The official guide to light switch Location Code requirements can be found in the National Electric Code (NEC) sec 210.70. The NEC is the benchmark for all 50 states for safe electrical design.
A light switch (or other approved wall mounted control device) must be mounted near the entrance to the room. The official height is 48 inches from the floor, however it is common practice to mount it between 42″ – 48″ according to local building codes.
This is just about the perfect measurement for most people. Adults know exactly where to reach. It’s high enough that little kids won’t play with it, at least not too much, and folks in wheelchairs can reach it easily too.
What is the standard height for a light switch from the floor?
Have you ever walked into a dark room and reached for the light switch? It’s usually in the same place, or at least pretty close to it. It’s sort of strange or weird if you put your hand out and it’s not where it is expected to be.
This is because of the NEC “code”.
As a general guideline whenever I am installing a new switch in my house, or relocating one because of a remodel or renovation job, I like to put it at exactly the same height as the rest of the switches in my house which is exactly 48″. Thankfully the electrician who wired my house was a rule follower!
How low can I put a light switch?
Most local building code requirements allow for switches to be as low as 15 inches from the floor.
This is to allow for people in wheelchairs or other alternative needs to be able to turn on and off the switches.
One thing to note is about ADA compliance. Did you know that ADA is for PUBLIC spaces? You don’t need to follow ADA rules in your house unless you have special local requirements. It’s not really that common for private residences.
Other places for light switches.
In addition to the usual place near a door where you might find a light switch, here are a few more unusual locations that are allowed.
Can you put a light switch on the ceiling?
I actually have a wired light switch on the ceiling in my house. It’s in the upstairs game room, and it is put next to the attic pull down ladder.
It is really quite handy, because whenever I go into the attic to change my air filters, I don’t have to bring a flashlight or struggle to find the pull cord for some old fashioned light bulb. I just flip the switch and presto! The attic is illuminated.
At the same time, I also never forget to turn the light off when I leave the attic because I can just look up and see if the switch is on or off.
Do you have to have a switch IN the room
Strangely enough, unless the room is a stairway, hallway, or a few other select places, the light switch doesn’t even have to be inside the room. You could mount a switch for the bedroom outside the door, or even on the other side of the house if you want.
I understand why halls and stairs need lights and switches – it’s for safety, but why don’t you need to have a switch in the room? Doesn’t really make sense to me, but apparently that’s the way the code is written.
Installing switches outdoors
What if you want a light switch outside? Maybe to control your bistro lights or some other fixture? This is actually possible, and done all the time.
Yes, there are special switches you can get, or you can use a regular indoor switch and mount it inside a special weather resistant switch box.
These boxes are easy to install and can be gotten from Amazon or your local Hardware store. I personally like the ones with a clear cover so I can see the switch inside.
Where are YOUR light switches
Do you have any unusual light switches in your house? I’d love to know more – share your location in the comments below, or if you are really brave, make an instagram reel and tag #EricEstate and I’ll comment on it.