I am remodeling my basement, currently I have 5 light fixtures and each one has its own switch. I would like to make it so when I turn on the switch at the bottom of the stairs all the lights turn on. I would also like to add several more light fixtures. I am new to electrical work. I have a solid background with framing and drywall. The basement is not finished so I have great access to all ceiling joints and current fixtures. I have been reading online about 2 wire nm. I am curious though how you run wire to one fixture, hook it up, and then run the wire to the next fixture.

  • 3
    @Tester101, if you're never a beginner, how are you ever going to begin? Jun 28, 2012 at 18:43
  • 4
    @ArgentoSapiens If you're a "beginner" Electrician, you're an Apprentice and you're trained by a Master Electrician. Or at the very least, you have somebody who knows what they are doing watch over you.
    – Tester101
    Jun 28, 2012 at 18:51
  • 1
    @ArgentoSapiens the beginner who needs to ask such questions ought to practice with a book rather than with a house.
    – Matthew
    Jan 24, 2013 at 17:55
  • @MatthewPK, that's a more reasonable response than "call an electrician." Thank you. Jan 24, 2013 at 18:17
  • @ArgentoSapiens I disagree. If the question is "how should I accomplish this task", with "should" being the operative word, this user should call an electrician. Perhaps that won't always be the case, but I think based on what I read so far that today it is true.
    – Matthew
    Jan 24, 2013 at 19:32

3 Answers 3


Basically, you want to start with a switch. You run a black and white wire in from the bottom of the switch box (from the panel). This will take the form of 12/2 or 14/2 cable. You run another 12/2 or 14/2 cable from the top of the switch box to the first light. You connect the black wire to the switch. You connect the 2 white wires together, and then connect the other terminal on the switch to the black wire of the cable leaving this junction box towards the first light. The ground wire should also be connected together in this manner, but to the ground terminal on the switch. Each light will have a cable "entering" (from the switch) and "exiting" (away from the switch). At each light you'll connect the entering and exiting black wires together, as well as 1 terminal on the light. Do the same with the white wires. If there is a ground terminal on the light, do that as well, otherwise just connect the incoming and outgoing ground wires together. At the last light, just connect the incoming black wire to 1 terminal on the light, and then connect the white wire to the other one. This method is called wiring in parallel, so if one light blows, the current can still continue to the other lights to light them up.

Some other things to be aware of:

Most home wiring is either 12 or 14 gauge, corresponding to either a 20 amp or a 15 amp circuit, respectively. The maximum "design capacity" is 80% of that. Let's say you're using a 20 amp breaker with 12 gauge wire. This circuit should run at no more than 16 amps. Let's assume you're using 100 watt bulbs at 120 volts. Using watts/volts = amps, for 600 watts/120 volts = 5 amps. So this would work fine on a 15 amp breaker, depending on what else is on that circuit. http://www.thecircuitdetective.com/ is also a superb reference for novice electricians to get an idea of how things work.

Something like this is what you're looking for the end result to be:

enter image description here

  • 5
    How do you determine how many lights you can connect to a single circuit? How do you determine which size wire to use? Which way do you wrap the wire around the screw terminals? Do you have to connect the ground wire to the junction boxes, and if so how do you do that? How do you secure the cable between and at boxes? How much wire should be exposed inside the junction box? How do you protect the cable from physical damage? What do you do if a stud/joist is in your way when you're running the cable?
    – Tester101
    Jun 28, 2012 at 0:04
  • 5
    @Tester101 42. Green. 7. Depends. No. Purple. Aaron's answer isn't bad, but Tester101 has a point, which is that you need a competent electrician watching you, correcting any mistakes you might make. You should probably take a course on residential wiring to get your feet wet, and then you'll have a much better understanding of how it works and learn some of the do's and don'ts. Electrical work can be unforgiving.
    – Michael
    Jun 28, 2012 at 6:29
  • Thank you for the schematic and detailed instructions. Just added 4 ceiling fixtures to my basement and successfully connected them to a single switch, which I had to relocate as the old one was behind the door (really). Simple once you understand how the connection should be made, which is why this is a great reference. As for the comment above: I agree that simple things like these can be done safely with someone with half a brain. After all it is my house and can't afford having an electrician come over to do something I can do myself and leaving me with a huge bill. However the concern I h
    – user51103
    Mar 6, 2016 at 19:30

Instead of needing to do electrical work there are power strips that have a wireless remote controls. Belkin creates the product and they are sold at Office Depot or Staples.

Belkin Description:

Control Standby Power to Your Whole Electronic Systems.
Now you can control power to your whole electronic systems with a single click. The Conserve Switch AV Surge Protector with Remote lets you shut off power—including standby power—to all your entertainment electronics with one touch of the wireless remote switch.

One-Click Control.
The wireless remote controls six Remote-Switched outlets for all your entertainment components—your TV, DVD player, VCR, gaming console and more. Two Always-On outlets stay on for devices that need continuous power, like your DVR. Place the remote on a table or shelf, or mount it on the wall, for the convenient way to save energy.

  • 2
    Light fixtures don't plug in with power bars.
    – gregmac
    Jan 24, 2013 at 22:30

As a beginner myself, using a book, an electrician friend for advice, great caution and 1/2 brain, I wired a complete panel in my home, added garage lighting and several other circuits for appliances. I saved myself thousands of $ at the rate of $80-90 per hr electricians in our area. Electricians went through much training and OJT in order to become licensed. But like anyone in a trade that took much training, we often feel self inflated and feel that no one else can or should do our work unless they go through the same. But the bottom line is, if its your home electrify away and don't worry about possessive electricians. Just do it safely in order to protect yourself, family, others and property. For the simple stuff like wiring a planel and adding circuits for switches/outlets its a breeze. Save yourself much money if your state allows you to do it on your own.

  • 1
    Hello, and welcome to Stack Exchange. You're being a bit breezy about the dangers involved in doing your own wiring. People have burned their houses down as well as losing their loved ones because they weren't competent electricians. I'm not saying only formally trained electricians should do electrical work, but it certainly isn't for everyone. Dec 2, 2015 at 0:41

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