Wiring lights, from pull switch to wall light switch?
November 7, 2013 6:06 AM   Subscribe

Need to replace pull switch light fixture so the light switch next to the door actually turns it on instead. Also where can I buy this light fixture (or a cheaper alternative)?

I am an eager and able DIY-er and want to replace a screw light cover with a pull switch with a light fixture that actually turns on with the light switch in the room. That light switch is currently connected to the plug outlet on the same wall. Can I do this myself or do I need an electrician? Also do you know where I can find this light fixture (or a cheaper alternative)?
posted by xicana63 to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Okay - so I found the pendant, the image was from Bijou and Boheme and the pendant is the Hicks Pendant, a cheaper alternative (though practically the same) is this pendant by Restoration Warehouse. But still need help with the rewiring question.

posted by xicana63 at 6:22 AM on November 7, 2013

Although I have done wiring projects in my house, I'm not the person to tell you how to do it. I will say that the complexity of this task varies radically with where that ceiling junction box is placed relative to things like your attic. Fishing wires through the space between joists is annoying.

You're saying that right now, the switch controls the wall outlet, but you'd like it to also control the ceiling junction box that the overhead light is mounted to? You wouldn't consider a pendant-type light that hangs by a hook and has a cord and chain over to the wall plug?
posted by aimedwander at 7:26 AM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Can I do this myself or do I need an electrician?

You don't necessarily need an electrician to swap out a light fixture, but electricity is dangerous and you shouldn't attempt it without having first assisted someone else who knows what they're doing a few times. It's not difficult, but there are plenty of opportunities to make really bad mistakes, and it's best to be confident enough in your abilities to not make them.


Do you have access to your breaker box? Can you positively identify which breaker the light switch is on? If the answer to either of these questions is "no", you need an electrician.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 7:26 AM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

I apologize. I misunderstood what you were describing.

If you're trying to change a light that was previously plugged into an outlet to one that's permanently wired into a wall switch, you need to call a licensed electrician.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 7:38 AM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

You need to run wire from the ceiling fixture to the wall switch. The most aesthetically pleasing way is underneath the wall surface; you'll have to cut or smash holes 3-6" in diameter every few feet in order to feed the wire using a fish tape or equivalent. Messy, but easily patched when you're done. As far as reconfiguring the outlet, it's not hard, but it's going to depend on the path (i.e. panel-outlet-switch is different than panel-switch-outlet). Either way can be reconfigured.

Code-wise, it may be sketchy. Ceiling lights are supposed to be on a separate circuit from wall outlets; if you have an appliance go nuts, start a fire, and trip the breaker, the ceiling lights should remain on to assist egress. But in the grand scheme of things nobody's going to notice, and it's not going to directly create a safety hazard (presuming your work is decent quality).

(Qualifications: one semester residential wiring, ~one year laborer on construction site assisting electricians, multiple remodels, so I guess I'm pretty confident in my work. I don't think of it as technically challenging: wire goes from A to B, make sure it's reasonably secure, make good connections, use at least the minimum AWG for your components. But if you have anybody with any experience, it's good to get their assistance if you can.)
posted by disconnect at 7:48 AM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

The wiring part of this is not complicated, though you want to be very careful with electricity. At the very least, carefully read through a book on basic wiring that covers how things are done to code in your jurisdiction. Turn off the breaker (and test where you actually want to work) before starting.

The tricky part is getting the wires through the wall and ceiling and installing the box without completely tearing out the drywall.
posted by ssg at 7:50 AM on November 7, 2013

What disconnect said. Whether it is legal to do your own wiring depends on where you live, and whether it's a single-family or multi. Snaking wires behind plaster can be tricky, and an experienced electrician will have a better chance of success than a do-it-yourselfer. You might want to look into a wireless remote control switch to avoid surgery on your walls & ceiling: for example, this.
posted by mr vino at 7:52 AM on November 7, 2013

Here's the thing. By the time you get the tools you'll need, climb up on a ladder, curse a blue streak, slice open your thumb and spend the better part of a Saturday with this project, you could hire a professional to do it in about an hour.

Our time, even our leasure time, is worth something.

I'd get a list together of little electrical projects I'd like done around the house, and then call a licensed electrician. You won't be sad.

Here's one that's similar and a bit less. Hudson Valley Lighting.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:10 AM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

To clarify my earlier answer a bit: if you have an attic that gives you access tot he back side of the ceiling, you can do this yourself. Turn off that circuit. Go up to the attic, and clear the insulation away from the junction box and the space between the studs that makes a vertical channel down to the light switch in question. You take the switch box entirely out of the wall so that you can see light when you peer down from the attic, and use a fish tape to probe down though there until you've got one end in the attic and the other in the room. Pull your appropriate electrical line (I'm not going to assume about your local code, that's you business) up, using the fish tape, and string it across to the junction box (look at your local code and at how all the other electrical lines in your attic are treated for how to get it safely across the joists - again, I'm not going to make assumptions) Connect, following standard junction-box instructions. Now (if you're me) you freak out and refuse to turn the breaker back on until somebody else has double-checked your work. Annoying, but it's probably safer that way. Note that I did make assumptions about your local code, namely that the homeowner is allowed to work on their own house at all.

Otherwise, you just purchase your pendant fixture of choice, a length of matching brass chain and an aesthetic choice of wire/cord/plug, and a few ceiling hooks. In the wiring space where you'd usually be connecting the luminaire to the ceiling, connect it to the extension cord. Use a dremel tool to cut a notch in the brass ceiling cover and allow the cord out. Use the existing assembly to mount the luminaire to the junction box for support. Weave the cord through the chain, drape the chain on ceiling hooks (never want to put strain on the cord itself) and plug it in at the wall.
posted by aimedwander at 5:46 AM on November 8, 2013

I am a licensed electrician.

In order to do this successfully, you need to run new wire, and disconnect to existing switch leg. You also likely need to replace (or install a pig-tail) on the receptacle that is currently controlled by the switch.

I am all for people learning electrical, and I support DIY. But seriously, if you are unsure about this - then hire a professional. This is not a good first time electrical project. This is a fairly involved project, and doing it wrong could create a fire hazard.
posted by Flood at 7:22 AM on November 8, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! For sure decided to hire an electrician! I'm all for DIY when reasonable.
posted by xicana63 at 9:34 AM on November 11, 2013

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