Lighting 102- Hardwiring a Plug In Fixture

Yesterday I touched on upcycling and creating your own light fixture with a bunch of design ideas and DIYs.  Building a pretty fixture is one thing, but you need to know how to wire/rewire it without electrocuting yourself or burning down your house.   
We already went over how to rewire a plug in fixture.  We are going to go a step farther today.  
How many times have you come across a plug in ceiling fixture and passed on it because you didn't want to deal with the hanging cord and would rather have it hard wired right into the ceiling?  
Well it's an easy fix!

Lets go over how to turn that plug-in into a hard wired fixture.
I came across a pair of vintage spaghetti light pendants almost a year ago.  I already had one that I retrofitted to be a hardwired light fixture by using a simple IKEA white pendant kit (below left), but I had  different ideas for the new pair (below right).  
(The fact that I own THREE spaghetti lamps? hoarder.)
  I had a vision in my head.
I kept imagining them encased with brass rings, but I was having a hard time executing the idea until I stumbled upon two of these orbs from Homegoods for $19.99...
I measured them and they would be a perfect outer casing for the spaghetti lights.
I had no idea how I would get the spaghetti lamps inside them.  I just pushed forward and decided I'd cross that road when the time came and if it didn't work it would be back to the drawing board.  
It's all "by the seat of my pants" around here.
 I sprayed them gold within minutes of bringing them home and hung them from the ceiling. 
The scale was good.  
My first issue was going to be rewiring the old lights into a hardwired fixture.
As you can see the old wires and plug were ancient!  
Even if I wanted to use this as a plug in fixture I would need to update it.

Start by taking your pendant apart and inspecting the pieces.
I like to lay the pieces out in the order I took them apart
and photograph them so I know how to reassemble.
Begin making your parts list.
I wasn't a fan of the big wing nuts, so I knew I would need smaller brass nuts.  I also wanted my bulb to hang a bit lower so I would be swapping out the 2" threaded nipple with a 4" threaded nipple.
Figure out what you are keeping and what needs to be rebuilt, make your list and go shopping.
I like to bring my parts with me to the store to make sure I get the 
right sized socket, threaded nipples, etc.
Once again I was off to my local True Value.  
On a quick side note, this entire series started off as one lighting post I was working on for True Value and it quickly grew into an entire "Lighting Week".  I have to give a big shout out to everyone that helped me at Dawson's True Value in Beverly, MA.  I really couldn't have pulled this off without their patience and help.  I am not an electrician, so it was very reassuring to have them double check and guide me in proper tools and techniques.   Their staff is top notch and so helpful, and I really can't say enough good things about them- so THANK YOU!
I returned with my replacement parts and supplies.
Depending upon your fixture you will also need: 
Needle-nose Pliers
Porcelain Socket 
New Electrical Lamp Cord
(you can buy this by the foot in several colors)
Copper Ground Wire
Medium Based 250V Porcelain Socket
2 Uninsulated Ring Terminals 
(one to fit over nipple, other to fit on ground screw)

 I measured the length between the ceiling and the top of the pendant and added an extra 16".
(My ceiling hasn't been painted yet here, it's a mess.)
I then cut my electrical wire to that length and stripped the plastic off the ends with my wire strippers.
Now its time to rebuild and wire up your light!
Lets start with the socket.
 Feed this wire through the top of the socket and identify your live and neutral wires.
One side of the wire will feel smooth- this is the LIVE side.
(I highly recommend you mark it with a Sharpie since they look the same and it gets confusing.)
The other side of your wire should have a slight ribbing along the side- this is your neutral wire. 
Attach the live wire to the copper screw and the neutral wire to the silver screw.
 To do this twist the ends of the wire and bend like a candy cane.
Loosen the screws so the wire fits under it and then tighten firmly with a screwdriver.
 Once you have the wires connected slide the top of the socket cap over them and tighten that on with the included screws.  You will be tightening it through the base of the bulb socket.
 I then slide the 4" nipple over the cord and attached it to the socket.
These instructions may vary depending on the fixture you are rebuilding, so use the photo you took when you disassembled to make sure you put it all back together properly.
 Be sure to tighten the side screw on the socket to ensure it is on tight and wont slip off once it is hung.
Now you are wired and its time to reassemble the pendant in the order you took it apart.
You will be adding the ground wire as well.  
This is VERY important.  

Many old fixtures are ungrounded which can be is dangerous.  Plenty of folks just wire up the live and neutral wires and call it a day, but you really should ground your fixture.  
If for any reason you have a loose wire or a power surge your entire fixture can become electrified or catch on fire.  In my case that metal orb would become electrified and give you a massive shock if you touched it.  By adding a ground wire this will break the circuit if anything like that was to happen, shutting off power- so it is VERY IMPORTANT!

Let's get grounded.
Those are Uninsulated Ring Terminals. 
You will want to buy one that fits over a green ground screw and another that fits over your threaded nipple.   
Here we are going to be attaching the copper ground wire to the terminal by threading it in and crimping it with pliers...
Choose one uninsulated ring terminal that will fit over the threaded nipple,
and the other will fit over the threaded end of a green ground screw...
Once the ground wire was connected I slid mine on the threaded nipple near the top of my fixture:
 and fastened tightlyit in place tightly with a brass nut.
 I then bent it upwards and twisted the ground wire around my electrical wire and then threaded all the wire through a new chain.
The second terminal will attach to the ground screw on your bracket or electrical box.

(the hole with the GND next to it is where the green ground screw goes.
Add your lightbulb and you are ready to install your fixture and light it up!
Here is a little video on hanging your fixture.
It's short and to the point and done by a dude named John who. talks. real. slow.
  I would have made you one but I talk way too fast and I can't focus, so it would have been like 15 minutes long.  Thanks John.

And if you rather an electrician hang your light, that is fine too.

Mwah-ha-ha! I felt like Frankenstein with my newly melded lights...

But wait!!!
Are you wondering how I got the pendant into the metal orb?
My Dad came to the rescue with a crash course in the old "cut and solder".  
This is a two person job!  One needs to hold the orb steady while the other cuts and solders.
He used a hacksaw with a fine metal blade to cut through a few areas.
 He left 2 pieces attached so we could bend the section back and insert the pendant.
 And finally he used an enormous soldering iron to put it back together.
(My little craft soldering iron would have done nothing!) We had to sand off the paint to have clean soldering surfaces.
 Battle wounds...
Since spray painting was no longer an option with the pendant now inside,
 it was Rub and Buff to the rescue!
Worked pretty well covering the solder scars, and I tried to position my lights to have the majority of the repairs at the top.
Flip a switch.  Fancier.  Now we can see our food!
I really hope this post encourages you to try rewiring.
I know it's not for everyone, so use a rewiring service if you have any doubts.
If you are nervous, have someone that knows their stuff (like an awesome Dad or an electrician) give it a look over before installing to make sure you did it right or ask someone to wire it for you while you look on.  It takes time to build confidence, so don't be afraid to ask for help.

I am not an electrician, although I sometimes play one on the blog. These are basic guidelines.  Please use common sense when rewiring fixtures.  Always have your power sources and feeds unplugged/shut off when hanging a fixture.  Please use quality UL tested materials.  Take your time when rewiring and always double check your connections that they are sound and connected properly.  And when in doubt, ask an expert or hire an electrician.  


Katie Waddell said...

Thanks for posting these, so glad that I have something I can look back on when/if I need it. PS-The planking on your fireplace and that coral/orange door-winning!!!

High Cotton Style said...

These are great! I want them!! I leave the electrical work to Eric..I'm too scared to do it myself:)

Anonymous said...

great job I love them!

Kim said...

Can I just tell you my ideas and have you do it? Seriously, you are an "haute electrician" in my book! xo

therelishedroost said...

YOU are such a talent!! They look so fantastic!! Now I just need a soldering gun!!
Fantastic post!!

kayce hughes said...

Seriously!!!!! Those are the most fabulous lights ever.

The Sterling Cherub said...

Another great post, Danika. Your lights are ... EPIC, there's no other way to classify them! Amazing job, they are gorgeous. You can your dad make a great team.

I have the opposite problem with some lights I have in storage. I've got a couple vintage multi-arm crystal chandeliers that are intended to be hard-wired, but I rent an apartment and there's no way I'm hard-wiring them in a rental. One of the chandeliers was hung swag-style (but hard-wired) from a cathedral-height ceiling in a split-level, and I am not exaggerating when I say the chain and cord are about 30-40 feet long. I want to convert the hard-wire to an online on/off switch and plug (and of course chop the wire and chain WAY down in length to about 6-8 feet). Will you be doing a tutorial that will show me how to do that? *crosses fingers and hopes*



Danika Herrick said...


I am on it! Just got the supplies- it is super easy to do!


Kerry Steele- Design du Monde said...

That is really amazing. I am going to be designing some lighting around here for sure.

Unknown said...

Danika Herrick! You have once again completely amazed a person who truly doesn't believe there are any people left out there who can amaze!! These are brilliant....You are so creative and obviously fantastic! Congratulations on one of the most unique and incredible ideas!45 eeauded

hope @ said...

What great vision you have!

WiVaGardener said...

Very cool project. I am in the process of rewiring my own chandelier, and I'm searching for an uninsulated ring terminal without much luck. I can find what I need online for $0.48, but then I get to pay $9 shipping. It looks like you walked into a hardware store and found them? I'm not having any luck at the big boxes or the neighborhood Ace. Got any recs for where to find them? Thanks!

Danika Herrick said...

@WiVaGardener I got them from my local True Value Hardware- they have an entire "old school hardware section".

Anonymous said...

Why use insulated versus uninsulated ring terminals?

Tasha said...

you are a freaking rock star!!!!!! It's gorgeous and now I'm looking for my own lights to rewire.

Steven L. Martinez said...

You have a great idea how to make elegant the simple lights. I am thankful for the ideas and I learn much. Thank for sharing your knowledge about decors. Keep it up!


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