How To Change a Light Switch From Toggle to Rocker

Changing a light switch from a toggle style to a rocker style is a relatively simple project that most DIYers can tackle. With some basic tools and a bit of know-how, you’ll have those old-fashioned toggle switches swapped out for modern decora rocker switches in no time.

Materials Needed

Before getting started, make sure you have the following materials on hand:

  • Rocker light switch (get the correct amperage and voltage for the circuit)
  • Wire strippers
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Voltage tester
  • Electrical tape
  • Wire nuts

Turn Off Power and Remove Old Switch

Safety first! Before doing any electrical work, always turn off the power at the circuit breaker. The light switch you’ll be replacing controls the power to the light fixture, so once the breaker is off, you’ll be able to work safely.

Use a voltage tester to double check that the power is off before removing the old switch. Then, unscrew the switch plate cover and remove the screws holding the toggle switch in its electrical box. Carefully pull the switch out enough to access the wires.

There will likely be two or three wires connected to the old toggle switch:

  • Hot wire – This brings power from the electrical box and is usually black. It’s connected to one of the screws on the side or back of the old switch.
  • Neutral wire – This white (neutral) wire is connected to the other side or screw of the switch.
  • Ground wire – There may also be a copper ground wire attached to the green ground screw on the switch.

Connect New Switch

Now you’re ready to wire up that shiny new rocker switch!

Start by connecting the ground wire to the green ground screw if there is a ground wire present.

Identify the hot wire in the electrical box – this is usually black. Connect this wire to the brass screw on one side of the new switch.

Connect the white (neutral) wire to the silver screw on the other side of the new switch.

Make sure all connections are tight and secure. No bare wire should be exposed. Tuck all the wires neatly into the electrical box.

Install New Switch

You’re in the home stretch now! Follow these last steps to complete your switch installation:

  • Double check that all wires are connected correctly and safely.
  • Carefully push the switch back into the electrical box.
  • Use screws to secure it in place.
  • Attach the new rocker switch plate cover.
  • Turn the power back on at the circuit breaker.
  • Test the switch to make sure it works correctly.

The new rocker switch should operate smoothly and easily control your lights. Enjoy the modern upgrade!

Frequently Asked Questions About Replacing a Toggle Light Switch

Here are answers to some common questions about switching out those old toggle-style switches:

How do I know if I have the correct amperage switch?

Check the wattage of the light fixture the switch controls. Choose a switch equal to or greater than that wattage. Most standard single-pole switches are rated for 15 amps, which works for most household lights.

What tools do I need?

You’ll need basic electrical tools like a voltage tester, wire strippers, needle nose pliers, screwdrivers, and electrical tape. Regular home tools like these are all you need for this simple switch swap.

What if I have aluminum wiring?

Special care and connections are required when working with aluminum wire. Consult an electrician if your home has outdated aluminum wiring.

How do I remove the old switch if the screws are stuck?

Apply penetrating oil and let it soak in for maximum effectiveness. Gently jiggle or tap the stuck screws as you unscrew them. Seek help if screws won’t budge.

Should I turn off power to the entire house?

Turning off the single circuit breaker controlling the switch is sufficient. Kill power only to that circuit, not the whole house.

How do I connect the wires to a 3-way switch?

3-way switch wiring is more complex, involving an extra traveler wire. Hire an electrician if you’re unsure how to handle a 3-way circuit.

Is it safe to do this myself?

As with any electrical project, exercise caution. If you understand basic wiring and follow proper safety procedures, a simple switch replacement is totally DIY-friendly!


With a screwdriver, basic supplies, and a bit of electrical know-how, you can easily change out those dated old toggle light switches for modern rocker-style decora switches. Make sure to turn off power at the breaker before getting started. Then it just takes swapping some wires and securing the new switch in place. Take your time, follow proper wiring procedures, and you’ll have that new rocker switch installed in no time, improving the look and function of your lights.