Tutorial: Hardwiring a Plug-in Light (for the {Neurotic Dog's} Little Room)

I left my paint chips lined up on the chair in the little room while I waited for the elephant fabric to arrive. Leaving pieces of paper out in Feeney's room is like playing with fire since the whole reason he has his own room is because he goes nuts whenever we leave him alone and will eat whatever paper he can find. And paper towels? Forget it. He doesn't have to be nutty to eat paper towels; leave a paper towel on the coffee table and you had better not blink.
(fabric swatches from fabric.com)
Much to my surprise the one time I left Feeney alone in his room for an hour this week he didn't eat the paint samples. Of course he probably didn't see them since he spent most of that time annihilating three large padded shipping envelopes that someone took out of the closet when she was clearing out all the office supplies and happened to leave them on top of the dresser. Two of the envelopes were gone, expected to make a re-appearance in a few days and the third was in tiny little confetti pieces all over the floor. So yeah, the dog needs his own room and for heaven's sake can I not forget to paper-loving-dog-proof the room even in the middle of a project!?

This post wasn't supposed to be about our TOTALLY NEUROTIC dog (who, in reality, is a giant pony-sized love bug 99% of the time), we actually have a very cool project to share while I wait for the elephant fabric to arrive.

You may recall that when this room was my office for a hot second I removed a ceiling fan and installed CB2's Eden pendant. A few weeks ago, just after a trip to Ikea we took down that pendant and moved it to the master bedroom, which is a whole other post to share someday soon. The purpose of that Ikea trip was to find a funky new pendant for the little room. Ya know, for the dog to enjoy. (I'm joking, but seriously who am I to call the dog neurotic?) I bought two, which of course meant I had to go back to Ikea to return the reject, which is never a bad thing. The winner was the Knappa pendant, which looks kind of like a funky flower thing.
Unfortunately the pendant had a few things not working in its favor: 1. it's a plug-in light and we wanted to hard-wire it to a wall switch and; 2. S thought it was a little frou-frou. Problem two was solved when I pulled out option two:

And S darn near had a heart attack. Option one is a whole lot less frou-frou next to that ball of frou, no? Problem one was fixed with a cheap-o ceiling cap and some wire cutters. It's an even less expensive (downright cheap) way to hardwire a plug-in light than we used when we hardwired the CB2 Eden pendent. Lucky for you, S agreed to let me photograph every single little step so you can do the same. And by "agreed to let me" I really mean that he agreed to repeat every single step for me to photograph so I could provide a quick tutorial since the first time around he closed the door to the room and surprised me with a fully installed light fifteen minutes later.

Let me start by saying we don't have grounding wires everywhere in our house, so we usually ground to the metal junction box or a grounding screw, it varies by fixture. Similarly this particular pendant does not have a ground line since the fat side of the plug is the grounding side. We're not going to simultaneously stand in a puddle of water while propped on a stool and touch the light fixture. We suggest you don't either. We also have a properly wired wall switch, which means that in the "off" position there is no power reaching the fixture, so as long as we change the bulbs with the switch "off" we should be ok. For all legal purposes this is an educational tutorial and we won't take any responsibility if you hack up a light and make a mistake along the way. We're comfortable with electricity and have our work double-checked, if you are not comfortable please proceed at your own risk, follow the original plan we had when we originally hard-wired the CB2 Eden pendant, or hire an electrician. If you want to use a grounded fixture, we suggest this inexpensive one from Westinghouse.

So here we go, this is our version of how to hard wire a plug-in light. First up, shut off the breaker to the circuit you're working on. Please don't skip this 'cause you think you can manage not to touch a live wire. If you're so good that you can manage not to shock yourself while working with live wire I can guarantee you're not reading this post. Or you at least stopped reading after I stopped waxing poetic about our dog.

Second, get all your supplies ready. Here we have the cheap-o ceiling fixture cap that we bought in a clearance bin at Ikea (no name, sorry!) but I'm sure you can find them at Home Depot or Lowe's. In addition to the wire cutters here, we also used our wire stripper, a box cutter/utility knife and a couple of wire nuts. We did not use the metal plate at the bottom right. So really, this photo is kind of useless. Sorry.
1. Cut the plug off your cord and slip on the cheap-o ceiling cap and nut making sure that the cut wires are facing the "up" side of the cap. If you can't find a cap with a screw like this you could just use a $1.97 round cover plate with a hole drilled in the center. It was our plan before I found this cap for $2.99 and totally splurged on two.
2. Have helper hold the light to the ceiling and mark the length on the cord where it meets the cap, all while helper says, "please don't put a picture of my face on the blog."
3. Cut off all but about a foot of cord past your mark (unless you think you might want the pendant longer some day and think you have room to coil extra cord in your ceiling box).

4. Using your utility knife carefully cut down the center of the cord for about two inches, trying to just barely cut the outer coating of the cord.
5. Pull back the cut to reveal the inside wires and insulation.
6. These next few steps are important. Hold the wires in one hand and the cut portion of covering and insulation in the other.
7. Pull to essentially rip down more of the covering until you're past the point where you first inserted the utility knife.
8. This is to make sure that you didn't nick what might later become a live wire with your box cutter. Look, we did here even though S was extremely careful when he made the first cut with the box cutter.
9. Snip off the outer covering and insulation and then cut the inner wires just below where you nicked the line (if you nicked the line).
10. Strip about an inch off the end of the wires.
11. Move the cheap-o ceiling cover down towards the pendant and out of the way.
12. Slide on the ceiling bracket that your old fixture was hanging from. (If you didn't have an old fixture go and buy one of these brackets to fit the box in your ceiling. They're kind of universal. I say "kind of" because we've found that nothing ever fits a 1941 house perfectly.) Tie a knot just above the bracket so that when you snug the cheap-o ceiling cap up to the whole assembly to test things out, the point that you marked lines up with the bottom of the cap hanging into the room. (If you're using a cover plate then have your mark  line up with the hole you drilled.)
13. Take your pliers and pull the knot super tight. DO NOT use sharp pliers or anything else that could cut the cord here.
14. Repeat to make a tight, thick double knot. Make more knots if you have to, you just don't want the wire to be able to slip through the metal bracket.
15. Move the cheap-o cap down the line to get it out of your way, hop up on your step stool and wire the hot and neutral wires to your ceiling fixture (white to neutral, black to live), twist and secure with wire nuts.
16. Gently coil any excess wire into the ceiling box and then take that bracket that you tied the knot near and screw it into the ceiling box.

17. Snug your cheap-o cap up to the ceiling and secure its nut, or if you're using a ceiling cap with a hole in the center then screw that in place.

18. Pop in a CFL light bulb and run down to the basement to flip the breaker back on. Run back upstairs, flip on the switch and admire your handy work.
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19. Touch up the paint on the ceiling next time you have your paintbrush out.

So there you go, funky but not too frou-frou. That's how we hardwire Ikea lights or hard wire CB2 pendants (which we may be doing again soon, stay tuned), or hardwire any other plug in hanging ceiling light. Let us know in the comments section if you have a good source for a cheap-o ceiling cap and we'll update this tutorial.

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  1. I am going to do this in five minutes. Must run to get a cap first. Okay...I haven't put my Knappa together yet either. It's just sitting there with all the "feathers" in a pile.
    But perhaps this will happen today since you've given such great instructions! I was at a loss for what to do with it because it wasn't pendant-ready, but now I know.
    Thanks for the step-by-step!

  2. Mrs Boo - I just did this again for another light last week and I highly recommend this product:
    It makes the whole process a total breeze!

  3. I just purchased both of these lights for the tents at my wedding. They are so cute but cheap!

  4. Such a cute idea! We had 150 paper lanterns with ribbons hanging from the bottom that we lighted with LED throwies that we made (S is still cursing me for that project) details on the LED lighting is over here:

  5. Thank you for the tutorial! I used your instructions to install my Knappa light and linked to them on my blog.


  6. Thanks ...but you didn't say which wires in the ceiling box attach to the black and white wires in the fixture cord. White connects to white and black to black. My problem is there are more wires from the box ... A double red and black, double strand copper, a black single and a double white .... Was hoping you had a pic of the box ...thanks though

  7. Hey Jeff - without seeing what you've got, we can't suggest a configuration. Is your ceiling box hooked to two switches (one for a fan and one for the light, possibly?) We just have a hot, neutral and grounding wire in nearly all of our boxes from 1941 (and rarely a grounding wire at that).

  8. Thanks SO much for the info. I just purchased two hanging lamps/chandeliers and need to hardwire. This makes things so much easier!!!

  9. Love this...I have this lamp in my attic...sitting not used. I was thinking of using it for my baby girl's room, but didn't know how to mount it...now I do! Love it!!!

  10. you did it so creative.....Beautiful...look..like it.
    window shutters clayton, ca

  11. No doubt you are expert in this field. This lighting system is looking awesome! Brenda

  12. Hi, I need to to do the reverse of this. I bought a chandeleir and it is supposed to be connected to the ceiling when all our ceilings here in Sweden have outlets. What to do! Please help!

    1. You should be able to find a lamp re-wiring kit with the plug that you need. Just follow the reverse and when you cut the wire instead of wiring to a wire hanging from the ceiling you'll be connecting to the wire going to the plug. You'll use electrical tape to connect everything in-line instead of using wire nuts. Good luck!


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