How to Turn a Hard Wire Light Fixture into a Plug In

Do you have a sconce or ceiling light fixture but no electrical receptacle for it?  See below how to convert any light fixture from a hard wire into a plug in so you can use it anywhere!

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How to turn a Hard Wire Light Fixture into a Plug In: step by step tutorial to create lights and sconces that can be used when you don't have electrical in that location!

Months ago I came across these gorgeous, vintage looking, industrial accordion sconces, and I knew they would be perfect in my son’s room, especially on the DIY plank wall we recently completed.

antique bed, vintage accordion sconce, shiplap walls, vintage school desk as bedside table... LOVE this little vintage bedroom!

And at ~$50 each, I thought they were a steal, but we did not have wiring in the spots where I wanted to hang them.  Rather than open up and rewire the wall (because, if I’m being honest, I might will almost definitely rearrange the room sometime and NOT want sconces there), I decided to covert the hard wired lights into plug ins.  And I’ve got a step by step tutorial for you, too.

Materials needed to change a light fixture from a hard wire into a plug in:

materials needed to make a traditional light fixture a plug in

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.  Click here to read my full disclosure policy.

  • hard wire light fixture (I got my awesome accordion sconces from Decor Steals.  They have daily steals, so I can’t link to the specific product, but I’ve seen them carried several times.  You can also sometimes find them at their sister site, Antique Farmhouse.)
  • wire cutter/stripper (sharp scissors or a utility knife could work in a pinch)
  • wire connectors: either a terminal box or wire nuts and electrical tape
  • lamp cord with switch (any old extension cord could work, too, if you just cut off the female end, but these are wonderful because they have a switch on the cord)
  • {optional} paintable cord cover

How to change a hard wire light fixture into a plug in:

Warning: I have basic wiring skills, but I am NOT a certified electrician.  This project is completely at your own risk, and I take no responsibility for any mishaps you may have as a result of this tutorial.  Please be careful and consult a certified electrician if you are in any doubt.

How to turn a Hard Wire Light Fixture into a Plug In: step by step tutorial to create lights and sconces that can be used when you don't have electrical in that location!

  1. Determine your cord lengths.
    Be sure to give yourself enough room to trim and connect without having too much excess cord to hide behind the cover plate.  Don’t forget to take into consideration the placement of the switch if you are using a lamp cord with a switch; you want to be able to reach it!
  2. Cut your cords.  
    Using wire cutters, cut both cords (the one coming from the fixture and the one from the lamp cord) ~1/2″ longer than you need them.
  3. Separate your wires.
    Using your fingers, pry apart your two wires ~1-2″ on both the fixture cord and the lamp cord.  Your fixture may already have the wires separated, which is fine.
  4. Strip your wires.
    Using a wire stripper (or sharp scissors very carefully), strip the plastic sheathing off the copper wires without cutting the wires.  You will do this four times: 2 wires per cord.
  5. Connect your wires.
    See below for details.
  6. Find a “way out” for your cord.
    Since the wires for a wall or ceiling fixture normally go into said wall or ceiling, you will need to find a way for the wire to get out of the cover and hang down the wall without making your fixture uneven.  You can cut or bend the plate cover, drill a hole in the plate cover, make a little cut in your wall, or use whatever creative idea you might have.  Fortunately for me, the fixtures actually came with “way out” of the wall plate, so I simply removed the little plastic insert before I started the project and replaced it when I was finished, securing the switch in place directly below the lamp.
  7. Hang your light.
    Obviously every light is different, so you’ll have to figure out this one. 😉  Mine included holes to hang on two screws, so I secured 2″ screws into studs or sheetrock anchors.

Notes and tips on connecting your wires:

Note: This tutorial addresses a fixture WITHOUT a grounding wire (in other words, the cord is made up of only 2 wires and the plug has only 2 prongs).  For fixtures with grounding wires, you would want to use a three pronged cord and match up your three wires appropriately.

Sometimes wires are color coded; if so, match up your colors.  If not, most cords have a slightly ribbed side and a smooth side.  Match up your wires: ribbed to ribbed and smooth to smooth if so.  My fixtures included these awesome little terminal boxes which you connected by tightening the screws onto the wires.  I have not found these available online (though I may just not be looking the right place!), but wire nuts and electrical tape will always work.

If using a similar terminal box, make sure your ribbed wires are facing each other and your smooth wires are facing each other.  If you connect using wire nuts, be sure your wire nuts are for the appropriate size wire (standard lamps have 18 gauge wire… you can see it printed on the cord usually), twist the wires carefully together (white to white or smooth to smooth, etc.), secure with a wire nut, and then secure further by wrapping in electrical tape to hold the wire nut firmly in place.

Note: the main thing you want to ensure is that your white and black or your smooth and ribbed NEVER touch.  If they do, they will short out your fixture when you plug it in.  So be sure the entire wire portion (that is not covered by plastic) is enclosed in the terminal box or wire nut.  Exposed wires are never a good thing!

How to turn a Hard Wire Light Fixture into a Plug In: step by step tutorial to create lights and sconces that can be used when you don't have electrical in that location!

The only downside to this process that you now have cords (obviously).  So…

How to hide the cord for plug in sconces.

This step is not rocket science.  All it takes is one cool little product I ordered from Amazon prime (have I mentioned I really make use of my prime subscription?!).  After changing the lights to plug ins, I had exactly what I wanted for my boys’ bedsides… except for the brown cord that was not only ugly but a possible tripping hazard for my kids.  So I got these great cord covers and cleaned it right up (and the instructions on the package are so easy to follow! It only took about 3 minutes)!  Since my walls are white, I left them alone, but they are paintable if you have colored walls.

how to hide sconce cords easily - in about 2 minutes... this cord cover is even paintable!

That’s it!  And I think it’s gorgeous in my sons’ shared room.  Both by the bed in the nook by the window…

antique bed, vintage accordion sconce, shiplap walls, vintage school desk as bedside table... LOVE this little vintage bedroom!

And the nook that we recently planked.

 antique bed, vintage accordion sconce, shiplap walls, vintage school desk as bedside table... LOVE this little vintage bedroom!

I am even contemplating working up a chandelier like this for my daughter’s room.  I don’t want to take down her ceiling fan (because we live in Texas!!), but I thought it might be fun just to add a pretty chandelier above her bed.  Does it make sense to hire an electrician to rewire something there (not even centered on her room)? Not really, but I could just hang it and hide the cord until we redo her room some day and no longer want it, right?  I love the possibilities this offers!

antique bed, vintage accordion sconce, shiplap walls, vintage school desk as bedside table... LOVE this little vintage bedroom!

I know they make some sconces and chandeliers that already have plug in cords, but naturally, I fall in love with the ones that are hardwired.  😉

 antique bed, vintage accordion sconce, shiplap walls, vintage school desk as bedside table... LOVE this little vintage bedroom!

And now you can, too.  What do you think?  Where would you like to put one?

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Comments

  1. I, too, always fall in love with hardwired light sconces. I am so thrilled that I came across your tutorial today. I have a few places in my home where I would like to change things up (:
    Where did you get your vintage accordion light sconce?

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      I’m so glad to hear it, Marie-Helene! These were from Decor Steals several months ago. Hope this helps! :)

  2. I had a friend that asked me about this – but wants to do it with a chandelier. I will send her over, great post by the way.
    And I LOVE that accordion light sconce 😉

  3. I love your creativity and attacking the electrical situation!! I purchased a beautiful vintage chandelier at an estate sale at a Dallas condo, but I am afraid to hang it as I feel it needs to be rewired….and dreading to pay 3 to 400.00 to have it rewired!! I think I could possibly do this myself(??), but not sure! Any suggestions? Thanks, GW

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      Thank you so much, Glenda! I’m so sorry, but I’m afraid rewiring the whole chandelier is not something I’ve ever tried… I did have an electrician rewire one for me when he was doing other work at our home, though. You might ask around to see if there’s an electrician who would like to freelance a bit rather than taking it into an expensive lighting store. I hope you are able to find someone!

  4. Fran Zahniser says:

    Hello,

    Love what you did. Where did you find those little connectors on line.

    thanks

    • Rachel Paxton says:

      I’m so glad you like it! Unfortunately, I was unable to find connectors like this online (mine came with the lamp), but a regular wire nut of the appropriate size should accomplish the same thing. I hope this helps!

  5. Juliette Hansel says:

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