How to Convert Light Fixtures From Hard Wire to Hanging

Written by anne hirsh
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How to Convert Light Fixtures From Hard Wire to Hanging
Convert a ceiling light fixture into a hanging light. (lighted lamp of ceiling image by JoLin from

If you have a ceiling light fixture you would like to drop lower to use as a pendant or chandelier style fixture, you can easily add more wire to extend the electricity as far as you need. After that, it is simply a question of making sure the light fixture hangs securely and making everything look neat. Turn the circuit breaker that feeds electricity to the light fixture off before performing any work on the light or wires.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Measuring tape
  • 16-gauge insulated copper wire
  • Wire strippers with cutter
  • Wire nuts
  • Electrical tape
  • Ceiling cover plate
  • Drill and bits
  • S-hooks
  • Chain
  • Metal cutters
  • Pliers
  • 1-inch-diameter decorative tube
  • Machine screws
  • Screwdriver

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  1. 1

    Measure the distance you need between the wires in the ceiling and where you want your fixture to hang with a measuring tape, then add 3 inches to that total to give yourself room to work with the wires. If your ceiling pocket has three wires, cut three wires to that length; cut two if your ceiling pocket does not have a ground wire (ground wires will be bare copper or insulated with green coating). Match wire colours if your wires are colour-coded (generally black for hot and white for neutral). Most modern homes are not polarised, and will have two hot wires that may be either black or white.

  2. 2

    Strip 1/2 inch off one end of each wire. Twist the bare end of one new wire together with the bare end of one ceiling wire (matching colours if yours are colour-coded) and secure the wires together by twisting on a wire nut clockwise until it is too tight to turn any farther. Repeat with the other colours of wire. Orange wire nuts are generally the appropriate size to secure two household wires.

  3. 3

    Pull gently on the wires so they don't pull out of the wire nut. If they do, try the process again. If they still come out, try a smaller (blue) wire nut. If they are unable to twist together securely because the orange wire nut is too small, try a larger (yellow) wire nut.

  4. 4

    Aim the wires so the wire nuts are pointing down and the wires come out of the nut toward the ceiling. Let your new long wires for loops above the wire nuts, then press them against the wire nuts as the strands hang down and tape the whole bundle together with electrical tape, pulling tightly as you wrap the tape around the wires and nuts. This helps relieve any stress the hanging fixture may place on the wires.

  5. 5

    Drill three small holes near the centre of your ceiling fixture's cover plate and place one S-hook through each hole. Cut three lengths of chain to the length you want the light to hang below your ceiling plate and hang one length from the bottom of each S-hook. Press the S-hooks closed with pliers.

  6. 6

    String the hanging wires through the centre hole of a ceiling cover plate. Attach the plate to the metal brackets of your ceiling pocket with the screws that came with the fixture.

  7. 7

    Place an S-hook at the bottom of each chain and pinch it closed with pliers, then find a spot to hook each S-hook onto the fixture itself to support it. If you cannot find an appropriate spot, you may need to drill holes into the fixture to attach the hooks. When they are attached, pinch them closed with pliers.

  8. 8

    Slide a decorative tube over the hanging wires, such as a 3-inch-long copper or brass tube from the plumbing department of a hardware store. This is simply to hide your wire connections once they are attached, so it can be any nonflammable decorative item that will fit over the wires.

  9. 9

    Strip 1/2 inch of insulation off the ends of your hanging wires and attach the fixture according to the instructions that came with it, as if you were wiring it directly to the ceiling. Tape the wires the same way you did at the top ends, then slide the decorative tube over the taped bundle. Restore power to the circuit when you are finished.

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