As seen in the picture, I have a live junction box that is partially covered by a wall in a closet. There is no light in this closet, so would be a great opportunity to add one. Was thinking I could add a simple round ceramic pull cord fixture, but don't think it will work given the obstruction. Also, would be ideal, to somehow relocate the fixture (higher) given the box is only 5 feet off the ground. Thoughts?

UPDATE and FURTHER CLARITY: There is both BX wire (metal conduit containing hot/neutral) and NM going to the box with corresponding wires nutted. I'm not sure how responder is certain the ground wire is ungrounded, so that is first question. Other questions:

  • It looks like the BX armor is not in contact with the box, so ground would need to be the ground wire in the NM bundle?
  • Is there a way to add a light fixture to this box by perhaps cutting part of the drywall to allow to physically fit? Would this be a good idea? There would certainly be a bumping hazard.
  • As mentioned, ideally I would want to move the light above closet door or to the ceiling. I believe sufficient information has been provided to this end for now.
  • If I choose to simply cover, why does it need to be a metal cover? Added strength given it extends out from wall?

UPDATE #2: New picture attached showing wires heading to box.

UPDATE #3: For now, I have covered the box and will be adding a battery-powered light (if anything).

New picture light fixture box

  • It's not clear exactly what you're asking.
    – Tester101
    Apr 17, 2017 at 10:43
  • Can we have a clearer photo of the left-side wire entrance into the box? Apr 17, 2017 at 11:38
  • Can you pull the wire junction out from the box (with the circuit turned off of course) and take another photo please? Apr 18, 2017 at 11:43
  • Is there a stud in the wall to the immediate right of the box? Apr 22, 2017 at 23:58
  • Is the box surface mounted? Possibly 1/2" conduit in one of the ko's to the location you want.
    – Ed Beal
    Nov 28, 2017 at 18:10

2 Answers 2


I have three things to tell you.

  1. That can't possibly be a legal installation. Junction boxes must remain accessible and cannot be walled up. Even partially covering one like that is going to cause the inspector to plotz. Also, it's obviously a NM extension to a knob-and-tube circuit, which is no longer allowed in most venues. Plus, even if it's legal, you have an ungrounded fault ground wire and no place to ground it. Whatever that NM leads to may appear to be grounded which is a dangerous deception.

    The reason I think the NM ground wire is ungrounded is because I assume the power is coming into the box via the older cable, since newer cable is usually used to physically extend a circuit. However sometimes newer cable appears between the service panel and older cable, so OP should disconnect the hots and test with a volt meter.

  2. I am not a licensed electrician so my advice may raise some eyebrows. I think you can add a light to the closet without substantially increasing the danger to your home and person. Screw a metal hex box to the ceiling of the closet and mount the pullchain light on that. Connect the ceiling box to the existing box with plastic conduit, and pull two wires to connect the lamp to the wire nuts in the existing box.

    Use the proper fittings to connect the conduit to the boxes. You'll have to knock out one of the openings in the existing box. You may want to use larger wire nuts to accommodate the three wires. Try to figure out the gauge of the wires in the existing box and size your new wires to match them; this helps protect some future occupant who might plug a toaster into your light fixture.

    I would use a needle-nose pliers to wind that bare ground wire into a small coil, and wrap some tape around it to keep it from touching the metal box. This eliminates one way to get a shock if some appliance on that NM cable goes bad. Then, close up the existing box with a proper metal cover plate and try not to think about it.

  3. Many licensed electricians post answers and advice on this site. If they disagree with me, you should listen to them. I tend to give advice consonant with how I maintain my own house, and I may be taking more risks than you would be comfortable with.

  • I can't tell if it's K&T, old BX, or old cloth NM from the photo (hopefully the OP edits their post and provides a better one) Apr 17, 2017 at 11:39
  • @A. I. Breveleri Pretty good advice, however, pull chain socket lamp holders are generally shunned at because bare bulb incandescents are not allowed in closets. Granted A19 LEDs would be okay not all will use them.
    – Kris
    Apr 17, 2017 at 11:41
  • 1
    With the updated photo -- this is definitely old school BX (that needs to be fixed because it's terminated incorrectly), not K&T at all Apr 22, 2017 at 23:57
  • @ThreePhaseEel: Agree. Also it looks like the NM sheathed cable is not terminated properly either. And there's no room for the proper clamp, a stud is in the way. - I think there's no good way to fix this mess without a lot of carpentry. Apr 23, 2017 at 0:40
  • A raco insider could fix the clamp issue in both cases they attach from the inside and would be better than nothing , deff not k&t. I have seen retrofits that were 50% covered as long as the AHJ approves it could be legal but ugly.
    – Ed Beal
    Nov 28, 2017 at 18:17

That installation is totally unacceptable. However, all the drywall around the bad box is completely gored-up, and needs to be redone anyway.

So replace the octagon box with a steel 1-gang box, which there is room for. 5 wires (all grounds together count as 1) won't overfill a 1-gang steel box. Drywall it up, steel cover and you're done.

As far as installing a light, you cannot put a light there where it will be in contact with closet contents. I have nearly lost a house from clothing coming too close to an incandescent bulb, it's why I banned incandescents from my house in 1997 (wow 21 years).

  • Since you're drywalling anyway, you could install a ceiling octagon box properly (and keep this a 1-gang).
  • Or you could install the 1-gang here (install it flush); install a "surface conduit starter plate" which sticks out of the box a little bit; then run up the wall and ceiling with surface conduit such as wiremold, to a properly located surface mounted junction box, and a fixture on the box. Please use fluorescent (tube/ballast, not awful CFLs) or ideally an integral LED fixture where there's no bulb to replace. (don't want the tenant unscrewing the LED, screwing in an incandescent, contacting clothing and burning the place down.)

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