I'm planning a diy rewiring of my 1914 2 story. All the upstairs bedrooms (3) have wall sconces with small switches in the fixtures. These sconces are the only light fixtures in the room. The entire upper story has decades old, brittle, single conductor fabric wire; and no fixture boxes - I want to add both.

If I run new 14/2 plus ground and add cut in boxes, I believe the entire circuit will need repaired to modern code (as far as I can tell we're still NEC 2014 here with a small page of state additions.

210.70 says each light fixture in a dwelling needs a wall switch. Does the switch built in to the fixture count, or will I have to cut in normal switch boxes and connect them to the fixtures?

  • Located in Ohio, United States
    – nexus_2006
    Jul 23, 2018 at 13:13
  • Is this fabric wire run as K&T or in conduit? Jul 23, 2018 at 22:18
  • 1
    Well, according to the inspector and the insurance Co, the k&t is all gone, but it's the exact same kind of wire that went in k&t, and I'm pretty sure the upstairs has never been redone, so I'm confident to say there is "likely" k&t in the walls, just not anywhere visible. In any case, it's definitely not in conduit. I looked behind a floor box once, and could see the wire just hanging down the inside of the adjacent wall 😬
    – nexus_2006
    Jul 23, 2018 at 22:58
  • K&T is harmless, especially after you put an AFCI breaker on it. Not each light fixture, but merely one light fixture per room must be controlled by a wall switch in the expected places. So for instance you could leave the sconces just as they are, add a ceiling light and control that off the wall switch. Jul 24, 2018 at 0:32

1 Answer 1


The lighting outlet needs to be wall-switched in a finished room

NEC 210.70(A)(1) states (sans irrelevant exceptions):

(1) Habitable Rooms. At least one wall switch-controlled lighting outlet shall be installed in every habitable room and bathroom.

The "wall switch-controlled" part is easy enough: it means that there needs to be a switch on the wall (located as per Article 404 and other criteria) that turns a lighting outlet in the room on and off (it can be a dimmer, smart-switch, or occupancy sensor, provided there is a wall control that can switch the outlet manually).

However, the key here lies in the NEC's definition of the term "outlet", for which we turn to Article 100 (aka the NEC's glossary):

Outlet. A point on the wiring system at which current is taken to supply utilization equipment.

From this, we can tell that the lighting outlet in question needs to be switched before it ever gets to the utilization equipment (luminaire, in our case). As a result, the built-in switch on the existing luminaires is no good for this job. Besides, making it so that you have wall switches in the conventional places will make everyone happier, especially your houseguests.

If you wish to keep the sconces...

There is a way you can keep the sconces, though -- you can make it so the wall-switched lighting outlet powers a different lighting outlet/light fixture (on the ceiling, preferably, although putting it on another wall will work too). That way, the new fixture becomes the primary source of light for the room, and the sconces can be kept the way they are (save for being mounted to boxes and connected to modern wiring) as accent pieces.

  • Especially your First Responders. EMT trying to intubate you, firewoman trying to clear the room, SWAT team about to shoot your son if they can't see that's just a computer mouse. Those people need to see, so make light switches always work and be incapable of not working. So no switches on the light, no lampless rooms with switched receptacles (always in a terrible position for a room light), etc. Jul 24, 2018 at 0:24
  • Thank you. Your exact quote makes it clear what needs to happen. Perhaps I should buy a copy of the actual code.
    – nexus_2006
    Jul 24, 2018 at 0:25

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