How to replace a single pole switch

If you have an ugly old switch that you want to replace you’ve come to the right place.

Did your switch stopped working? Have you’ve recently painted and you want to change the color of your switches and outlets?

Whatever the case, being able to replace an single pole switch is something every home owner should know how to do. I have created step by step instructions on how to replace a single pole switch. (with pictures)

Do you need to know how to replace a 3 Way Switch? Click Here

Important note: Always comply with the NEC (National Electrical Code) your local and state laws before starting. Some city offices or city libraries might give you access to or help you out with an NEC book. You can even call your local building inspector to find out if you can do your own electrical. Your work might have to be inspected. Do your own research to see if you can DIY your own electrical and what codes are in place. If you DO NOT feel like DIY electrical is something that you can handle please call a qualified electrician.

Working on live circuits is dangerous and not recommended. Always turn off the circuit and check for power before working on anything electrical.

Okay, Lets get started.



Here is a list of the most basic tools you will need for this project.

  • Wire Strippers
  • Needle-nose pliers (you will only need these to bend loops in the wires if your strippers don’t have holes for loop makers)
  • Flat Blade
  • Philips
  • Drill (recommended, but optional)

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  • New switch and cover plate.



Choosing the right switch:

They make Residential grade, Commercial  grade, hospital grade, you can get just about every color imaginable too. (for a price of course) How on earth do you know what kind to get?

Have you ever gone into a home improvement store and been overwhelmed by all the switches and outlet choices? Well, let me make it simple for you.

In most cases you will only need a 15-amp switch. 15-amp switches are made for circuits not exceeding 15-amps such as a 15-amp breaker or fuse. While a 20-amp switch is made for circuits not exceeding 20-amps such as a 20-amp breaker or fuse. I can’t think of a time you would be switching a 20-amp load in your house.

A standard 15-amp single pole switch could cost anywhere from $0.69 to an decorator switch for about $2.49. Expect to pay a little bit more to buy them individually too. You can get boxes of 10 (contractor pack or bundle) for a discounted price per outlet. Saving you about $2.00 every ten switches.


Follow These Steps to replace a single pole switch

Here is what I will be covering
1. Turning off power to circuit
2. Removing cover plate from single pole switch
3. Removing single pole switch from wall
4. Removing wires from single pole switch
5. Installing wires to new single pole switch
6. Installing single pole switch in wall
7. Installing cover plate to single pole switch
8. Returning power to circuit
9. Checking single pole switch


Step 1:

breaker in the off position

First thing you want to do is turn off the power. Never work on live circuits. To properly turn off the circuit, turn on the light from the switch that you will be working on. Then go to the electrical panel and turn off the breaker for that circuit.

Tips: Leave a note or tape over the breaker and write “working on this circuit. Leave off.” If your panel labels are unclear or hard to read then turn off one at a time until the light/circuit that you are goes off. Double check by turning the switch off and on then back to the off position.

Step 2:


Now that the power is off, remove the cover plate. You will need a flat head screwdriver for this.

Step 3:


Next unscrew single pole switch from the wall using a phillips screwdriver or your cordless drill.

TIP. If the tabs on the switch have been painted over take a box knife and cut around the tabs so when you remove the switch it wont pull your paint.

Step 4:

20150421_185744back of single pole switch image

Now pull out the single pole switch. On the switch there will be 3 screws, two gold screws, and a green screw (ground).
If the wires are wrapped around the screws then loosen the screws and remove the wires. If the wires are pushed into the back of the switch then you will need to cut the wires as close to the back of the switch as possible.



Step 5:


Once the switch is out of the wall, this is a great time to inspect the wires. Look for bare copper showing, burn marks, or broken wires. This might be the reason the switch stopped working. Replace the damaged wire if needed.

bending wire
Take your wire strippers and strip the wires to the length indicated on the strip gauge on the back of the switch. You then take your needle nose pliers or use the loop bender on the strippers to bend a loop in the wires.


First attach the copper wire to the green ground screw. Hook the wire so that the end of the loop is headed clockwise around the screw. Tighten. Second attach the black wires to the gold screws. Tighten all the screws well, you don’t want any loose connection when it comes to electricity. If using #14 AWG wire you can stab the wire into the back of the switch using the stab holes shown in the picture below.



Step 6:


Identify the “TOP” of the switch. Look at the front of the switch on the metal tabs on the top and bottom of the switch, It will have “TOP” stamped into the metal. You will want the top to be top so that when you flip the switch up the light will turn on and off in the downward position.


Bend the wires neatly as you push the switch into the box. Make sure that the bare ground wire is not touching any bare metal parts of the switch. Using your phillips or cordless drill tighten the switch to the wall tight enough that it wont wiggle side to side but not too tight because the cover plate wont fit right.


Step 7:


Install cover plate using a flat blade screwdriver.

Tip: Some cover plates are breakable so when tightening the cover plate be careful and don’t over tighten the screws or the plate will break.

Step 8:

turning on breaker

It’s time to restore power back to the circuit. Remove your note and turn the breaker back on.

Step 9:

It’s time to check your work. Check by turning the light ON then OFF a few times. If you did it right it will work like normal. If not you may have a loose wire connection, the breaker may have tripped or the light bulb may have failed. You will have to turn the power off and pull the switch out check your connections and make the adjustment.


Here is what I have covered
1. Turning off power to circuit
2. Removing cover plate from single pole switch
3. Removing single pole switch from wall
4. Removing wires from single pole switch
5. Installing wires to new single pole switch
6. Installing single pole switch in wall
7. Installing cover plate to single pole switch
8. Returning power to circuit
9. Checking single pole switch

That’s It


Congratulations! You have successfully replaced a single pole switch.  Stand tall, Be proud, and tell your friends. Also please give back by sharing this content below. Cheers!


Need more information?

How to wire a 3 way switch

How to wire an outlet

How to wire a GFCI

How does a GFCI work

Switch wiring diagrams

Outlet wiring diagrams

Following these steps is at your own risk. Electricity is very dangerous and can cause serious injury, death or damage to property.