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marmkid 07-06-2012 10:28 AM

adding plugs to hard wired light fixtures (exterior)
Here is my situation. My backyard has a couple of power outlets, 2 up on my deck and one out in the planter bed for landscape lighting.

I have access to a bunch of free wall mounted light fixtures, but they are hard wired, and do not have plugs.

I am a complete novice when it comes to electrical work, but is adding plugs to hardwired light fixtures a relatively doable project for a beginner? Are there any other safety measures to be concerned with since it is for outside?

Is this a type of project that can be done with some simple purchases from home depot?
I figure if i already have the fixtures, I would need:
-a plug and cord
-wire cutters or splitters?
-wire caps (or whatever they are called to connect the wires)
-maybe something protective since it is for exterior use

Am i way off? (wouldnt be surprised if i was)


wkearney99 07-06-2012 11:14 AM

Yes, you're way off.

If it's not a fixture that came with a cord with a plug then you should not add one to it.

What you need to do is install them properly. Put a suitable box on the wall and run wiring to it. Not have loose cord running across the surface and into a plug. This could be done by using metal conduit. Run conduit from the existing outlet (if the circuit can support the added amount of wattage) and then along the wall to where you want the fixtures. Conduit comes in several lengths. You buy or rent a conduit bending tool to turn those straight lengths into curves or corners that best fit your needs.

Otherwise you'd drill a hole into the wall and wire it up from the inside.

This is not a hard job but you'd do well to read up a lot about basic electric work before you proceed. You will not learn enough just reading online forum posts to understand how to do the job properly. Pick up a basic electrical wiring how-to book from a local library. If what's written makes sense then come back and ask some questions. If it doesn't make sense then call an electrician.

marmkid 07-06-2012 11:19 AM

thank you!

I have to say i was a bit surprised when the rep from the lighting manufacturer I can get these fixtures from told me that i could just add a plug to them

That sounded a bit off to me

Thanks for the reply!

wkearney99 07-06-2012 11:37 AM

Well, it depends on the fixture, I suppose. Most aren't designed for just adding a cord. Got a link to it on their website? Or at least a picture of it?

marmkid 07-06-2012 11:42 AM

here was one of them.

And the rep said it wasnt a standard add on at all, and they dont even offer the necessary pieces. He also did mention to speak with an electrician about it. So my impression was definitely that these werent necessarily designed for just adding a cord

Basically, I won a contest through this company and can get a set $ amount of their lights. I am trying to see what would be the best use overall that doesnt just involve me replacing every working light in my house.

So i was thinking if i can do any exterior lighting at all, at minimal cost

To just give a background on where this is all coming from

wkearney99 07-07-2012 07:28 AM

It's your house, do you want them installed properly to code, or go with the unsafe, half-assed look?

Putting a box into an exterior wall does not have to be a terribly complicated job. It depends on the outside wall material, of course. Same with running the wire to them. Sure, it'll take some work but the end result can be made to look quite nice. This does sound like a case where whatever you do with what you've "won" it'll cost you something more to actually connect them.

Replacing existing fixtures would probably be a lot less complicated for you.

marmkid 07-07-2012 08:53 AM

I just wanted an opinion on whether or not adding a plug to a hard wired fixture was something that could be done or not, that is really it.

I wouldnt have thought that was something to actually do, but was confused when the lighting rep told me i could add a plug, which is why i came here for an opinion

I am not looking for aesthetic opinions on whether an outdoor light that is attached to a deck railing looks half assed more if it has a plug than being hard wired

thank you for your advice

seansy59 07-07-2012 09:04 AM

14 Attachment(s)
In the temporary only simple answer. Yes, you can add a weatherproof junction box, and a grounded cord to plug in, with a watertight compression fitting. Is it to code? Not at all for a permanent setup. Only if its temporary can this be done! Usually that's only for a max of 60-90 days. I've seen this done at campgrounds, or carnival setups, since its TEMPORARY for a few weeks, then removed. Same as Christmas lights. It would pretty much be treated to be a portable outdoor lamp, bug zapper, patio heater, or Christmas lights. So, if you plug it in, hang it up just for the summer, and take it down like a Christmas light, it is possible. It surely isn't recommended though. Since......well, be honest. Your going to like it up there so much, or you'll forget, you'll want to leave it up all year long. :laughing: It will simply be un-safe though after about a year, as the cord will start to crisp/crack in the sun, and birds/animals will peck at it, snow, rain and weather will get to it, then it becomes a nightmare. You won't find that out till its too late.... :eek:

Did I mention, that the only way you would do the cord option, it if it was TEMPORARY?

400.8 Uses Not Permitted.
Unless specifically permitted in 400.7, flexible cords and cables shall not be used for the following:
(1) As a substitute for the fixed wiring of a structure
(2) Where run through holes in walls, structural ceilings, suspended ceilings, dropped ceilings, or floors
(3) Where run through doorways, windows, or similar openings
(4) Where attached to building surfaces
Exception to (4): Flexible cord and cable shall be permitted to be attached to building surfaces in accordance with the provisions of 368.56(B)
(5) Where concealed by walls, floors, or ceilings or located above suspended or dropped ceilings
(6) Where installed in raceways, except as otherwise permitted in this Code
(7) Where subject to physical damage

It wouldn't take much work to run a few feet of PVC conduit with THWN inside to run the light to the outlet box. Especially since PVC is very easy to work with. You can paint it to match the deck, then "ta-da", it will be a pro, neat install. If you want a switch you can even install a weatherproof outdoor light switch for it.

1/2" conduit is cheap at under $2 for 10ft. Fittings are about $0.50
hardware store is about $15 for a 50ft roll. (Of course though, you would need white, black, and green. So 3 rolls. Or they sell the wire by the foot. But sometimes its cheaper to buy more than you need in the long run.

If your going for the cheapest option, then just replace existing fixtures.

wkearney99 07-07-2012 09:36 AM


Originally Posted by marmkid (Post 959905)
I am not looking for aesthetic opinions on whether an outdoor light that is attached to a deck railing looks half assed more if it has a plug than being hard wired

Ok, so it wasn't a criticism of the look of a fixture, it was about the way any fixture would look being strung off an extension wire. The fixture you linked to actually looks pretty nice.

When you've got a travel area like a deck you want to avoid putting up things that people can injure themselves upon. Wires hanging from lights, versus installed properly, present tripping or catch hazards. It's that I was calling out as 'half-assed'. Which, arguably, is a bit harsh. Sorry if that came off wrong.

As has been suggest, non-metallic conduits are a good choice too, and they're lots easier to work with than the metal. Just a hacksaw and glue. Why I didn't mention them is odd, as I've got them for audio speaker wiring out on our patio. The trickiest part of installing them (or any conduit) was anchoring the clamps into the brick and concrete behind them. Tapcons are great, hammer drills and bits... ugh, it's tedious sometimes.

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