11 Steps Needed to Change a Light Switch

Now for a shocking experience! Sorry, I couldn’t help myself with that pun. It is really easy to change a light switch. Luckily, my father showed me how to do it many years ago. The total time commitment is maybe 15 – 20 minutes. I live in a metropolitan area, and I doubt I could find a certified electrician to do the job. They are only interested in big jobs with big payouts. That means I’d have to do it myself. As with any electrical repair, safety must be your first concern

Step 1: Turn off the power to the switch at the main circuit breaker or fuse box. If you have a helper, it’s easier. Have your helper turn on the light switch while you go to the main electrical box. Slowly turn off each circuit breaker one at a time. Have your helper yell when the light goes off. You have now identified the correct switch. Turn on all the other switches at the box except the one you’ve identified as the correct one. Return to the light switch and test it yourself to be sure there is no power.

Step 2: With a screw driver, usually the regular slotted kind, remove the two screws holding the cover plate of the switch. The cover plate is the plastic or metal rectangular covering on the switch.

Step 3: Remove the two screws that hold the switch in place inside the electrical box. One is located on top and the other on bottom. Again, usually the screwdriver needed is the regular, slotted kind.

Step 4: Pull the switch out of the wall. (You did do step 1 didn’t you?). The switch should come out a few inches. You may need to give it a good yank as the wires are thick and tend to be jammed into the electrical box.

Step 5: Remove the screws holding the two sometimes three wires coming out of the wall to the switch. You must somehow tag which wire came from which screw. I use tape and a marker. The wires are usually color coded, while or black.

Step 6: Take the switch to your favorite hardware store or home improvement center and get another one exactly like it. Have one of the salesperson help you locate the exact one. You’ll have several options as far as color and type of switch. You need to match the number of screws either two or three. That’s the important part.

Step 7: Bring the new switch home and hold it up to the wall. Your goal here is to match the word “off” on the switch with the “off” position of the switch.

Step 8: Attach the wires to the screws on the switch’s back according to the marking plan you used in Step 5. If you used tape, remove it after the wire has been connected. It gets crowded inside the electrical box, and you’ll need all the space you can muster.

Step 9: Push the switch back into the electrical box and secure it into the box with the two mounting screws from Step 3.

Step 10: Replace the switch cover. This may be a good time to look for a newer, jazzier face plate and put your new face plate on the newly installed switch.

Step 11: Return to the main switch box and turn on the power that you turned off in Step 1. Go back to your newly installed switch and test your work.

Congratulations, you have successfully done what an electrician would charge $50 – $100 to do assuming you could find one who would do the job. I also take great satisfaction when I complete a project around my home. I’m sure you will, too.