Rewiring antique gas lamps from the mid-19th century can be daunting, but with some caution and the right materials, it can be done safely to bring these fixtures up to modern electrical standards. As the owner of a historical homestead, I wanted to retain the original fixtures while making them usable and up to code.

Through trial and error, I learned how to rewire my gas lamp fixtures without burning down my precious homestead. In this article, I will walk through the complete process I followed to avoid disasters and end up with beautiful, functional antique lamps powered by electricity.

Assessing Your Fixtures

Before beginning any electrical project, safety should be the top priority. Take some time to carefully inspect the gas lamp fixtures you want to rewire.

If the fixtures seem too deteriorated or dangerous to work on, replacement reproduction lamps modeled after antiques may be a better option.

Gathering Your Materials

Rewiring old gas lamps requires a few special supplies you may not have on hand:

Do not start this project until you have all necessary supplies ready. Attempting to rewire a gas lamp using incorrect or inadequate materials could be unsafe.

Removing the Fixtures

With your safety gear and supplies on hand, it's time to get to work:

  1. Turn off the gas supply valve for the lamps. Even if disconnected long ago, take this precaution.

  2. Remove any gas lines or capped pipes attached to the fixtures using the proper size wrench. Place a tray under them to catch any residual gas.

  3. Detach the lamp from the ceiling or wall mount. Place them gently on a soft surface like a blanket or rug.

  4. Inspect the newly exposed mount locations for problems before continuing. Look for cracked plaster, damaged wires, signs of critters, etc.

If you come across any hazards in the exposed fixture location, stop work until they can be corrected. Your safety takes priority over antique lighting.

Rewiring the Fixtures

With the lamps detached, the real rewiring work can begin:

  1. Remove old wiring: Carefully pull out any rotten old cloth wiring. Snip it if needed to free the lamp of the old wires.

  2. Clean connections: Use a wire brush and/or sandpaper to clean the screw terminals and contacts where wiring will attach. Remove rust and corrosion.

  3. Install new wiring: Thread the new lamp cord through the strain relief, leaving 6" of wire free on both ends. Attach wires to the terminals, matching polarity.

  4. Affix strain relief: Tighten the strain relief over the lamp cord until snug. This prevents pulling and damage to the wires.

  5. Seal gaps: Place plumber's putty or silicone around the cord where it enters the lamp base. Sealing prevents drafts from blowing out the bulb.

  6. Test circuit: With the lamps still detached from mounts, plug them in to test the new wiring. Check that the sockets are live.

Follow this process carefully for each gas lamp fixture you are rewiring. Rushing through the steps or missing any could lead to unsafe conditions.

Hanging and Testing the Lamps

You're nearing the home stretch once the new wiring is installed in the fixtures. Now it's time to hang them up and perform final checks:

Take your time during the testing phase and fix any problems immediately. Rushing through this final step could overlook hazards that come up under live power.


While rewiring old gas lamps requires patience and care, it can be done safely with the right approach. Always put safety first by using adequate materials, wearing protective gear, and addressing any issues promptly.

The result of this project will be historically accurate lighting that retains the antique style with modern functionality. Just be sure to follow codes and have a professional electrician handle any complex wiring.

With my homestead's 1850s gas lamps now updated with electrical wiring, I can finally use these ornate fixtures again without fear of burning down the place! The warm glow they cast is the perfect historical touch.

Let me know if you have any other questions about rewiring antique gas lamps. I'm happy to provide tips from my experience to help fellow vintage homesteaders complete their projects safely.