EDIT: I'm rephrasing the question, as it seems the original was unsafe. If I install a light box in the ceiling (both to mount the fixture to, and to make the connections between fixture wires and extension cord wires), would it be safe to then run the cord from the junction box, through the crawl space, and the plug it into and electrical outlet? If not, how can I accomplish the task of getting a light fixture to be controlled by the switch (which controls power to one of the outlets)?

Original post below:

I'm currently in a rental unit. The bedroom is in a loft upstairs, with a vaulted ceiling, and surrounded by a crawl space. Currently, there is no light fixture in the bedroom, though a few of the wall outlets can be operated by a light switch.

I've bought a light fixture (a simple 5 pendant track light),and I'm hoping to attach it to the ceiling, run the wire down the vaulted ceiling (from my understanding, I can just find a 3-prong extension cord and cut off the one end, yeah?), then out through one of the crawlspace doors, and finally plug it in to one of the light-switch operated outlets.

My question is - is this safe? I'm sure wiring the fixture to an outlet is safe, but I'm not sure about attaching the fixture to the ceiling. the back plate would need to be screwed directly into the drywall and possibly a stud if i can find it, since there is not light box, and I don't want to cut out a large amount of drywall to add one (being so it is a rental, though 2 screws / 1 wire hole should be fine).

Is there a risk of fire from doing this? One of the ground wires is attached to the backplate I believe. Will this be a problem seeing as with no light box, the backplate wouldn't be grounded to anything metal?

  • 2
    Where are you on this planet? Sep 3, 2016 at 19:46
  • 1
    Attaching the fixture to the ceiling is probably okay. Using a modified extension cord, and making splices outside of a box, not so good.
    – Tester101
    Sep 3, 2016 at 20:35
  • 1
    Permanent installations are not allowed to be cord connected. Track lights would be considered permanent.
    – Ed Beal
    Sep 3, 2016 at 20:35
  • @Tester101 Hm. I thought THAT part was at least fairly straight forward; Googling "plugging light fixture into outlet" yields a ton of results with DIYs explains how to. Is there a reason this is a bad idea? How can I accomplish safely having a light-switch-enabled fixture, given the setup I've explained?
    – GtwoK
    Sep 3, 2016 at 20:59
  • 1
    @GtwoK you can do whatever you like, but it's not code compliant, nor safe. If you want to do it right, you'll use proper wiring methods to accomplish the task.
    – Tester101
    Sep 3, 2016 at 21:01

2 Answers 2


Generally this is made of "Nope".

You hope to use flexible cordage.

Cordage needs to be correct for the task. A random extension cord won't cut it - believe me, I've struggled a lot to find longer cords I can put on 4' fluorescent fixtures. (I don't want to splice plugs on them, I want premade plugs).

Cordage needs to have proper grommeting/strain relief anytime it enters or exits a listed electrical box.

You can't attach cordage to walls. You might be able to run it through surface mount conduit.

You definitely can't route cordage through a doorway, whether there's a door or not.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, use of cordage is not strictly prohibited. It's fine for the short jumper between a lamp properly physically mounted, and a nearby outlet which has been installed for that purpose. In fact, look "up" in a CostCo ceiling and you'll see a lot of that.

Maybe you should ask your landlord to install just that.

Speaking of that... The lamp needs to be properly hung from the ceiling. "any old way" won't do, it must be hung by a UL listed method. That is because if the lamp falls down, it will tear out its cordage, which will start a house fire or electrocute someone.

The home was provisioned to you with switched outlets along the floor. The purpose for those outlets is to plug in floor lamps. That is the right way to light the room.

If you like ceiling light... remember the terrible old halogen torchiere lights which stood 6' tall and had a 500W halogen bulb lighting the ceiling (which started fires)? Those were brought to market for this very problem. The good news is, today, you should be able to find modern LED versions that are maybe 30-50 watts.

Unless you investigate house fires for a living, you can't go with your own intuition of "safe". People who do... have written a big book. It's called the National Electrical Code.

The book is the reference standard used by insurance agents, prosecutors and judges. When a tenant violates Code, he creates a very ugly liability situation because the home insurer won't pay the landlord for the fire loss, leaving him to go after you. After you deal with the criminal justice system, you file bankruptcy to shake off the civil debt, and get a big surprise.

As a landlord I might be mellow about an alteration that was to code. But if not, I'd call the building inspector in, and he'd condemn the house and you'd be out. This method overrides rent control, 30 day notices and the like.


Be safe, if you are installing one of those pull chain sockets using an extension cord wire, it must be attached to a box outside of the wall, not in it, otherwise its considered permanent. Don't use metal staples to run your wire on the ceiling, you can use tape, or the proper plastic coated staples. And don't use anything other than an led, or fluorescent bulb. Don't run extension cords through your walls or attic! - Well, unless you've got a pot operation going, and those guys know to use heavy duty wires.

Oh, and this quoted from Harper " When a tenant violates Code, he creates a very ugly liability situation because the home insurer won't pay the landlord for the fire loss, leaving him to go after you."

True, but they would have to prove that it was your wiring that caused the fire. But yah, the more you violate the code all around your house, the greater the chances of something happening. But it could be one idiotic mistake...

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