we just moved in to a new apt in New Jersey and the previous tenant had this really nice string light fixture with colorful lampshades etc (pictured below). Unfortunately, he took them with him when he left. My girlfriend and I want to DIY a light fixture that is essentially string lights wrapped and hanging from a wood beam that will be hung from the ceiling. However, the issue is all the lights she bought are traditional plugs that you would plug into a wall outlet.

I keep getting so many different answers on the right way/wrong way and complexity of turning the hardwired into an outlet so we can run an extension cord from the ceiling down to a surge protector which will be hidden on the beam and used to plug in the 4-5 string lights she has

here is what the outlet looks like. I'm wondering how complicated this is, what I would need to do it and if its something better left to an electrician.

thanky you so much in advancethis is what the lights used to look likethis is what we're trying to emulatethis is what the fixture currently looks like[3][3]

  • Hello, and welcome to Home Improvement. I'm no authority, but my guess is that You Can't Do That Legally. And, you should probably take our tour so you'll know you'll know the details of contributing here. Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 19:51
  • I read the tour - was there something specific that I did wrong? Also, def haven't been told about a legal issue so that's not even on my radar. what would be illegal about that?
    – Waleed Aly
    Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 19:54
  • if you get a socket installed, you can (afaik) legally use a socket-to-plug adapter to plug in a power strip that all your single-head "portable lamps" (in UL terms) plug into.
    – dandavis
    Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 20:41
  • What's the distance between opposite sides of that octagon box? Commented Aug 10, 2020 at 22:48
  • @WaleedAly You did nothing wrong; the tour is just a good way of filling in the details. (Is there a better way I could have said it, without unintentionally implying "you screwed up"? Honestly curious...) Commented Aug 11, 2020 at 1:56

1 Answer 1


Judging by the photos and your explanation, it shouldn't be a complicated job but there are a few things to take into consideration:

  1. Local code compliance in New Jersey and your county/city - something I'm not familiar with.

  2. How well you can make wire connections yourself. I've seen many DIYers and "electricians" wire connections and they were varying levels of "lucky nothing happened yet" to "lucky only this part burned when you called me".

If you're confident in your wire connections lasting for 50 years+, its basically installing an outlet with a plate that fits that 4-O box (my trade slang for what I assume is in the picture). It should be properly grounded to be up to national code, so you'll need to know how to check for that. The pipe may already be the ground for it.

I'd hire an electrician for something like this because you get their expert knowledge/skills and its probably a couple hours at the most. Could be less than an hour if you have all the infrastructure in place minus the outlet/plate. To save a few bucks, you could always install the fixture yourself since you just need to plug it in.

If you do do this, here are some options/ideas:

You could use plates like these (for example): enter image description here https://images.homedepot-static.com/productImages/e888bbe3-2fa2-40e3-8112-08feb4fa3864/svn/brown-leviton-electrical-outlets-receptacles-5059-64_1000.jpg

You need to identify which wire is the switch leg and connect that to the hot screw. The neutral would go on the neutral screw. If you have a solid ground path through the pipe, you could use the ground screw in the threaded hole in the box. Otherwise, you would need to run a ground wire back to the closest ground source to make it properly grounded.

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