The plates covering your light switches may not be high on your list of household priorities, but they deserve some attention at least once a year. Hopefully this quick task will simply confirm that everything is in good shape, but you may wind up discovering damage that warrants a switch plate replacement.
Photo: maisonwares | Etsy
Safety Note: Before removing any switch plate covers, be sure to turn off the power to the fixture to prevent electrical shock. This usually needs to be done from your electrical panel.
Look for damage. You’re checking for cracks, chips or other damage. Switch plates with visible wear on the exterior should be replaced to reduce the risk of fire or electric shock.
Check out the fit. In addition to wear and tear, make sure your switch plates fit properly. If wires are visible or the hole surrounding the switch or outlet is too big or small, it’s best to replace the plate with one that fits correctly.
Move to the next plate. If you check every plate and don’t find any problems, you’re done! If you discover one or more damaged switch plates, continue to step #4.
Remove the plate. If it looks like a replacement is necessary, carefully unscrew the switch plate from the wall. Tip: Older switch plates can bond to paint and wallpaper over time, so take extra care not to damage the surrounding area when pulling the plate from the wall.
Photograph the switch. Before purchasing new switch plates, make sure you know exactly what size and shape configuration you need. As this Home Depot guide shows, there is a long list of options. We recommend snapping a picture of the exposed switch to take with you to the hardware store for reference. Generally, a new switch plate costs $5-$10.
Replace. Once you’ve purchased your shiny new switch covers, make sure the power is turned off (once again) before attaching them. Hold the new switch plate over the light switch or outlet and screw each screw in halfway. Confirm that the switch cover is positioned correctly before tightening the screws the rest of the way.