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Question DetailsAsked on 4/20/2016

My house was built in 1993. I have 2 wall lights over vanity . There is no electrical boxes in wall.

Do I need to place electrical boxes before installing the new lights? It has been this way for 22 years. Just the romex is coming out of wall that was connected to the lights. If so what do I use the round one or the square one. The new fixture has a round wall plate.

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2 Answers


By code, frequently depends on your local code. Generally, on new construction or remodels you have to use electrical boxes for all connections for surface-mount (as opposed to can or trougher lighting which can generally be wired direct with the wire only because it is ALL contained in the wall or ceiling), and some areas (wisely in my opinion) they require the boxes be metal so they can be grounded and are fire resistive. Metal ones screwed or nailed to the studs are also FAR more stable than retrofit or remodel boxes with their rinky dink clamps that hoild it in using only weak brackeets grabbing the drywall - though those are technically not legal to support a light fixture, only for outlets. But some light fixtures are rated for interior wiring connections and are legal in some areas just pulling the cable into the back of the fixture - but the wiring connection has to be totally enclosed in metal, not wired and just tucked in under the fixcture base against the drywall.

Certainly if DIY unlikely anyone will know if you did not put in a box.

If electrician is doing it then if it requires a box he will put it in - about 5-10 minutes and $5 parts or so per box, in addition to the light fixture remove and replace, so no big thing unless you are unlucky enough to be in a place where the studs are too close together to fit a box in.

Generally, for lights you use a round or octagonal box (both generally fit normal round fixture bases, commonly come in 3-1/2, 4, 4-1/8, 5, 5-1/2, and 6 inch dimensions) - of course making sure the box with its wall opening is not as large as the base of the fixture so the base covers the opening in the wall, and that either the box fits the fixture mounting screws or you have an adapter bar or face plate (which goes across mounting screws in box and has other holes for the fixture screws to go into) to mount it.

Note the boxes come in commonly 2-3/8" and 4" depths - the former for tail end wiring (wire comes in for that fixture only, no outgoing wire to another destination), the latter for use as a junction box also. Some areas allow the shallow boxes if only tapping into a single circuit for the fixture at the box, other require the 4" deep box if there is more than one wire entering the box - so for instance if circuit romex comes into box and is wire nutted to both the pigtails to the light fixture and to an outgoing romex heading to another location.

And if DIY'ing, be sure to leave enough light fixture wire exposed to warp the incoming and outgoing circuit wires if wire nutting with two - putting a small-gauge lighting wire (usually stranded) in between two solid copper wires without wrapping around one of them (and only one) is asking for the wire to overheat or to slip out from the wire nut because it can sit in the crevice between the two solid wires and not be tightly secured. I tighten the twist on the stranded wire first, then twist around one of the copper wires (if joining with two), insert into the wire nut with the stranded wire sticking out 1/8" or so further than the copper ones, hold all tight and tighten the wire nut. Some people pre-twist the wires together bfore wire nutting - generally the wire nut manufacturer does not recommend that, though neither do they generally say don't either. But just sticking loose twiste3d or untwisted stranded wire into a wire nut with a solid wire is asking for the stranded to end up all balled up and not properly in contact or safely held. Also - some come this way on higher quality lights, but pre-tinning the stranded wire or soldering it to the solid before wire nutting gives a much better connection too, though not commonly done (the soldering to the solid wire).

Also - do not be tempted to cut the fixture leads too short - causes damage when maneuvering the fixture on and off - there is nothing wrong (in mist fixtures with space) in taking a loop or two of the extra fixture wire inside the base - this allows you to hold the fixture a bit away from the wall when wiring rather than trying to wire up with the fixcture in close proximity to the wall.

Your instructions, if brand new lights, should tell you the box size(s) it will fit, and look inside - commonly they provide an adapter plate to fit common size (usually 4 or 5 inch) round and octagonal boxes.

I would wonder, if you have no box there now, what is holding the existing fixtures up - because usually they screw into holes in the box for mounting.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD


A standard 4' fluourescant ceiling mounted fixture is an example of a fixture that does not require an outlet box. Under-cabinet lights are another example. The cable enters an enclosed metal wiring area in the fixture. A clamp connector secures the cable to the fixture at the entry point. If there was a cable clamp and an enclosed wiring area then the fixture probably did not require an outlet box.

Answered 4 years ago by Kestrel Electric

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