I have a light switch that I want to get rid of. I don't know if it is active or not. I want to wallpaper the wall. How do I tell if the circuit is "live" and if so how to turn it off so it is safe to wallpaper over.

2 Answers 2

  • Head down to the local hardware store, and pick up a non-contact voltage tester (any brand will do).

non-contact voltage tester enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

  • Carefully remove the cover plate from the switch, and move the tester near each wire (you won't have to touch the wires, just get near them). If you hear a beep and/or the light turns on, the circuit is hot.

If the circuit is dead

If the circuit is not hot, you still will not be able to cover the box completely. You'll either have to remove the box and all wires leading to it, or cover the box using a blank cover plate.

Blank cover plate

If you decide to use a blank plate, you can wallpaper the plate itself (while not attached to the wall). This will help it blend into the wall, and all but disappear.

If the circuit is live

If the circuit is still hot, you'll have to trace the circuit back to the point of origin and disconnect it. In most cases a light will not be the only thing on a circuit, so it probably will not be as easy as removing a single circuit breaker. You'll likely want to contact an Electrician to disconnect the wires, and remove the circuit in this situation.

  • +1, fastest gun in the west beat me by a few seconds. However, I don't think she needs to pony up for a Klein tester :D
    – Matthew
    Sep 17, 2012 at 15:47
  • 1
    @MatthewPK Fist picture I found, that's how I answer so fast.
    – Tester101
    Sep 17, 2012 at 15:58
  • I found the Klein to be WAY overpriced durability-wise; if you look at the picture, you can see that a strip of the yellow plastic near the tip is almost see-through thin. That is a recessed channel holding the tip in place; all it took was one good drop from light switch height onto a tile floor and that channel cracked, releasing the smoked plastic tip which now won't stay in place even when taped there (because the battery spring is pushing all the guts of the tester out the front). The cheaper green-bodied testers are much more durable.
    – KeithS
    Sep 17, 2012 at 17:29
  • 3
    You might not even have to open the cover to test for liveness. Just touching near the base of the switch sometimes works. Also, be careful when you think something is dead. Wiggling a wire can "repair" a loose connection, power up the wire, and shock you. Someone flipping another switch can power up a wire and shock you. Every time you disassemble a splice, check that all the wires are still dead. You can only be 100% sure if you can trace back to the main panel, and even then, you might get a surprise. Sep 17, 2012 at 20:28
  • 4
    Isn't an important step to test your voltage tester on a known live circuit first?
    – Kevin Reid
    Sep 18, 2012 at 15:33

Depending on where you are located, it may be a code violation to cover it over completely. The accepted solution in most areas is to buy a blank outlet cover, like this:


Turn off the breaker (and if you can't figure out which one, just turn off the main breaker/fuse and disconnect the entire house)

Disconnect the switch, and put wire nuts and electrical tape over the loose ends.

Wallpaper first, and then put up the blank. If you need to, you can wallpaper the face plate separately before putting it up.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.