How to Install an Electrical Wall Switch

You have an overhead light or other appliance and need to install an electrical wall switch to control it.

This is a moderately easy task that can be done at a minimal cost in a short amount of time.

Select the exact location for the new electrical switch. It needs to be along the route of the electrical power. Once you have determined where you want the switch located, carefully measure the wall box and transfer these measurements to the wall surface. (Double-check these measurements.) Make certain the box you have drawn is square. Then carefully cut through the drywall with a keyhole saw or other cutting instrument. Remove the interior portion of the square and discard it. Locate the wires and pull as much as possible through the opening.

Prepare your wiring. Make certain you turn off the power at the breaker box. Cut the wire approximately in the center. Strip back the outer covering of the wire so that approximately 6 inches are exposed. Strip the wires so you have approximately 1/2 inch of copper visible.

Install the wall box. Fold the wing clamps flat and slowly insert the box into the wall. At the same time, run the wires through the openings in the top and bottom of the box. Be careful not to push the box too far through the opening. Align the front of the wall box along the edge of the drywall and tighten the two screws, one in each side of the box. This extends the wings and pulls them snugly against the back of the drywall. Do not overtighten these screws.

Wire the switch. You should have two white, black and green wires. Take the two white wires and secure them together using a wire nut. The switch should have a green screw on one side. Place both ends of the green wire under this screw and tighten the screw. Secure the ends of the black wires beneath the two screws at the top and bottom of the switch. Be certain all screws are tight. Then push the switch into the box and secure it in place with the two screws provided.

Put the light switch cover in place and tighten the two screws provided with the cover. Do not overtighten these screws or you could crack the cover. Turn the power back on and test the switch.

Things You Will Need

  • Switch
  • Wall box with wing clamps
  • Switch cover
  • Wire stripper
  • Wire nuts
  • Screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Measuring tape
  • Keyhole saw


  • Select a higher-quality switch for safety and ease of installation.


  • Always double-check to make certain electrical power is off before starting any electrical project.

About the Author

Tom Raley is a freelance writer living in central Arkansas. He has been writing for more than 20 years and his short stories and articles have appeared in more than 25 different publications including P.I. Magazine, Pulsar and Writer's Digest.