How to Replace a Single-Pole Light Switch

Attaching new wall switch to electrical box

Step 7: Attach Switch to Electrical Box

Gently push the wires and switch back into the electrical box, being careful not to dislodge any connections. If the box is metal, make sure that bare wires do not touch the box. Use the mounting screws to attach the new switch to the electrical box, so the switch housing is flush with the wall.

Attaching cover plate to wall switch

Step 8: Replace Switch Cover Plate

Attach the cover plate to the switch using screws. Be careful not to crack the plate by over-tightening the screws.

Turning new wall switch on and off to test it

Step 9: Test the Switch

Turn the breaker back on, and test the switch. If the new switch doesn’t work and the old switch did, then you have a loose connection. Turn the breaker back off and go through the steps again.

If the new switch doesn’t work and the old switch didn’t either, then test the light bulb and check the light fixture to be sure the connections are secure. If the switch still doesn’t work, you may have a serious wiring problem which should be examined by a licensed electrician.

Further Information


  1. It might have been a good idea to do a good lamp test first.This test is best accomplished by making sure the test lamp works in another socket. I might have noted that when the switch was removed from the wall the conductors were installed with the loop facing in the wrong direction, this might make clear the instruction to face the loop in what could be called a clock wise direction.
    thanks Joe vs

  2. Replacing a single pole switch should be fairly straight forward. SAFETY FIRST. Turn the power off at the electrical panel where the power originates. With the power off it is safe to remove the switch from the box that it is mounted in and to disconnect the wires from the switch. The national
    elec.code art. 200.7(c) requires the white to be hot only when in a cable and only for switching. Idealy connect white to top terminal black to bottom terminal bare ground to green screw on switch, reinstall switch, restore power and test by turning switch on. The switch should be up when it is turned on also you will read on and off as opposed to no and ffo on the switch. Wrap wire on terminals in a clockwise direction. WORK SAFE.

  3. Hi, I submitted an explanation for replacing a single pole switch with a black white and bare ground wire, if there are additional wires in this same box additional information would be required to provide a more detailed response. Happy to help if I can. Joe

  4. Hi, I am changing a wall switch that controls 2 balusters flourescent lights in the garage. I sued a single pole decorator off/on switch. One red wire on left and 2 black wires on right on original switch. . The screw on the left on the decorator switch is a ground and the original switch had the red on the ground screw also. Followed the same and not turning on. I did notice the switch originally was backwards meaning down for on and up for off. What am I doing wrong please?

  5. Scratch that question…Found another wall switch behind a cabinet in the garage I did not know about so will go with a double pole switch and sure it will work now. Thanks anyway.


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