My flat at the moment has all the switches at about 1 meter off the floor. Naturally my growing kids are starting to toggle the lighting now that they are tall enough. Is it possible to raise the switches and is it a DIY job? Can you list out the stages I will have to do including making a new hole in the wall etc. etc?
They make various types of "child proof" switch guards, which might be a more practical approach than moving all the switches.
Well....you could install light switch guards such as these:
...that would be used to keep the switch on all the time. Then install remote controlled light socket adapters like these on critical lighting circuits:
You can find many choices for the "remote controlled light switch" by using that phrase as a search string on Google or eBay.
There's really a lot to a job like this. One doesn't know what entails until it's started.
While the work isn't terribly complicated, getting it done (and done right) is not a weekend job for the average diy'er. I mean, we don't know if it's '70s aluminum wiring, the grounding scheme of the house, if the switch was properly wired initially, what kind of switch it is, etc. A person could do the job easily or seriously mess things up, costing them more if they realize their mistakes by calling a pro, or costing them a lot more if they don't by causing a fire.
Yes it can be simple, but if something complicates the move it is just as much work to put the switch back in the original location as it would have been to move it under simple scenarios.
Basically, try your hand at drywall repair before moving light switches. If you get really good at that, then open up the wall knowing you can close it again. What you find behind the drywall is going to tell you if the move is easy. Most of the time such a job isn't difficult, but if you lack the drywall repair skills, it is difficult to even know if moving that switch is easy or not.
--- If it is easy ---
- Power off at the circuit breaker, tape it in the off position with masking tape to warn others not to touch it.
- Open up the switch cover, and determine which side it is attached to the 2x4 stud.
- Cut a square in the drywall leaving just under 1/2 of the stud face exposed, to facilitate screwing the new drywall to the stud.
- Inspect the wiring into the box, most of the time it is two wires coming in from above, and those wires are stapled to the stud. If that's not the case, it's not easy, either figure it out or just skip to patching the drywall.
- Remove the switch, labeling the wires with some masking tape. Don't tape the exposed metal of the wire, tape the insulation above the metal. Make a mental note of the length of wire in the box (usually about 4 inches).
If the wire is yellow in color, you have copper wiring. If it is silver in color you have aluminum wiring. Avoid bending any sections of aluminum wiring excessively (you will have to bend it), and use a anti-oxidizing paste on the metal after reworking it. If you have any wire-nuts then they probably should be replaced (as opposed to reused) unless you know they're not damaged. If you have wire nuts and aluminum wiring, then you really should not replace those with wire nuts, but rather upgrade them with one alumiconn connector for each replaced wiring nut.
- Remove the staple above the box.
- Carefully pull the wires out of the box, taking care not to damage the insulation around the wire.
- Cut the drywall around the new location (above the box). You could use an old-work box, but you already had to cut the drywall, so it's not going to save you much work anyway.
- Ensure the wire is loose below the new box location. Move it aside.
- Knockout the metal tab for wire access in a new box, if necessary. Nail the box in it's new place. Those who have been very careful removing the old box might be able to reuse it in the new location.
- String the wire into the new box, it should be excessively long for the new location.
- Staple the wire 4 to 6 inches above the box.
- Determine where you need to cut the excess wire. Account for length of connections and excess wire to permit easy insertion / removal of the switch.
- Relabel your wire before you get to into the job to realize that you just cut off your labels.
- Strip the wire to permit connections with the switch.
- Reattach the switch as it was before.
- If using aluminum wiring, apply anti-oxidant paste.
- Remount the switch in the box.
- Turn on the circuit breaker, test the switch. If working, great, if not, figure out what you did wrong. In either case, turn the circuit breaker off again, and tape it again to warn others not to touch it.
- Clean up the damaged drywall by cutting a large square hole. Use a drywall knife and a metal straight edge to make straight cuts. Your hole should have wood on at least two sides to permit the new drywall attachment.
- Take your time to cut out a matching patch from new drywall. Cut the patch slightly large and then shave it down to a near-perfect fit. Dry fit multiple times.
If the patch tends to bow or buckle on the non-wood supported edges, then cut some wood scrap 1/4 to fit in the cavity of the wall, and use drywall screws to attach the wood brace to the already-in-place drywall, leaving a lip to support the not-yet-installed drywall.
Once you are sure the drywall patch fits well, then measure and cut a slightly smaller hole for the light switch.
- Refit and expand the light switch hole till a good fit is achieved.
- Dust out the light switch box, and screw the drywall in place.
- Put a faceplate on the light switch.
- Turn the circuit breaker on, and remove the "safety" tape.
- Use drywall tape and tape the edges of your patch, using drywall "mud" to provide the adhesive and smooth out the visible corners of the tape. Try to get a smooth finish on the mud to avoid extra sanding work.
- Allow to dry for one day.
- Inspect, if edges seem visible, sand if necessary, wiping away drywall dust with very slightly damp cloth before smoothing with more mud. Allow to dry for another day. Repeat until satisfied with the edge being hidden.
- After patch doesn't show edges, apply the same kind of wall texture to the patch. Practice with a scrap piece of drywall, until you get a feel for what will produce similar results to the rest of the wall.
- Let dry for a day, allowing the texture to bond to the drywall.
- Prime the patch with primer, let dry.
- Paint to match, preferably with that 1/2 can of matching paint in the garage. If you don't have such a thing, realize that you might eventually have to paint the entire wall to get a good match.
--- If it's not easy ---
You probably opened up the drywall and realized that your wiring doesn't facilitate easy movement of the switch upwards. Perhaps they drilled through studs and ran the wiring sideways or it's coming up from the floor. In any case, you don't have enough existing wire to place the box where you want it.
At this point, seriously consider just skipping to the patch the drywall steps, or hire a professional. The job just grew from moving a box to installing a junction or possibly rewiring that run. You don't want your building to go out of code. A licensed professional carries insurance and is held to a different standard that you are, and that makes all the difference in whether your insurance policy will pay or not should the work create an electrical fire.
A simple move of the box isn't fundamentally changing the electrical wiring, but if you need more wire, the necessary changes are considered beyond the boundaries of simple home repair / maintenance.
You could place a new outlet box and switch above the existing switches and cover the existing switch boxes with a blank plate.
- Turn off the power to the switch.
- Remove switch cover plate. Check with non-contact tester to make sure power is off.
- Mark each wire and remove switch.
- Cut a hole for an outlet box one to two feet above the existing one, using the template provided. You want an old-work box that can hold itself in.
- Run a non-metalic cable from old box to new box.
- Connect wires from old switch to new cable going to new box. For a regular switch, you only need two wire plus a ground, one switch wire to black and other switch wire to white. Mark the white wire with black tape or a black marker (because it will be a hot wire).
- Connect the new cable in the new box to the switch.
- Put switch plate on new box.
- Put blank plate on old box.
- Turn power back on.
This is better as a comment than an answer, but since it includes pictures, I'll post it as an "alternative" answer.
A possible alternative to raising your light switches, is making something switch-y for your kid(s) to play with. I ran across an electronics kit at Jameco when I was looking for toggle switches and remembered this question on DIY.
I discovered there's a history to the box, which you can find here at GeekDad.
So here is the home-brew version:
And the kit version from Jameco: