Wiring a light to a wall switch is an excellent project for beginning do-it-yourselfers to improve their wiring skills. The project is not overly difficult and offers a chance to learn how to run wires behind walls and ceilings, how to tap into existing branch circuits and make small drywall patches. For more the more experienced, wiring a switch is an easy afternoon project. Replacing floor lamps with ceiling lights changes the appearance of any room and frees up power receptacles for other uses.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Keyhole saw or utility knife
- Switch box
- Light switch
- Fish tape
- 2-wire NM cable
- Electrical tape
- Electrical connectors
- Light fixture
- Drywall patch
- Putty knife
Turn off the power to the circuit you are working on at the service panel.
Locate the end-of-run wall receptacle. Unlike other outlets, it has just one set of wires attached. Remove the outlet from its box in the wall but do not disconnect any wires. You will use this receptacle as the power source for the light and switch combo.
Cut the holes for the switch and the ceiling fixture using the utility knife or keyhole saw. The fixture hole must be large enough to insert a brace bar and junction box. Use the wall switch box as a template for the switch hole.
Cut holes for the wiring above the switch hole and receptacle hole. Make 1x2-inch cuts above these holes where the wall and ceiling meet. You will feed the cables through these holes and patch them later.
Attach the switch box to the drywall using the screws that came with the box. Attach the brace bar to the ceiling joists above the fixture hole with wood screws. Affix the junction box to the bar so that it is centred over the hole and flush with the ceiling.
Run the electrical cables to the junction box. Thread the fish tape through an access hole and feed it across the ceiling until it reaches the junction box. Attach 2-wire NM cable to the end of the fish tape and pull the tape back toward the access hole. Disconnect the tape and cable and drop the cable down to the switch or outlet box. Repeat this process for the other box and leave about six inches of cable exposed through each hole.
Connect the black and white wires to the switch’s screw terminals. Connect the green wire to the green ground screw on the switch. Wrap a piece of electrical tape around the white wire to recode it as a hot wire. Attach the switch to its box.
Connect the black wire to the vacant brass terminal on the outlet and the white wire to the silver terminal. Connect the ground wire to the ground terminal. Replace the outlet.
Connect the wires at the light fixture with plastic electrical connectors. Connect the white wire from the switch to the black wire on the fixture. Recode this white wire with electrical tape. Connect the black wires together and connect the outlet’s white wire to the fixture’s white wire. Connect the green ground wires together.
Hang the fixture following the manufacturer’s instructions and patch the access holes with drywall patch.
Tips and warnings
- The path of electrical flow in this circuit is from the power source to light switch and finally to the fixture. You can see this by tracing the path of the hot (black) wires.
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