Okay, I would need to know how to put in a 120volt pull switch light fixture in my pantry closet. I do have a GFI outlet that is near my pantry and pretty much the closest power source. (See photo) I'm seeing a black(hot) white (neutral) green(ground) and I see a RED wire from one of the bundles in the box. Then I see 2 other bundle wiring sets that looks like is pigtailed going to the other parts of the house? From what I could tell, the GFI is interconnected with other outlets around my living space- in other words when I pushed reset all the other outlets near me turned off. Though I am not at all familiar with red wiring? Could I have someone here tell me or draw me a diagram of how I would wire my light fixture to this GFI please? I know the VERY basics of electrical work, so the better detail you can describe for me the better it is for me to understand 👍

electrical box

  • Aside: don't ever use backstab connections, not even with GFCI outlets. They are prone to coming loose. Always use the screw connectors on the sides, looping the wire around the direction it turns (clockwise) and hand-tighten as tight as it will go. Then wrap the sides of the outlet or switch in electrical tape to prevent the contacts from shorting to ground in case the ground wire comes in contact with exposed metal.
    – user4302
    Mar 31 '17 at 5:05
  • 4
    @Snowman you'll find much agreement here. However, since the screw heads are all the way down and the back holes are under them, good chance those are screw-and-clamp types, which are perfectly fine. These appear on better $3 receptacles and up. The difference: handymanhowto.com/electrical-outlets-side-wire-versus-back-wire Mar 31 '17 at 5:18
  • If you placed a switch at the GFCI, would it be convenient? Also, are you comfortable with cutting a section of the drywall to replace the current box with a larger one (to house the GFCI and a switch)?
    – Hari Ganti
    Apr 30 '18 at 18:06
  • Also, can you maybe draw a diagram of the wire connections in the box? I'm a little confused why there is a pigtail for the black wires (feeding the GFCI), but no corresponding pigtail for the neutral on the line side.
    – Hari Ganti
    Apr 30 '18 at 18:13

To wire up a pull string light switch you basically just need to bring "hot all the time" power to it. The same sort of unswitched power you bring most plugs in your house. The pull cord on the light will act as the "light switch". So you just need a black (hot all the time) wire and a neutral (right back to the panel) wire.

Looking at your GFCI you will notice you have it right there. Your GFCI will be labelled LINE and LOAD on the back of the plug on the plastic. Whatever wire nut the black and white wires go to on the LINE side of the GFCI is where you want to attach your black and white wires going up to your light.

So in review. Take a 14/2 wire, run it from your GFCI box up to your octagon box for your pull string light. On your lamp base put the black wire on a copper screw and the white wire on the silver looking screw. In the GFCI box, look at where your white and black wires coming off the LINE side of your GFCI are going (to what wire nut). Attach your black wire from the octagon box to the wire nut the black wire from the LINE of the GFCI went, and your white wire from the octagonal box to wire nut the white wire went from your LINE of the GFCI.

And don't worry about the red wires for now....


I advise you to wire the pantry light to a wall switch rather than a pull chain. The wall switch is unbelievably quicker and more convenient to operate. Every time you open the pantry you will regret having that pull cord to operate.

As an aside, we had three Leviton (made in China) pull chain ceramic fixtures installed by an electrician--one in a pantry and two in a washer/dryer alcove. I thought I was saving money by simplifying the wiring, but this was a big mistake. A wall switch is a wonderfully convenient and rugged means for controlling a light.

All three pull chain fixtures failed due to failure of the switch. Four other pull chain fixtures (bought at the same time and place and so presumably from the same lot) also failed. These four were in the kitchen, controlled by a wall switch and were hardly ever operated with the pull chain, but still failed.

I replaced all seven myself with Cooper equivalent and have had no trouble since, but this has made me wary of these pull chain lamp bases. I had never put in a wall switch (and still haven't) and it seemed to me to be a lot of trouble compared to putting in a single cable to the ceiling box, but I now think it is trouble well worth taking.

Thirty-five years ago I installed three heavy old Hunter fans and likewise did not wire them to wall switches. After 25 years the pull chain switch on one failed and I replaced it.

Edit It looks to me from your picture that you have 12 AWG wire at the GFCI receptacle and this circuit is probably protected by a 20-A breaker in the panel. If so, you are going to have to use 12 AWG wire to the light fixture and to any switch.

The box with the GFCI receptacle appears to be quite full already. To have another wire in it may overfill it. You might have to replace the GFCI receptacle with a standard one which occupies less space. If so, you may be able to switch the GFCI receptacle with one in an upstream location, or you may have to remove the GFCI receptacle and protect the circuit with a GFCI breaker.

Edit #2 Wiring to a switch is simple. Cutting into drywall and fishing a wire into an open hole in the drywall at the height of a wall switch is easy. Putting the wire into a so called "old work" box and putting that box in the hole is easy. What would be harder (for me anyway) would be to get a cable from the wall receptacle up to the light fixture. If you can do that, you can easily do all the rest necessary to wire a wall switch.

  • thank you for the helpful advice. I was thinking about putting a wall switch instead of the pull string but I wasn't really sure how to wire the switch to the GFI, plus wouldn't I have to open additional drywall to run the switch as well?
    – kozmo
    Mar 31 '17 at 11:58
  • If you decide you want to think about wiring the light through a wall switch, you could definitely get someone on this site to explain what would be required over just wiring to a pull chain base. Mar 31 '17 at 12:01
  • I had previously added two 20-A circuits (#12 wire) and had put boxes in the accessible attic of our one story house for future splices. This was easy because my panel is in the garage and I could remove the drywall over the panel. Hence to get power for my three ceiling fixtures all the electrician had to do was run a cable from one of these boxes in the attic. He did not have to fish a cable into an existing wall receptacle. If you have room in your panel, you might consider putting in a new circuit which could be either a 15-A with #14 wire or a 20-A with #12. Mar 31 '17 at 22:23
  • Those pull-chain fixtures cost $2, so I don't worry too much about them failing. Dec 18 '19 at 9:15

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.