This post updated: Jan 8, 2017 @ 6:21 pm

Instructions for hanging a ceiling light without ceiling wiring

If you live in a home built prior to about 1985, there’s a good chance you have one room in which the builder did not install wiring for an overhead light. I suppose it was fashionable at the time to have lamps warmly lighting a living room- but in today’s multi-purpose living room, it’s far preferable to have an option to flip a switch to fully illuminate the room on demand.

My living room was one such construction. I wanted one switch near the door to control the lights in my living room, and I wasn’t about to open the pandora’s box of having an electrician run wires through Hawk Hill’s 90 year old plaster and lathe walls. It took a bit of research and creativity, but I figured out how to have my cake and eat it too- now when the wall switch is flipped in Hawk Hill’s living room, a chandelier and lamp brightly illuminate the room. Thrilled with the results for a few months now, I thought I’d take a few minutes to share the instructions for illuminating your own lair of darkness.

This tutorial is a great way for adding an overhead light without the expense or hassle of adding or altering existing wiring inside your walls and ceilings. It’s a perfect solution for renters in old homes- and even a good way to add a charming vintage fixture in a room with an existing but harshly colored lighting (i.e. many professional offices where harsh fluorescent lighting is the only overhead light source)

 

Step 1: Choose light fixture:

I picked a chandelier (of course!) but any fixture designed to hang should work (i.e. a modified pendant or drum shade style fixture should work).

Step 2. Convert wiring connection

I already have a popular blog post on how to convert a light fixture to a plug-in style lamp, but for optimal safety you’ll want to convert this light fixture a little differently from that method.

Since you’ll need a long cord to reach from ceiling to outlet, you’ll actually need to splice the wires of the light fixture to the male end of a heavy duty extension cord. An electrician can help you with this project (or you can pester the staff of your local hardware store for instructions, like I did!)

Step 3 Install a sturdy ceiling hook

You’ll need to install a hook on your ceiling for your new light. Because light fixtures can be heavy and especially dangerous if they fall, it’s very very important that you use a good quality hook and anchor it a ceiling joist or beam. Locate a joist just like you would locate a wall stud. Any stud finder or a number of tricks you can find via google should help you locate a joist to install a hook for your light.

Step 4. Hide or mask the cord

Once you have your light rewired and ceiling hook installed, installation can be as simple as just hanging the light fixture, however I’d advise putting some thought into how to mask or cover your cord. With your light hanging from the ceiling, the cord will be very visible. I chose a Velcro-On Chandelier Cord Cover to make my extension cord a bit less of an eyesore. (another option: use a custom length cord disguised as a manila rope available from Haddock Industrial.

Hang a Chandelier without hardwiring by converting to a lamp and then covering the cord.
A burlap cord covers adds style to the exposed cord.

Also give thought to the fact that your cord will be running down your wall. Can you conceal it behind molding? Tuck it around a picture frame?

You may wish to paint your extension cord to help it blend in to your wall. To easily paint a cord, just place a plastic sandwich bag over your hand, place an old sock over the plastic baggie, and then place a few tablespoons of paint in your palm. You can paint an extension cord in moments by pulling the cord through your paint filled mitt. The exposed section of my cord is painted Wythe Blue to match the walls.

creative lighting for a room with no overhead light
My light’s cord runs down the wall. To conceal it, I arranged the cord so it runs down the wall on the far side of window moulding. The cord was then painted the same color as the wall.

chandelier light fixture hung from cieling without a hardwired outlet

Step 5 Adding & Setting up a Wireless Switch

By this point you’ll have a ceiling mounted light in your formerly lamp-lit room, but you’ll be limited to turning the new overhead light on and off by plugging it in and unplugging it. To add an easy wall switch, I scoured Amazon and found this gem (which I now have 3 of, around the house!) Westek RFK100LC/RFK101LC Wall Mounted Switch and Plug-in Receiver

This product comes in two parts: a wireless switch (basically, a remote control) that you attach to your wall, and a remotely controlled outlet that you plug your light into which turns the light on or off according to the signal sent by the wireless switch.

creative lighting for a room with no overhead light
This wall light switch is actually a wireless remote styled as a light switch.

 

Here are a few views of how the setup works in my living room to control two lights. First, the zoomed out view:

creative lighting for a room with no overhead light
The wireless switch controls the power strip, and the power strip sends power to the lamp on the table and the chandelier- together, bright enough to light the entire room as well as an overhead light. (What’s that? Oh. Yes! Yes there ARE branches on the ceiling. 😉

 

Here’s a more detailed view of the setup:

how to add a wireless lightswitch to light a room without a hardwired outlet

 

And here’s a panorama of the room without furniture, scrunched way up so you can see the entire setup:

creative lighting for a room with no overhead light
How I light my living room that has no wiring for an overhead light: the wireless remote (looks like a light switch) is screwed to the wall on the left side of the photo, and the wireless receiver outlet (centered below double windows) turns on or off power to the lamp and a specially modified chandelier (click here for instructions) when the wireless switch is flipped.

 

 

I still consider my living room a work in progress, but love how it’s coming together. Here are a few work-in-progress shots.

 

creative lighting for a room with no overhead light
Finally loving my mantel. Trophy cups, stirrups, and horse books make it equestrian themed, but when this white dachshund figure came home, I knew just where he belonged!

creative lighting for a room with no overhead light

tan throw pillow with brown studded belt
I love decorating with animals and re-purposed animal handling equipment. In this shot, an heirloom quality dog collar adds style to a cheap throw pillow.

blog_hh_chand_updt_257_sm

 

living room at hawk hill

Speaking of animals, I had a particularly unwanted audience while photographing for this post. My nemesis, the groundhog:

creative lighting for a room with no overhead light

 

Winter 2016/2017 Update: Using this method for auxiliary lighting

In 2015 I made the big plunge into tiny living, and two chandeliers made it past the love inventory into my downsized life. Although my studio apartment in downtown Seattle had overhead lighting, it never seemed bright enough to push back the gloom of Seattle winter enough to work on the art, craft, and DIY projects that demand good lighting. So I hung a chandelier in my apartment and repeated this method once again, this time with one change: instead of mounting the wireless remote as a light switch, I hung it with the velcro-style command strips. This allows me to carry the remote to bed with me on nights I want the room fully lit as I get ready for bed, and turn the light off- without getting up- when I’m ready for bed. This has been such a small luxury- and such a delight to settle into bed with a book by the warm light of a chandelier.

 

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10 thoughts on “How to Hang a Chandelier in a Room without Wiring for an Overhead Light”

  1. THANK YOU SO MUCH I have been all over the internet trying to figure this out. I have a 1929 home all lathe and plaster with NO OVER HEAD LIGHTS in a room 18×25. I have lived in darkness for 20 years with only table lamps. I to did not want to pay an electrician 100,s of dollars to hang a light. Now I have a solution, thank you!!!!!! Still trying to figure out how to find the stud in the ceiling any ideas? My stud finder does not help! Thanks

    1. So glad you found it helpful! Hmmmm… I’m not sure how to locate a stud the studfinder can’t find! I bet the lathe throws it off…. but I’m pretty sure that different stud finders use different methods to locate the stud, so you might try a different stud finder. Alternately, do you have access to the attic? You could potentially drill DOWN through the ceiling and then place an “eye bolt” (basically a bolt with a heavy metal loop where the head of the bolt would be) all the way through the drilled hole in the stud and then secure it in place by screwing a nut onto, in your case, the attic side)

  2. I have a great chandelier I would love to convert since I live in a rental and my living room is a cave, lol. I have high ceilings, no attic space above but I do have beams. Not sure if they are primarily decorative and will truly support the weight. Any suggestions on how to confirm this? Would hate to find out the hard way…!!

    1. Oh wow! Yes, you definitely don’t want it coming down on you! lol I’m not sure if a stud finder would be able to indicate if the beam is solid behind or just a facade

      Alternately, you could hang a plant hook high on the wall (you know the type- they’re shaped like a shelf bracket), screwed to a stud. That might work!

  3. Could you give me the name brand of the switch you’re using and do you still like it? I need to use something like this for a light in my apartment hallway, which is very dark. I considered those push-on lights, but they aren’t very sturdy and won’t last long enough, so I’m going to mount a pendant light in the hallway.

  4. Thank you so much for this post Lindsayanne. You have been so helpful. I live in a prewar plaster/high ceiling apartment. There is no ceiling light installed in the living room and the living room is 22 feet long.
    My biggest fear is only the part of getting a hook onto the ceiling to hang the chandelier from. I am so paranoid that it might fall.
    Any suggestions? Is there a special type of hook I can purchase that will hold on for dear life?
    Thanks! Suzanne

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