Cirila Cothran

real estate

DIY Changing a Light Switch


DIY-ing electrical projects has always intimidated us a bit. Even small projects like replacing a fan or updating an electrical outlet seemed out of our league just a few years ago. But after hearing over and over how attainable some of these common household projects can be, we decided to do some research and add electrical projects to our repertoire.


We are happy to report that if we can tackle an electrical project, we know that you can too. And we have a great basic DIY that can be your first step into the world of electrical projects: Replacing a light switch


In our case, we live in an older home and have electrical outlets and light switches that don’t match. We wanted to update older switches to a bright white color to coordinate with those in the rest of the home.

If it’s not just about aesthetics but replacing a non-functioning light switch, the same steps apply.

As long as you take the necessary precautions to stay safe while replacing the light switch, we’re confident even a rookie homeowner can successfully complete this project.

Here’s a step-by-step tutorial to explain exactly how to go about it.




STEP 1: The first thing you’ll need to do is gather your supplies. We picked up a white double-toggle light switch from the hardware store. Be sure to ask the professional in the store to find out which light switch is best for your home’s unique situation. Don’t forget to pick up a new cover plate to match.




STEP 2: The very first thing you should do before starting this project is turn off the electricity to this light switch. Go to the electrical panel in your home, find the breaker for that room or area, and firmly switch it to the off position.



Electrical projects can be extremely dangerous so it’s absolutely essential that you take this precaution to make sure that you are not putting yourself at risk while tackling this DIY project.


Make sure the electricity is OFF; flip on the light switch and check the outlets in that room. Use a voltage tester to be 110 percent sure that the electricity isn’t flowing. As long as there is no power running to this switch, you are safe to proceed.


Rookie Tip: Since the electricity is off, you may want to tackle this project during the day when there is plenty of sunlight. If you’re working in a basement or space that doesn’t have a lot of natural light, be sure to have a flashlight accessible.



STEP 3: Now that the electricity is OFF and it’s safe to proceed, it’s time to get to work. Use the screwdriver to remove the cover plate from the old light switch. Then carefully remove the screws on each side of the light switch to loosen it from the wall. (The switch in our house had electrical tape wrapped around it, so we removed and discarded that.)




STEP 4: Assuming the switch does not require any new wiring or electrical changes, use the current light switch’s wiring as a roadmap for the new switch. This is where your cell phone can save the day.

Before removing any of the wiring, take a few photos with your cell phone to help identify which wires attach where. Make sure to get close-up photos of these connections so that you can refer to these photos when attaching your new light switch.


Rookie Tip: In most cases there will be multiple wires attached to the switch. An incoming hot wire (which is usually black), a neutral wire (which is usually white), and sometimes a grounding wire which often has exposed copper ends. In our case, one of the wires was red; it really depends on your home and the electrical codes in your county.



STEP 5: Carefully remove the wires that are attached to the light switch. Unscrew each of the screws on the sides of the light switch and delicately detach the wires that are connected at each screw.




STEP 6: Remove the old light switch and then get your new light switch ready. Referencing the photos of the old switch wiring on your phone, attach the wires back on the same exact screws that they were just connected to.

Once you have confirmed that each wire is connected in the exact same spot as before, wrap at least a ½ inch of stripped wire around the screws and then tighten the screws.






STEP 7: Make sure the screws are tight and wrap fresh electrical tape around the perimeter of the switch for added security.



STEP 8: You’re almost done! All that’s left is to carefully screw the light switch back into the wall. You can attach the cover plate at this time or turn the electricity back on to confirm the new switch works and then add the cover plat.e

The new light switch should be attached and safely functioning once the electricity is turned back on. When tightening the cover plate, do not over tighten it because these plates can be fragile and may crack under pressure.




And just like that, congratulations are in order because you have accomplished your first electrical project! We still save the large electrical projects for the professionals, but this simple fix is one we feel confident that any homeowner can tackle.


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