Home upgrades

How to Replace a Light Switch

$3 and up
Project cost
30 minutes
Estimated time
Aaron Massey
By Aaron Massey

Updating a basic light switch in your home is a simple DIY project you can knock out typically in about a half an hour with minimal tools. For this project you’ll likely need some or all of the following tools; a voltage tester, screwdriver, needle nose pliers, wire strippers, and electrical tape. You’ll also want to decide on the type of light switch you’d like to use. They come in a variety of styles and colors including a toggle switch, decora switch, or even a smart switch that you can control with an app on your smartphone. When choosing a light switch, make sure you choose the corresponding faceplate that matches the switch.

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  • Voltage Tester
  • Screwdriver
  • Needle Nose Pliers
  • Wire Strippers (optional)
  • Electrical Tape (optional)
  • Utility Knife (optional)
Step 1

Turn Off The Power

First turn off power to the breaker that controls the light switch.

Step 2

Remove the Faceplate

Using a screwdriver, remove the existing faceplate on the light switch. If the switch has been painted over, you may need to use a razor blade to score around the plate to remove it.

Step 3

Test for Power at the Switch

Turn on the voltage tester. Touch the voltage tester to the brass terminal screws on the side of the switch to verify that the power is off. If the voltage tester beeps or a light illuminates, the power is not off and it’s not safe to work on the switch. Verify the power is off before proceeding to the next steps.

Step 4

Disconnect the Wires

Using your screwdriver, loosen the screws holding the switch inside the box, and then pull the switch from the box. Loosen the wires on the brass terminal screws and the green ground screw to remove the wires. If the ground wire is connected to the box, leave it as is.

Step 5

Remove the Switch

It is now time to remove the old switch, and discard it.

Step 6

Choose your Connection Method

Depending on the light switch, there may be additional options for attaching the wires to the light switch including push inserts in the back of the switch, though these are not as reliable as fitting the wires around the terminal screws.

Step 7

Connect the Wires to the New Switch

Connect the wires to the new switch by positioning the bents ends of the wires under the brass terminal screws and tightening them down.

Step 8

Connect the Ground Wire

Reconnect the ground wire to the green terminal screw on the new switch and make sure all wires are securely attached to the switch before proceeding.

Step 9

Push the Switch into the Box

Use your finger to create a small bend in the wires allowing you to push the switch back into the box. Secure the switch by tightening the screws into the holes at the top and bottom of the box. The light switch mounts allow for a small amount of adjustment to make sure the light switch is straight up and down.  

Step 10

Install the Faceplate

Install the new faceplate by placing it over the switch and tightening the screws. Be careful to not over-tighten the screws on the faceplate, or you risk cracking the faceplate.

Step 11

Turn on the Power

Turn the power back on at the breaker panel, and then verify that the light switch works properly.

Aaron Massey
Aaron Massey By Aaron Massey
Aaron is the mastermind behind the brand Mr. Fix It DIY featuring YouTube series like “Home School’d” and “I Hate My House” where he details the projects of his home remodel and shares his custom builds.

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