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How to Add a Plug to a Hardwired Light Fixture or Chandelier

If chandeliers were a love language, it would be the one I speak most fluently. I love chandeliers and have always gravitated towards them (going so far as to book AirBnb rentals based on a good chandelier in the suite!) At one point, nearly every room (including bathrooms) at Hawk Hill included a chandelier.  I used to think chandeliers were limited placement within reach of ceiling wiring with an electrical box- but when a friend asked for help hosting an evening bridal shower under the sprawling branches of Hawk Hill’s ancient live oak, I started exploring how to make chandeliers a part of the outdoor lighting at my friend’s special event.

Many questions to the knowledgeable staff at my local hardware store led me to find out that it’s actually just a 5-minute job- once you get the hang of it- to convert a light fixture from needing to be hardwired to an electrical box to simply plugging into any outlet. The best part? It just takes one cheap part to make this switch! Once the plug is added, a chandelier can go anywhere an extension cord can.

Here’s an illustrated tutorial on how to add a plug to a hardwired light fixture.

 

Supplies Needed for Converting Hardwired Fixture to Plug-In Swag Style:

 

I’ve not been able to find this item at a Big Box Home Improvement store like Lowes or Home Depot, but Ace Hardwares usually have them in stock. Ace’s part number for the the 3 prong replacement plug is SA540BKCC10

Tools Needed:

  • Screwdriver (If you found the plug I sourced, you can use either a flat or phillips screwdriver)
  • Wire Strippers (optional! The wires on your light fixture will probably already be stripped. If you don’t have wire strippers, you can strip wires *carefully* with a pair of scissors)
 
CAUTION Electricity is dangerous! If at any point these instructions seem unclear or don’t adequately address the particularities of your light fixture, stop and consult an electrician or licensed contractor. 

Converting Hardwired Light Fixture to a Plug-In Lamp

Total time: 15 minutes

Choose and Prep your Light Fixture

choose a light fixture to convert

First, choose your light fixture. Thrift store chandeliers paired with a new coat of spray paint are my favorite lights to convert to lamps. They make ideal temporary lighting to use as decoration for parties, photoshoots, girl’s nights, etc. In this photo, a $15 ugly brass chandelier turned pink party accessory is ready to convert from standard wiring to a plug-in fixture for use as outdoor lighting at an outdoor evening bridal shower party.

Locate, Separate, and Strip Wires

strip and separate the electrical wires

Separate the two wires that come out from the two separate sections of the cord. The plastic coating may fuse them together but to make the next step easier, you’ll want to peel those two sections away from each other. A new or used household light fixture should already have these wires exposed, but if they seem too short to work with or frayed, you can cut off the frayed portion and strip coating off fresh wire to reveal unfrayed and easy-to-work-with wire.

Since the wires shown in this image were a bit frayed, I chose to make the next steps easier by cutting and stripping the coating from a new section before continuing

 Acquire New Plug

Acquire a new plug with removable parts

Now, grab your new 2 prong plug or 3 prong plug. (My images illustrate connecting the two-prong plug, however, the process for the three-prong style grounded plug is almost identical.)

See the yellow portion? We’ll be removing it to make room for wires (FYI: It might be a different color on yours)

Prepare & Open Replacement Plug

before attaching, Insert a screw into the bottom of the specially designed plug to remove the parts

Now firmly insert a screwdriver up through the base of the replacement plug part as shown. The yellow portion (stamped “remove”) will pop out, allowing access to the plug’s prongs.

Remove Prongs & Loosen Screws

Remove the plug's screws and prongs to prepare for the next step

Once the yellow center portion is removed, the prongs will either pop out or come out with a gentle tug.
 
You’ll notice each prong has a tiny screw that was hidden by the yellow core. This screw will secure the chandelier’s wires to the prongs in order to conduct the electrical current.
 
Loosen but do not remove these screws.

Thread Plug onto Light Fixture’s Cord

Thread Plug onto Light Fixture's Cord

Feed the light fixture’s wires up through the base of the plug and out the front. Then push the body of the plug down the wire and out of the way. Next, attach one wire to one prong’s screw as shown. Wind the wire in through the notch in the plug and snugly around the screw post. Tighten the screw to securely hold the wire.

(In my several dozen times repeating this process on thrifted chandeliers that I flipped in my flea market booth, I’ve managed to forget this step more than a few times and had to repeat it, so don’t get overly enthusiastic and jump past threading the plug on, straight to connecting wires)

Attach each wire to 1 Prong

Attach each wire to 1 Prong

 
 
Repeat the previous step with the other prong and the unused wire. Make sure your wire is NOT stripped past the end of the prong (see image).

Reassemble Plug with New Wires

Plug with new wires attached

 
 
Next (and this part can be just a bit tricky) push the prongs back into the plug housing with the head of the screws facing outward.

Seat the prongs snugly into each side as shown.
 
It may help to use a pair of pliers to grip the prong and push it snugly into place.

Replace center portion of plug

Plug with center portion of plug partially inserted

Now, replace the center yellow portion (pushing it completely in, until the black and yellow fronts are flush).

If the middle portion won’t insert fully, remove it and recheck that the prongs, screws, and wires are settled fully into the sides.

Enjoy

Once securely attached your light figure is a mobile lamp

Once the plug is fully reassembled and fit back together with no bulges, misfit pieces, or exposed wires, your new plug in style light is ready to use as a lamp, swagged fixture, or as a portable light!

 

It’s that easy to turn a hardwired light fixture into a lamp that can be used in any (dry  and safe) spot that an extension cord can reach! You can even use a Wireless Wall Switch to turn the plugged-in lamp on and off from a doorway or nightstand. (In fact, this is how I light my living room- see my article on how I added a chandelier with a wall switch to my Seattle apartment!)

 

 

CAUTION Electricity is very dangerous! If at any point these instructions seem unclear or don’t adequately address the particularities of your light fixture, stop and consult an electrician or licensed contractor.

 

If you’ve struggled with lighting in an older home with no wiring for an electrical box in the ceiling of living rooms, be sure and check out my article on how I used this method to hang a chandelier from the ceiling of my living room- creating bright, beautiful overhead lighting even in an older home with no wiring except floor level electrical outlets.

see also:

the no-electrician-needed way to hang a chandelier in an apartment without losing your deposit

 

step by step beginner-friendly instructions to convert any light fixture to a plug in lamp or swag

 

 

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Terrance Wyatt

Sunday 15th of November 2020

This helped me so much for project. Thanks a million !

Stickler

Thursday 11th of May 2017

Thank you SO MUCH for your very clear instructions and illustrations. I was just replacing the plug on the coffeemaker, but had no instructions for the plug. So glad I found you!

MzRedd

Wednesday 7th of December 2016

I really appreciate how you made it step by step and easy to follow for an amateur. Mine turned out great thanks for your help on this project, I knew it was possible.

Lindsayanne

Wednesday 7th of December 2016

Awesome! Thank you for letting me know it was helpful for you!

Carrie

Monday 14th of November 2016

I have a ceiling light which I would like to convert to a pendant. How would I do that?

Lindsayanne

Monday 14th of November 2016

Not sure, but that sounds cool! Can you post a photo? That might be above my skill level, but it depends on the light, I guess. If it has a wire or chain for hanging and you can extend that wire/chain, it *might* be just an issue of running the wires through a pipe and then buying fittings for the pipe on either end.

Donna

Sunday 14th of August 2016

We have a friend who lives in a very old house. She wants to install a ceiling fan/light in a room which only has wall plugs. It is far too difficult for my husband to fish the walls and ceiling to do a hard wire job. Is it possible or even feasible to wire a ceiling fan/light that will just plug into a wall plug.

Lindsayanne

Sunday 14th of August 2016

While I'm confident the wiring could be connected to a plug and ran via extension cord to wall outlet, the challenge would be supporting the weight of the fan. If you are confident you can attach an anchor to a joist overhead, and are then able to securely mount the ceiling fan to the anchor, I'd guess this project could be successful.