Replacing a light switch

psst: in case you missed it - I was featured on Ana White's blog last week for the little work bench I made! Check out the post here.

There are two people in life. Those that jump into the water without checking out what is below, and those who take out a measuring stick to see how deep the water is, and test the water for clarity prior to sinking even a toe into it.

I'm the latter of the two, so obviously when I wanted to start switching out light switches and outlets around the house, I went and took a little community class! Seriously, new homeowners out there, i'd recommend this. It's the cheapest, quickest education you can get, 35$ and 2 hours of my time will save me hundreds of dollars. Hiring an electrician for something like changing out the color of a light switch is pretty expensive, they charge up to $150 an hour plus materials! This is one of those time consuming home improvement projects that can make a pretty decent difference in the look of a room. So, for the next few years i'll start chipping away at the task, now that I know how to NOT electrocute myself :)

SO, here is what I was working with around the main floor of the house...

LOL. SUCH a great variety! The floral color REALLY brings out the blue/grey wall color, the blue flowers accent the bathroom tile like your WOULDN'T believe, and with brown outlet covers on wood, it's like camouflage! Buuuuuuuuuut, they are all a liiiiiiiittle much. SO, let's bring some unity, some WHITE into these little thangs. What's AWESOME about these projects, is it's a pretty cheap fix. under 2$ per outlet. You just need a few tools in your arsenal to get started.

>>White outlet/outlet cover (obvi). I got a one way light switch (i'll explain below...)
>>Screw driver - I like this one with a head that you can toggle between flathead and philips, you'll need both.
>>Voltage tester

There are one way, two way, and THREE way light switches. With one way, one light switch works with one light or outlet. With a TWO way, you can enter the room and flick on ONE outlet, and exit the room turning the light off with a different outlet (2 outlets controlling), and three adds another. So I thought i'd start easy, with a one way.

FIRST step is to find your electrical box and turn OFF the power to the switch you are working with. Let's be safe and not electrocute ourselves, mmkay?!

This is what your voltage tester will look like if it's still an active switch...

This is what you want, deadzo. Then you can start taking apart the old outlet. 

Unscrew the outlet from the wall and pull it out. There should be enough wire in there to pull it out few inches to work with.

Unscrew the two wires, remembering which was on top, and which was on bottom (this will make sure that when you pull the light switch UP it will turn on and DOWN it will turn off).

Mimic the old outlet with the new one. Loop the copper wire around the screw, making sure the hook is in the direction that the screw turns, so when you tighten the screw, it keeps the copper wire close and secure.

Then re-attach the the wall and BANG - new outlet.

A nice improvement from what was there...And once the paneling is painted white OH MAN it'll look good.

Turn on the power and check to make sure it worked!

It's easiest to just turn off the power to the house and bang out as many as you can at once. This is a cheap update that makes a big difference in the end!

My next task is to tackle the outlets around here, but like, what IS this. It's an outlet switch in my kitchen, for all SIX of my blenders?! Like, WHAT were these guys making in this small kitchen that they needed all these outlets!


  1. Good job! I noticed in your switch replacement pictures that you had one black wire and a white one. It's not too unusual to see this - but it's usually two black wires and they are both considered hot. Whoever put the switches in first should have taped the end of the white wire with some black electrical tape to show that it's a hot wire, not the neutral. If you run into the same situation, it's a good idea to tape it up so accidents don't happen to someone else.

    Keep up the great work! You've inspired me to tackle some projects I've been putting off for far too long!

  2. Or you can even use the latest Fluke 1651b Multifunction Tester for testing... They are the Electrician’s choice perfect for part P installations & basic domestic testing with large LCD screen. Thanks.