How to Replace a Light Switch

Home repair doesn't get much easier. Just follow these step-by-step instructions.

If you're in the market for a light switch, be aware that several types are available. Some dual-pole switches, which control one light from two or more switches, have three or four terminal screws and a ground terminal. Single-pole switches, which control one light from one location, have two terminal screws and a ground terminal. If you're replacing a dual-pole switch, make note of the existing wiring, and if you're at all unsure of how to proceed, hire a licensed electrician to perform the job.

Here's how install a switch yourself:

Materials and Tools:

screwdriver
circuit tester
needle-nose pliers
wire strippers
light

Steps:

Remove the old switch

1. Shut off the power at the circuit-breaker box.

2. Remove the cover plate and test the terminals with the circuit tester. If the tester doesn't light up, there's no power going to the switch.

3. Remove the screws that hold the switch in place, and pull the switch from the wall.

4. Loosen the screws holding the wires to the switch, remove the wires, and remove the switch. In newer switches, the wires may go directly into the switch, where they are held in place by clamps inside the switch. These switches usually have a slot into which you can insert a small screwdriver to loosen the clamps.


Install the new switch

1. Begin by bending the end of the ground wire into a small hook, placing the hook over the ground terminal of the switch and tightening it in place.

2. Attach the remaining wires to the terminals and tighten them in the same way. Your new switch may have holes that allow you to insert the wires without using the terminal screws. If so, straighten the wires, press them into the holes as far as they'll go and then tug on them to make sure they're held securely in place.

3. Gently press the switch back into position and secure it in place with screws. Replace the switch cover and turn on the power at the circuit-breaker box.

Next Up

How to Wire a Light Switch

Electricity is a mystery to many people, but some electrical projects — like wiring a switch — are so simple that anyone can do them. With a few easy steps and the right knowledge, there’s no need to hire an electrician.

How to Identify Basic Electrical Wiring

Whether you’re changing an outlet, light fixture or switch, the first thing you need to know is how a light switch and outlet are wired and what all those different colored wires are for.

How to Drain a Water Heater

Extend your water heater's life span by draining the tank annually to remove any sediment that may have built up.

How to Clean a Computer Screen

Get the low-down on how to safely remove dust, fingerprints, smudges and streaks from any type of laptop screen or computer monitor.

How to Install a Ceiling Fan

The process for installing a ceiling fan is similar to wiring a light fixture, with a few modifications to accommodate for the extra weight and wiggle of the fan. Follow these steps to replace a light fixture with a ceiling fan in your home.

How to Replace a Faucet

Replacing a faucet that's outdated or always dripping is a relatively easy DIY project.

How to Install a Garbage Disposal

Say goodbye to smelly food scraps and hello to a new garbage disposal.

How to Install Wainscoting to a Wall

Add an instant touch of class to a room with these step-by-step instructions on installing beadboard wainscoting.

How to Grow and Care for Norfolk Island Pine

Norfolk Island pines are popular houseplants and handsome landscape plants in warm winter areas. For a living Christmas tree, dress Norfolk pine with bows and small ornaments.

20 Specialty Bulbs and Statement Lights to Brighten Any Space

These cool bulbs should be exposed! Shop the HGTV Magazine editors' top picks — plus light fixtures that let them shine.

Go Shopping

Get product recommendations from HGTV editors, plus can’t-miss sales and deals.

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.