Have you ever paid any attention to where the light switches are in your home? Take a look now. Have you ever wondered why they are placed exactly where they are?
I’ve mentioned before my fascination with all things lighting, and it’s the same with switches. What’s really interesting is, in all my research, learning what laws and rules dictate where you can place a light switch.
There are no national laws on how far a light switch should be from a door frame. It’s recommended that a switch should be installed at least 8 inches from the frame to leave space for the switch plate.
Interesting right? Well read on because in this article I’m going to talk you through:
- The regulations around light switches
- The standard distance for switches from a door
- The standard height of a light switch
Are There Any Location Requirements For Switches?
Building regulations vary depending on your location, but there are no federal laws that govern where light switches are placed in a home or commercial setting in the United States. Instead, there is a standards code that electricians are expected to follow.
This code is the National Electrical Code (NEC). It’s published not by a federal agency but by a private trade group, the National Fire Protection Association.
While their name would suggest they are all about fire safety, the code covers everything, including accessibility.
It’s also important to note that, just because the standards set out within the National Electrical Code are not a federal law, that doesn’t mean you aren’t liable if you install equipment such as a light switch in a way that is negligent.
If your work is dangerous in any way or causes unnecessary damage to the property, then you could be sued if you haven’t stuck to the NEC. So it’s worthwhile doing so.
You can access the code freely on the NFPA website, but you will need to sign up for an account to do so.
And while the code is a national standard, that doesn’t mean there aren’t local jurisdiction requirements that you must follow.
Some states, such as Nevada, have laws that say a light switch should be no more than six feet from the door frame.
The lesson is to always check the laws of your state or country when you do any electrical work!
What Is The Standard Distance Of The Switch From The Door?
There are no set standards for the distance of a light switch from a door. The National Electrical Code doesn’t include this information in its regulations. A search shows no agreed standard.
What I have seen recommended is that you should leave a gap of at least 8 inches from the door frame.
The reason is that a door jam might have multiple studs in the wall – 8 inches will account for two studs, so it ensures the switch plate won’t interfere with the construction of the door frame.
In terms of a maximum distance, it’s recommended that you use common sense and not leave a switch too far away.
You don’t want to be fumbling around in the dark trying to light up your room if you cannot locate the switch. You certainly don’t want to have to walk into a room where you could trip over unseen obstacles.
One other thing to consider is to make sure that you install any light switches on the door’s lock side, not the hinge side.
Simply because you don’t want to have to enter a room and close the door to access the light switch – it would be frustrating regularly.
You could of course get around this by choosing to install smart lighting – I’ve written many articles on smart lighting which you can read here.
How High Should Be The Switch On The Wall?
Just as with the distance of a light switch from a wall, nothing in the National Electrical Code dictates how high a light switch should be on a wall.
However there is a legal requirement in place – it is dictated by the American Disabilities Association. This states that all light switches must be placed between 15 and 48 inches from the floor to ensure that wheelchair users can reach them.
With this in mind, builders tend to work to a standard height by placing the switch plate’s bottom 48 inches above the floor.
Using this consistent measurement allows for easy access for anyone in a standing or sitting position to reach the switch, no matter their height.
A height of 48 inches isn’t actually the recommendation from the ADA, however.
They point out that a light switch at 48 inches high cannot easily be reached by some under four feet tall or by anyone in a wheelchair who suffers from some form of paralysis.
They actually recommend a height of 40 inches.
This would still easily be comfortable for anyone who is not wheelchair-bound, as the average height of an American is between 64 and 69 inches. If you are re-wiring a home and want to ensure that the light switches are as accessible as possible, this would be the best option.
One other variant for me to mention is when light switches are placed above a countertop in your kitchen or any other room where you have a worktop.
If you place a light switch above a countertop, the standard is to put it four inches above the counter’s top.
As the standard height for a countertop is 36 inches, switches are placed at the recommended height of 40 inches.
Again, this might vary – if you have wall-mounted cupboards, you might want to place the switch half-way between the countertop and the bottom of the cupboard, as it will look better. Consider the whole build of the room, but just make sure that switches are no higher than 48 inches.
When it comes to installing light switches, the regulations are relatively simple to follow.
Just make sure that light switches are an adequate distance from the door frame to interfere with construction and that they’re at a suitable height for all users.
And then, you can start thinking about what kind of light switches you want to install.
Have you ever encountered light switches installed unusually? Or had any issues with your home renovation when trying to relocate a light switch?
Let me know in the comments.