How High Should I Mount a Light Switch? News & Opinion

How High Should I Mount a Light Switch?

We covered placement of outlet receptacles in another article, but we were also asked about the location of switches when wiring up a room. While the NEC doesn’t specify the height of switches, it is pretty much standard procedure in most places to put them at 48″ on-center. The exception would be for homes where wheelchair-accessibility is a major concern (in which case you can place them around 40″).


Editor’s Note: We had a client who had all of his switches spec’d to be mounted 30″ off the floor. At first we thought this was some kind of accommodation for a handicapped member of the family. After inquiring further, we found that it was simply to allow him to flip on the lights in every room without having to lift up his arm… While there was nothing wrong with this, we don’t recommend screwing up the potential resale value of your home over a trendy decision based on laziness or trying to be different! Follow the implied standards.

According to NEC 210.70, at least one wall switch-controlled lighting outlet (can be a ceiling fan) must be installed in every habitable room and bathroom of a dwelling unit. In rooms other than kitchens and bathrooms, a receptacle controlled by a wall switch can be used instead of a lighting outlet. To cover the high-end crowd, lighting outlets can be controlled by occupancy sensors equipped with a manual override that allows the sensor to function as a wall switch.

While the NEC code contains the approximate location requirements for wall switched-controlled lighting outlets, it doesn’t specify the actual location for the switch (nor should it, in our opinion). You’ll want to look at the plans or consult with the architect or owner in order to deal with any particularly challenging entry ways. For the most part, switch placement will follow the rules of common sense. Don’t place a switch behind a door, and take heed to the length of any short walls so that you ensure you have enough space between studs to mount the box.

Code also specifies that not less than one wall switch-controlled lighting outlet must be installed in hallways, stairways, attached garages, and any detached garages with electric power. Additionally, at least one wall switch-controlled lighting outlet must provide illumination on the exterior side of outdoor entrances or exits with grade level access.

Building plans may have measurements that indicate on-center, top, or even bottom of box measurements. Just double check your work to make sure it all makes sense and that you have sufficient ergonomics to activate all switches efficiently.


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