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There is a wall sconce that I would like to buy, but it is a plug-in variety and there is no power outlet nearby (only an existing light fixture). Is it safe to cut off the plug and wire it directly to the junction box where the existing fixture is? How would I ground it?

If it's not safe / advisable, why not?

FWIW I live in a high-rise apartment in New York City.

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It's very difficult to answer this question without seeing the actual lamp. You may. or may not be able to do what you want. It all depends on the design of the lamp. Another option may be to convert the lighting outlet to a receptacle outlet, and simply plug the lamp in. –  Tester101 Jul 6 '13 at 13:45
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2 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Not safe, not advisable.

It would not pass an electrical inspection, because the wire is likely exposed for some distance (before it enters the box), and the wire composition (jacket) may not be rated for in-wall use. Another problem is the mechanical fastening (clamping) of a 2 wire cord into a junction box. Romex cable has a sheath, with wires that are identifiable as hot, neutral and ground wire, your configuration will not. You could easily connect the hot wire to the threaded part of the socket.

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What about pendant fixtures? the cord is exposed on those from the ceiling to the fixture. </devils_advocate> –  Tester101 Jul 6 '13 at 13:43
    
Much different cord, compared to 2 wire "zip" cording. Also has strain relief built into system, which I think is the weakest part of OP's plan –  HerrBag Jul 6 '13 at 16:50
    
Yes, zip cord is no good, but if the fixture were rewired with proper fixture wire, it's conceivable it could be done safely, depending on the design of the fixture. Still would not meet code, but could be safe, and in NYC? Whatsamadda-widdit? ;) –  bcworkz Jul 6 '13 at 21:10
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A better option might be to convert the lighting outlet to a receptacle outlet, and simply plug the lamp in.

If you have a square box in the wall/ceiling behind the current fixture, you can use a cover like this to convert the box.

Single gang device square box cover

If the box is octagonal, you'd use a cover like this...

Octagonal receptacle cover

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Devil's stylist: those covers would be seriously ugly in an area hosting a wall sconce. –  HerrBag Jul 6 '13 at 16:54
    
@HerrBag When you're talking about a corded sconce, style is probably not your main concern. –  Tester101 Jul 8 '13 at 11:47
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