How to Change a Light Switch Cover

If your cover plate is dirty, grimey, or cracked, it’s time to replace it

Candace Nelson
Written by Candace Nelson
Updated May 11, 2022
A woman’s hand turning off a light switch
Photo: Dima Anikin / Adobe Stock
Difficulty

Easy

You've got this!

Time to complete

15 minutes

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What you'll need:

TOOLS

  • Screwdriver
  • New plate covers
  • Level (optional)

When was the last time you paid your light switch cover plates any attention? For just a few dollars per cover, you can replace the old ones and give your walls a crisp, fresh look. During or right after a painting project is an especially good time to update your light switch covers.

You can switch out light switch plates yourself in just a few minutes, but if you prefer leaving it in the hands of a professional, hire a handyperson who can easily do the job for you.

Prepping to Change a Light Switch Cover

Before purchasing new switch plates, make sure you know exactly what size and shape configuration you need. There is a long list of options. Indicate if you need a single, double, triple, outlet cover or a combination. We recommend snapping a picture of the exposed switch to take with you to the hardware store for reference.

Then comes the fun part: design. You can choose basic plates or a more personal design. Basic plates start at $2 each, but you can choose to bring some whimsy or sophistication to your home for about $15 to $20 per plate cover.

Make sure to note the color of the switch itself if you want to match. If the light switches or outlets don’t match your new color scheme, you’ll need to replace the light switches or outlets as well. Hire an electrician to do the work, if you aren’t comfortable with wiring. Once you have a design plan, it’s time to get started.

Pro tip: While on the subject of outlets and light switch covers, this project also lights the way for installing a new light switch, if you need one. Professional light switch installation can cost $50 to $150.

How To Change a Light Switch Cover in 15 Minutes

  1. Inspect Your Plate Covers

    Start by going around the house and giving all your light switch plate covers a once over. Are they cracked, chipped, or otherwise worse for the wear? Do they fit snugly within the hole or can you see the wires or switch plate peeking through? Switch plates with visible wear on the exterior should be replaced to reduce the risk of fire or electric shock.

  2. Turn Off the Power

    Before making any replacements or grabbing any tools, turn off the power to the outlet. If you’re working on more than one outlet, turn off the power to the house. Locate your circuit breaker and turn off the related breakers. Then, double check that the interior power is off by testing a few lights in the house.

  3. Remove the Old Cover Plate

    A man changing the light switch cover
    Photo: The Toidi / Adobe Stock

    Grab your flat head or a Phillips head screwdriver and unscrew the old cover plate. If your cover plate has lived several decades, it might be bonded to the wall with paint or wallpaper. Be careful not to damage the surrounding area when gently prying it away. 

    If you need to repair drywall, expect to pay about $10 to $45 for the materials needed to repair a small area.

  4. Attach the New Cover Plate

    With the breaker still off, loosely screw on the new cover plate. Before you tighten the screws, step back to make sure you’re happy with the placement. You can use a small level to double check your work. When you’re ready, tighten the screws.

  5. Test

    Finally, turn the power back on via the breaker box to test your work. Then, congratulate yourself on a job well done. Optional: Instruct anyone with sticky fingers to wash before touching your sparkly new cover plates.

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Get quotes from top-rated pros.