How to Hook a Lamp to a Lightswitch

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Power your lamp from a light switch.
Power your lamp from a light switch. (Image: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

When you plug a lamp into an electrical outlet, you will need to turn it on and off with the built-in switch, unless you perform some electrical work to wire the outlet with a light switch. Doing so will give you the power to turn the lamp on and off with the light switch. Wiring your light switch and your outlet together make it convenient to turn a lamp on when you enter a room and off when you leave. This basic wiring project requires no electrical experience.

Things You'll Need

  • Circuit tester
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Wire cutters/strippers
  • 14-gauge black wire
  • 14-gauge white wire
  • Pliers
  • Drill
  • 1-inch boring bit
  • Fish tape
  • Wire nuts

Turn off power to the light switch and outlet from the main power source. Check that no power runs through the electrical wires leading to either the switch or outlet using a circuit tester.

Unscrew and remove the screws that hold the light switch and outlet cover plates in place, using a Phillips screwdriver. Place the covers and screws in a safe place so you can use them again.

Unscrew the screws holding the outlet and light switch in their electrical boxes. Put these screws in a safe place. Pull the outlet and light switch away from the wall.

Cut a 6-inch-long piece from both the 14-gauge black wire and 14-gauge white wire (these short pieces are called pigtails). Strip 1/2 inch off both ends of both pigtail wires. Bend one end of each wire into a U shape with pliers. Loosen the two screws on the switch's side and remove the existing black and white wires.

Wrap the bent end of one pigtail wire around one screw and tighten the screw. Wrap the bent end of the other pigtail wire around the other screw and tighten it. If your switch already has pigtail wires and wire nuts holding connections together, leave the pigtails in place and unscrew the wire nuts.

Decide if you will run the electrical wiring through the attic or basement. Go to this location and find the wall stud cavities which house the switch and outlet. Drill a 1-inch hole, using a drill and boring bit, through the top plate (if you are in the attic) or the bottom plate (if you are in the basement).

Send a fish tape through the hole leading to the switch's cavity. Lead the fish tape out of the electrical box about 6 inches; you may need a friend to help guide it. Go to the fish tape's hooked end and wrap 14-gauge black wire and 14-gauge white wire around the end. Go back to the fish tape reel and reel it in to pull the wires through the cavity.

Bring the wires over to the hole leading to the outlet's wall cavity. Unwrap the wires from the fish tape's hook and take the fish tape to the outlet. Send the hooked end into the electrical box and over to where the electrical wires wait. Go back to the electrical wires and wrap them around the fish tape's hook. Return to the fish tape's reel and reel the wires through the outlet's electrical box. The wires now run from the switch to the outlet.

Cut a 6-inch-long pigtail wire from both the black wires, unless the outlet already has a pigtail. Strip 1/2 inch off the end and bend one end into a U shape. Loosen the screw holding the old black wire, coming from the power source, on the outlet's side. Remove the black wire wrapped around the screws and wrap the black pigtail's end around it. Tighten the screw to hold it in place.

Cut off the stripped end of the old black and white wires and strip 1/2 inch of wire coating off. Strip 1/2 inch of rubber coating off the black and white wires you pulled to the outlet. Hold the old black wire's end together with the black pigtail wire and the newly run white wire. Twist a wire nut over the wires.

Bend the newly run black wire's end into a U shape. Loosen an unoccupied screw on the outlet's side and wrap the wire around it, then tighten the screw. Remember if this screw is on the top or bottom because this correlates to which receptacle the switch powers. The outlet should now have two black wires and one white wire attached to it. Locate the brass tab on the outlet's side. Bend it back and forth with your fingers until it breaks off.

Return to the switch. Cut the newly run black and white wires so there are 6 inches extending into the switch's electrical box and strip 1/2 inch off each end. Hold the black wire's end together with any existing black wires' ends and twist a wire nut over them. Repeat with the white wire. The switch should now have black and white pigtail wires connected to it.

Push the switch and outlet back into their electrical boxes. Secure them in place with the screws you removed in Step 3. Put the covers over the switch and outlet and secure them in place with the screws you removed in Step 2. Plug the lamp into the proper receptacle in the outlet and turn its switch to the "on" position. Restore power to the switch and outlet. Turn the switch on and the lamp should turn on.

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