My wife and I recently bought a house from people who built it in 2005 (literally -- the guy was in home construction half a century), and they did some "interesting" things. One choice I'm trying to undo involves wall switches for ceiling fans. We're replacing the 5 ceiling fans, and all the models we'll use have a remote, so they don't need wall switches. One ceiling fan has 6 wall switches(!), three for the motor and three for the light in the fan. Three fans have two switches (one fan, one light), but there isn't even a light in the fan. We'd be willing to keep one switch as a master off switch for the new fan, but I would really like to get rid of the rest.

How do I make them completely disappear? In some locations, the fan switches share a box with another switch (which will stay), and in others the box has only fan switches. But in all cases, I'm faced with the chore of trying to do a "perfect" drywall job in a highly visible place or using some kind of blank plate, which is only marginally better than having dead switches all over the house.

Frankly, rather than tackle this, I'm tempted to just leave the blasted switches throughout the house.

Suggestions, anyone?

  • Keep in mind, the way they are switched now is probably better for resale value than remotes.
    – Tyson
    May 6, 2016 at 0:02
  • I understand that you have too many switches and you do not like them. But I am not clear what you want to do and what you are asking us? If you shrink the box size, you need to do drywall work. You cannot lose the box unless you can remove all live cable connections at the box, which probably requires rewiring.
    – bib
    May 6, 2016 at 0:53

3 Answers 3


A perfect drywall job isn't an option, as you're not allowed to cover junction boxes or otherwise render them inaccessible.

In the case of those switches which share a box with switches for other lights, you can find partial blank plates. However, these won't accomplish your goal of cleaning up the walls.

In all cases you can nut the broken circuit legs together in a permanent fashion, but again, this alone doesn't accomplish your goal.

Unless you can access the wire routes to completely remove the wiring back to the upstream box, you're more or less out of luck.

  • Blank sword plates painted to match the wall are not very visible, and while they must be serviceable you can hide them behind furniture or art to make them close enough to invisible for most purposes. Did that in my living room; needed a junction box neat the ceiling, painted it with the same paint as that wall and nobody will ever noticed it, and eventually I'll hang a painting over it anyway.
    – keshlam
    May 5, 2016 at 20:41
  • This maybe should've been a comment on the question. Anyway, what's a "sword plate"?
    – isherwood
    May 5, 2016 at 20:50
  • 1
    Typo for "switch plate". It was intended as s a comment on the answe's second sentence.
    – keshlam
    May 5, 2016 at 21:17
  • You can abandon the wires in the wall without a j-box. There is no NEC code that would prevent you from doing that. If you plan to do this, be sure to twist all the wires together on both ends and wrap them with electrical tape so when future work is done, they do not try to hook them back up again. May 6, 2016 at 20:32

Inventing a lighting control system only you and family know how to control would frustrate intruders, but it would also frustrate first responders. And guests.

To me, it violates a basic tenet of architectural design, which is that a home and its features should feel comfortable and accessible. Lighting is part of what makes a space habitable. You know what it's like to grope for a light switch in the dark, even in a strange room you have pretty good intuition of where to reach. Good design supports that intuition, bad design doesn't (this video is amazing).

Those remotes are not an awesome feature. They are included to make fans cheaper and work in sites not wired for fan+light. Precisely because of that cheapness, I tend to think of remotes as kinda lowbrow. You might consider this guy might've bought some pretty nice fans if he's a zealot. See if they have any resale value and sell them with their matched control switches.

I agree you shouldn't need a whole stack of switches. Keep at least 1 switch intact for powering the fan and light. For one thing that spares you the struggle of finding the remote in the dark, being caught off guard if you run out of battery, etc. It also gives you a way to de-energize the fixture if it has an electrical problem.

There are several other ways to control fans without a bevy of controls. A lot of love has been put into this field.

If the cables will reach, you certainly could remove the n-gang box and replace it with a 1- or 2-gang, so you don't have enormous cover plates that are mostly blank. You will be obliged to to so anyway under the electrical code. NEC 210.70a1. You need a light switch at an entry to every room.

210.70 Lighting Outlets Required.

Lighting outlets shall be installed where specified in 210.70(A), (B), and (C).

(A) Dwelling Units.

In dwelling units, lighting outlets shall be installed in accordance with 210.70(A)(1), (2), and (3).

(1) Habitable Rooms.

At least one wall switch-controlled lighting outlet shall be installed in every habitable room and bathroom.

If you are caught having downgraded your house below that minimum, you don't get to roll it back to status quo ante. You will need to update to current code. That'd be a big job since code now requires neutral at every switch loop, and some municipalities require 3-way switches at every entrance. Both of these requirements could necessitate pulling more wire, including 14/4 for switch loops.


Even if you use a remote, you should keep the switches. Most remote control fan/light combos allow you to turn on the light by flicking the switch off then back on. Think about it from the perspective of a guest or a paramedic: you walk through a door and expect a wall switch to be right there, and flip it once or more times to get the light to come on.

And even if you do decide to disconnect the switches, I suggest just leaving them there, but disconnected. Again, everyone expects a light switch to be next to the door, so I would argue removing them will look stranger than keeping them.

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