Light switch height is one of those things that most people can go their entire life without thinking about, but it matters a great deal to anyone who is physically disabled or who has a small child in the home. Making sure light switches aren't too high on the wall can be one way to make a home more accessible for everyone. There is one standard height for light switches, but homeowners may prefer to place them slightly lower depending on their family's needs.
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Standard Light Switch Height
Per the Fair Housing Act Design Manual, the maximum height for a light switch is 48 inches above the floor. This is also the standard height that builders and electricians use when installing light switches. To be technical, the top of the light switch plate is generally set at 48 inches, so the switch itself may be more like 47 inches above the floor.
State building codes also address the appropriate height for outlets, switches, and controls installed on walls. While the guidelines vary by state, 48 inches above the floor is the maximum that is typically allowed by light switch height code.
Exceptions to the Standard Rule
While 48 inches is the standard height of switch boards and light switches, a switch should be installed lower on the wall if it's blocked by an obstacle, like a large appliance or countertop. Someone has to reach across the obstacle to reach the switch, and kids and disabled adults may not be able to stretch far enough to reach it at 48 inches high. The Fair Housing Act Design Manual requires that switches be installed no more than 44 inches above the floor when blocked by an obstacle.
Parents may also prefer lower light switches in a child's room so their young kid can turn lights on and off without calling for help every time. Installing switches at 40 or 44 inches above the floor is easy enough for builders to do while constructing a new room.
Moving a Light Switch
If your home has existing light switches that are too high for kids and/or wheelchair users to reach, light switch extenders may provide a simple solution. They work on toggle-style switches and are popular with parents who are trying to encourage independence in their young kids. If switches are too high for an adult to reach, there's also an option to replace your current switches with smart light switches that can be turned on and off using a phone app.
Installing a new light switch is a fairly simple task (though it may be a little more complicated to install a wireless smart switch), but moving the switch to a different place on the wall is naturally a lot more complicated. If you need to move a light switch, you can attempt the project yourself or call an electrician. You'll also need to repair the hole in the drywall where the original switch was located and repaint the patched area.