cover back on, and bam, moving on.
As you can see, I knicked the coatings here so I wrapped some electrical tape around them.  All good.
Again, same dealio with the fraying fuzzy bits of cloth covering, taped them up.

It was kinda cramped in there due to the tape and my paranoia of not snipping away too much cord cover but it worked.  Whew.

Testing testing.....success!

Ok, now for the super panicky part because up until now, these fixtures are returnable:  drilling a hole in the base of the sconce.  As these are meant to be hardwired, there's no out for the new cord.  So you gotta make one.  Yikes.  I know.  But take a deep breath, you got this.  Be sure to put a strip of painters tape on there in case your drill bit skitters around.

What?  Me nervous?  Nooooo, not at all, mmm hmmm....
Doh of course I put the damn hole in the wrong damn spot too.  Figures.

If your sconce swivels like mine does, give it a swivel to find each maximum distance first and center your hole on that.  Did not pay attention, doh and ugh.  So I tried to wrench the inside nut to realign the fixture a bit.  Did I get it?  Man, it was a bitch but I got it enough.

Now it's time to wire.  Carefully thread the cord through the hole.  Black to black, white to white, green to green.  Wire nuts.  Tape the wire nuts to the wires.  Oodles of electrical tape.  I even taped everything down to the base of the fixture.


I further kept the electrical tape business in business by wrapping a good glob of it around the cord to make sure it doesn't get yanked back through the hole on accident, as a stop of sorts.  If you have extra wire going on in there, you can tie a knot too.

Mmk doke, let's go put this puppy up, shall we?

First I sited my sconce, skootched it around until it had easily repeatable measurements for the second one, then traced around the base with a pencil.

Measure measure, trace trace.
Within that circle, I attached an electrical box blank cover to the wall and attached the offset crossbar to that, having previously stuck in those fixture mounting screws and pre-cut them to about the right length.

The joy of the offset crossbar is that you have room to sneak the fixture mounting screws back out a hair if need be, as I needed be.  Of course.

Sorry, this was an evening shot hence the weirdness.
Then up went the fixture.

And holy cow.

It's up!  It works!!  Ack!  Pass out!
Wow.

Not only did I do a butt wiggle but I did a butt shimmy and shake.

I kid you not, this was me.  Right on.

Niiiiiice.

Riiiiiiiiight?!  That's what I'm talkin' about!  

Oh and yes!, next time I'll explain what all that diddly stuff is on the wall too.  Wait 'til you get a load'a that one, oooooooh it's sooooo good.  SO good.

It's the final week of voting in the Amara Inteiror Blog Awards so please, come vote for me and share!  Thank you!

*The Wallace and Gromit, cloth covered wire, three conductor cords, three wire replacement cords, feed through switches, grounding plugs, offset crossbars, electrical box blank covers, electrical tape, wire strippers, drill bits, and drills are Amazon affiliate links.  Mwah, thanks!  Please see the "boring stuff" tab for more info.

**Disclaimer:  Electricity is dangerous.  It can hurt you.  It can kill you.  Bad wiring can burn your house down.  It's best to hire a qualified, licensed electrician if you don't know how to wire things.  Do not attempt to wire anything without the proper knowledge.  Do not ever take wiring advice from me.  And do not blow your house up.

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2 comments

  1. I have never tried anything like this earlier. This is amazing. I liked this DIY to how to turn a hardwire light into a plug-in. Many thanks for sharing the article.

    ReplyDelete