Our First Project: Dining Room Dimmer Switch

By Jeff | Jul. 09, 2012

We’ve only just moved into our new place, but we wanted to start on some projects right away. Neither of us have much experience in either the DIY or home owning world, so we thought it would be good to start small. Since the dining room wasn’t a high priority, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal if we messed things up, but the dimmer switch that controls the lights in that room was really old and practically falling apart. Plus, swapping out a light switch should be easy, right? Well, armed with our new drill and new dimmer switch / wall plate, we began work.

Old switch

The old switch needs to go.

Naturally since this is an electrical project, the first thing we did was turn the main power switch off and verify that it was off. We also had our fire extinguisher nearby just in case something went terribly wrong. We also read the instructions for installing the new wall plate to see what we were getting into. It looked pretty simple and everything was labeled clearly.

Now that we were safe, we unscrewed the wall plate to take a look in the wall.


Hmm. According to the instructions, I had a “single-pole” type switch. So I match up the new wires to where the old wires were and I’m all set, right? But everything is black! I thought there was supposed to be a red wire and a black wire. At least we found what looked like the ground, although it wasn’t connected to anything….

So off to the store to buy a multimeter, a neat little device that lets you read things such as voltage, current, and continuity. With that, I was able to determine which wire should be connected to which and I got everything connected properly. We turned on the power and watched it work.


Now that we were sure everything worked, we turned off the power again and put everything back in the wall.

New switch

Almost done! After some finagling with the screw-less wall plate, we were able to finish our first home upgrade! Here’s the final product.

New switch