How to Convert a Pull String Light to a Wall Switch

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It is often challenging to find the pull string to turn on a light in a dark room. There's no telling what you may bump into before getting the lights burning. Pull chain switches normally wear out long before the light fixture. The light can be converted to operate from a wall switch whether the pull string has stopped working, or you're tired of flailing around in the dark. Install an easy-to-find light switch to operate the ceiling light for years of reliable service.

Things You'll Need

  • Light switch
  • Remodel electrical wall box
  • Cover plate
  • Pencil
  • Stud finder
  • Romex cable 12/2
  • Drywall saw
  • Fish tape
  • Black electrical tape
  • Wire cutters
  • Utility knife
  • Wire nuts
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Slotted screwdriver
  • Select a location on the wall for the switch. Run a stud finder from that location up to the ceiling to be sure there are no obstructions behind the wall that would block a cable from the reaching the location.

  • Shut off power to the entire house by turning off the "main" switch in the breaker panel. Leave a warning sign or lock the breaker box to ensure that the power stays off until you finish.

  • Draw a pencil mark around the paper wall pattern supplied with the wall box, or an outline of the back rectangular shape of the remodel wall box. Cut through the drywall along the lines with a drywall saw.

  • Place one end of a 2/12 Romex near the ceiling light in the attic with 12 inches of excess cable available for making connections. Drape the cable along the rafters from the light to the wall that will hold the switch. Attach the other end of the Romex to the hook of a fish tape and secure it with electrical tape. Push the fish tape down the wall from the ceiling to the newly cut opening in the drywall. Push 18 inches of cable through the opening.

  • Slice through the plastic outer jacket of the Romex with a utility knife lengthwise to make an 8-inch slit at the end in the attic, and the end in the wall opening. Slice off the slit portion of the jacket to free 8 inches of the inner wires. Strip the insulated wires with wire cutter blades to expose 1/2 inch of bare wire at each end. Strip the wire ends in the attic near the light and at the wall switch location. Wrap 1 1/2 inches of black electrical tape around the white wire of the Romex at both ends just behind the bare wire.

  • Feed the wires at the light switch end in through the cable hole in the wall box. Recoil the holding clamps on the wall box by pushing them toward the back, or inward depending on the wall box manufacturer. Hold the clamps as you insert the box into the hole in the wall. The clamps will spring back into place to create pressure between themselves and the outer frame of the wall box in front of the cut opening. Tighten the clamp screws to create a firm grip on the drywall and secure the wall box.

  • Connect the black wire from the Romex to one of the terminals on the switch, and the white wire wrapped in black electrical tape to the other terminal by winding the bare wire around the terminal screws in clockwise rotations. Tighten the terminal screws with a Phillips screwdriver. Connect the bare copper ground wire from the Romex to the ground terminal screw in the back of the wall box.

  • Unscrew the mounting screws holding the light fixture to the ceiling. Unscrew the terminal on the light socket holding the black wire. Twist the bare wire from the removed black wire around the bare wire of the black Romex wire in the attic. Cap the connection with a wire nut by twisting it over the exposed wire with clockwise turns.

  • Connect the white Romex wire marked with black electrical tape to the terminal on the light socket that formerly held the black wire. Cut the bare copper, or green ground wire about 8 inches from where it connects to the light. Strip 1/2 inch off the insulation at both freshly cut ends of the wire if it's wrapped in green insulation. Twist the two wire ends around the bare copper ground wire of the Romex and cover the connection with a wire nut.

  • Check all wire connections to be sure every color-coded wire is connected to the correct terminal. Replace the ceiling lamp and tighten the holding screws. Place the light switch inside the wall box and tighten the mounting screws with a Phillips screwdriver. Place the cover plate over the switch and secure it with the holding screws. Tighten those screws with a slotted screwdriver. Restore power and operate the light with the new switch.

Tips & Warnings

  • Do not perform your own electrical work unless you are trained or experienced in household electric wiring. Serious damages and injuries can occur when electric wires are not connected correctly.

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References

  • Photo Credit Lamp image by Ivan Zhupanov from Fotolia.com
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