Built-In Bookcase: Moving a Light Switch

I needed to move a light switch that was on the wall where my final bookcase unit is going.

I started by Opening up the Light Switch to see what I was dealing with (after turning off the power!)


Looks like I have only 1 pair of wires to deal with – coming from the attic.  So my next step was Check the Attic.


Good news, my wire goes straight up to a junction box in the attic.  But the bad news is the wire isn’t long enough to be moved over 1 foot.  (Wouldn’t it have been nice if the installer would’ve given a foot of extra wire “slack”!)

Anyway!  Moving this light switch is a go for 2 reasons.

1.  I only need to move it over to a neighboring wall by about a foot.  And

2.  the too short wire can be easily replaced by a new 5 foot length from the switch to the junction box (instead of all the way to the light – which would have been too much work).

I Cut a Hole for my New Switch, making sure to be away from the corner and not on top of a stud.  I put my hole 7 inches from the corner, 2” away from the corner studs.


I measured the distance from the corner to my new location, and took that measurement to the attic with me.  I made my new hole into the wall space right over where my new switch will be.

How to tell where your walls are from inside the attic.

To start it helps to have some rough landmarks in the attic… like where the stairs or opening from below are, any skylights, can lights from the kitchen, known walls (these are the most helpful!)

Let’s use these pictures to help me explain…


Since I know where the main load bearing wall is (right along where the old house meets the addition – the new side is covered by plywood in the attic…) and I know where the wall with the bookcases is (the framing goes up to the roof here), I can determine where my new light switch wall is too.

Top plates will often be 2 2x4s thick, so use a very long drill bit to drill through them.  Here are some example pics. 


from http://www.structuredhomewiring.com/WiringExistingHome.aspx

I Drilled a Hole Through the Top Plate for my wires.  I have a double top plate, so I use a long 5/8” borer bit to drill a good size hole for my wires.


Then I Ran Fish Tape down from the attic hole to the new hole in my wall.


Fish tape:  is this green thing in the photo.  It is basically a reel of a bendy metal strip with cap on the end.  Downstairs I attached a length of electrical wire () to it.  In the attic, I pulled the wire up on the fish tape – I “fished” for my wire and caught it. Haha. 

Connected the wires together in the attic junction box.  Hot to hot (black wire to black wire, etc).

P9250020 P9250018

In the living room, I slipped the other end of the wire through an electrical box, which I attached to the wall.  Use an “OLD WORK” box!  This gets confusing, but New Work means working in a new building (before the drywall goes up), while Old Work means adding to an old building, where the walls and all are already in place.

Here’s some idea how to use “New Work” electrical box.

Cut your hole, sized for the box body.  The wire goes through one of the flaps in the back of the box.  With the box in the wall, tighten the tab screws to pull the tabs against the drywall.


from http://www.structuredhomewiring.com/WiringExistingHome.aspx



Almost Done!


Attach the light switch to the wires and attach to the electrical box.  Hot (black wire) on top.  Check that it’s level and put the cover back on!

P9250036 PA020002


Whew!  Now I have to patch over the old electrical box… that’ll be in my next post Okay ;)

I’m starting to wonder if this project will ever be done!

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4 Responses
  1. That junction box in your attic appears to be illegal and a code violation. A junction box should always be permanently accessible and you should not have to climb into anything or remove anything to access it asides from the cover plate on the box itself.

    Just thought I'd point that out.

  2. Thanks- I've looked into this.

    A junction box in the attic is perfectly legal. It is accessible. The attic is very accessible with a ladder (I go up there almost every week). Perhaps you thought it was covered with plywood - that is not the case.


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