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How to Install an Antique Light Switch

Ask This Old House master electrician Heath Eastman replaces a standard toggle switch with a reproduction antique push button switch to match the rest of the house

Steps for installing an antique switch:

  1. Start by turning off the power to the light switch at the breaker and use the voltage tester to ensure the power is off.
  2. Remove the screws holding the cover plate in place using the flathead screwdriver.
  3. Remove the light switch by loosening the two screws holding it into the electrical box. These should be able to be removed using the Philips head.
  4. Loosen the screws on the side of the switch with the Philips head and unhook the wires wrapped around them. Try to keep track of the orientation so you can return those wires to the correct position for the new switch.
  5. Wire the new push button switch. Wrap the ground wire around the ground screw and tighten it with the Philips head. For these reproduction switches, the red and black wires should be inserted straight into the receptacle and tightened by the side screws using the flathead.
  6. Secure the new switch to the electrical box using the provided screws.
  7. Attach the new cover plate over the switches and secure it to the wall using the screws.
  8. Turn the power back on.

Resources:

Heath installed two switches at the box. To control the lamp on the other side of the room, he installed a Premium Push Button Light Switch. To control the light at the ceiling fan, he installed a Premium Single Pole Push Button Universal Dimmer Switch. Both had mother-of-pearl inlays. The cover plate was an Antique Brass Double Button Switch Plate. All these parts and pieces were manufactured by House of Antique Hardware.

The other tools Heath used to install the switch, including the screwdriver and wire nuts, can be found at home centers.


Tools: