How to hang a plug-in ceiling lamp

A typical home or apartment may contain several types of hanging light fixtures, such as pendant lights, chandeliers, or swag lamps. All of these lamp types can be hard-wired into an electrical box in the ceiling, but a swag lamp can also be plugged into a duplex wall outlet. A swag lamp of this configuration usually will be equipped with an in-line switch mounted on the lamp cord, somewhere near the plug. Hanging a swag lamp is a fairly easy project, provided you have the right tools, and perhaps a willing assistant.

Determine the location where you'd like to hang your swag lamp. The cord on a swag lamp is usually 15 feet long, but the chain may be the same length or somewhat shorter. Thus, the lamp must be hung no further than that distance from a wall. The lamp cord will be threaded through the links of the chain. The extra length of the cord is needed to hang down along the wall where the power outlet is located. The chain will be suspended from, and draped between, a pair of swag hooks.

Mount the stepladder. Measure from the desired hanging location to the wall where the power outlet is located. The lamp must be hung no further from the wall than the length of the chain. Once you determine where the first swag hook will be mounted, mark the ceiling with the pencil.

Using the stud finder, determine if your pencil mark is located directly below any framing. If so, the stud finder will detect the presence of the metal screws or nails holding up the sheetrock of your ceiling. This important step will determine which type of hardware you will use to mount the first swag hook, a lag-threaded stud or the spring-loaded toggle-wing bolt.

Place two small pieces of masking tape on the ceiling where your pencil mark is located. Use the tape to form an "X". This will help prevent the ceiling from cracking when you drill through the sheetrock.

Drill a hole in the ceiling. If you are directly below the framing, use a drill that is slightly smaller in diameter than the threaded stud. This will ensure that the threads bite into "good wood". If your mounting location is between framing members, use a drill slightly larger than the diameter of the toggle wings when they are closed. Press the wings together to help determine this measurement.

Mount the swag hook. If using the threaded lag, slip the top into the slot in the base of the swag hook. Screw it into the ceiling using a clockwise motion. Continue rotating until the base of the hook is flush against the ceiling. If you are using a toggle bolt, attach it to one end to the threaded rod from the swag hook kit, and screw the other end of the rod into the base of the swag hook. If the toggle has been correctly attached, when the wings open, they will face the underside of the swag hook. Insert the toggle into the ceiling. After the wings open, turn the swag hook until it snugs up against the ceiling. Your first hook is now securely in place.

Move the ladder, and then extend the swag chain, it should almost reach the wall. Use the stud finder to help you determine which type of fastener you will need for the second hook. Then follow the installation instructions previously discussed in Steps 4 to 6.

Hang the swag lamp chain from the first swag hook and then hang the other end of the chain on the second swag hook. Remove any exposed masking tape.

Plug the lamp cord into the wall outlet. Your swag lamp is ready for use.


Most swag lamps come packaged with hooks and mounting hardware. If yours lacks these items, swag hook kits may be purchased separately at many home improvement centres, or hardware stores.

Things You'll Need

  • Step ladder
  • Stud finder
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Drill and drill bits
  • Masking tape
  • Swag hook kit with mounting hardware
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About the Author

Rich Finzer earned his boating license in 1960 and started his writing career in 1969. His writing has appeared in "Northern Breezes," "Southwinds," "Living Aboard," "Good Old Boat," "Latitudes & Attitudes," "Small Craft Advisor," "Life in the Finger Lakes," "BackHome" and "Dollar Stretcher" magazines. His maple syrup has won awards in competition. Rich has a Bachelor of Science in communications from Ithaca College.