Imagine one of those 4ft led shop lights with a 6 foot plug-in cable that you can get from anywhere. If you had a basement with finished walls and floors but an unfinished ceiling with electrical outlets up between the joists you could simply hang the light where you want and plug it in and you're good to go, right?

Ok, so now imagine you want to do the same thing but instead of that 4ft shop light you want to use recessed light housings or retrofit kits. Rather than hardwire the housing or jbox though I would wire them up with 12 ft cords with plugs. This way I can mount the housing/retrofit wherever I want and simply plug it in like any other hanging lamp, right? Or no?

The reason why is that due to the size, shape, and ducts/obstructions in my basement it's not very clear how many lights I would need nor where they should be placed for best coverage. However if I can move the boxes around and simply plug them in then I can start with a reasonable best guess and then expand the system or relocate individual lights as needed.

  • Are you planning on converting the lights to hardwired installation once you're done figuring out where they need to go? Jan 23, 2021 at 1:34
  • No, I'd be permanently wiring replacement power cords to the housings or canless jboxes in order to turn them into, effectively, really ugly plug-in lamps. Jan 24, 2021 at 19:10
  • Do you plan to put drywall up, or leave the ceiling unfinished? Jan 24, 2021 at 19:13
  • The ceiling will remain unfinished and exposed but with the joists, ducts, and everything all painted black, as is the current trend. The walls and floors will be properly finished though so whether this counts as a finished or unfinished space I'm not entirely certain. Jan 24, 2021 at 22:27
  • You'd be smarter to wire them as normal and leave some slack in the cable. You're making work that you'll need to undo if you finish the ceiling.
    – isherwood
    Jan 26, 2021 at 14:56

1 Answer 1


The NEC doesn't care what type of light fixture you cord-connect as long as you aren't burying the cord

The NEC's provisions for using cord-and-plug connections for light fixtures (luminaires) don't discriminate between luminaire types. So, as long as you are using correct clamps in the fixture knockouts to strain-relief the cord to the box, mounting the fixtures securely so they don't strain the cord, and leaving the ceiling unfinished, you should be good to go. Just keep in mind that if you ever do decide to finish the ceiling, you'll have to swap the cords and receptacles out for ½" KO face plates and fixture whips.

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