DIY Network

Updating Wall Plates

This DIY Basic will provide tips on how to update switch and wall plate covers.

More in Electrical

Watch an Overview Video

Gather Your Materials and Tools

Materials and Tools:

safety glasses
changeable witches and wall plates
circuit tester
long-nosed pliers
masking tape

Turn Off the Power

A smart update for the look of a room is easy-to-change-out switches and snap-on wall plates.

Start by replacing standard wiring device with device with changeable face and wall plates. If you are not comfortable handling electricity, hire a professional to do this project.

Turn off power at breaker or remove fuse.

Tip: Tape DO NOT TURN POWER ON sign to breaker or fuse box.

Remove Old Switch

Remove wall plate, and test wires with circuit tester to make sure power is off to switch.

Tip: Touch one probe to screw with black wire and other probe to screw with other black wire; tester should show no current.

Remove screws at top and bottom holding old switch to electrical box, and pull switch from box.

Loosen screws holding wires to old switch. If wires are stabbed into back, cut wire as close as possible to device.

Remove insulation so 3/4 inch of copper conductor shows.

Use long-nose pliers to bend end of each wire into hook. Make sure hook is tight enough to fit around terminal screw.

Tip: Label wires with masking tape as you release them, top and bottom.

Wire the New Switch

Wire new switch as old switch was wired: top wire to top, bottom wire to bottom, looping wire in clockwise direction.

Tip: For added safety, cover all terminals and bare wire with electrical tape.

Attach new switch to box as old switch was attached, one screw at top, one at bottom, and turn power back on.

Secure the New Switch

Attach new switch face by inserting bottom hinge tabs, then pivoting and snapping on new face.

Snap on new wall plate. New faces and wall plates can blend with wall color or match color of woodwork.

Once new switch is wired, change faces and wall plates as many times as you like without additional wiring. Look of faces and wall plates can evolve with room's decor.

To clean new face or wall plate, snap off, clean and reinstall.