A handy guide to light switch height

UK Home Improvement

A Handy Guide To Light Switch Height

Whether you’re building a brand new house or conducting the general rewiring of your property, you may come to consider how you position your light switches. 

The positioning of switches and sockets may seem a strange thing to fixate on, but it can really impact how functional your space is. For example, placing a light switch too far along the wall from the entrance of a room would be impractical and confusing for most. There is an expectation that switches for lights will be within reach, so let’s take a look at the standard approach and why it’s applied so regularly.

What height should a light switch be?

Legally, you don’t have to meet any specific regulations for positioning your light switches, as it’s your home. However, there are recommended minimum and maximum heights from the floor level that you should seriously keep in mind. 

The lowest they should be positioned is 450mm from the floor, while the maximum height is 1200mm. Some people prefer to stick to 900mm as the minimum, however, as this provides a more comfortable range. This is to help make them accessible to everyone, including any wheelchair users or persons with limited reach. Even if you personally don’t have limited reach, it’s worth considering the future of your property and planning to ensure you or someone else won’t have to change these further down the line.

Where do these recommendations for light switch height come from? It’s stated in Part M of the building regulations and in BS 7671. It should be noted, however, that these regulations may differ for those living in Scotland. 

For bathrooms, of course, you’re unlikely to have a light switch due to the risks involving moisture and water. Instead, a pull cord is the most common alternative and accessibility should again be considered for all users when it comes to how low the pull cord sits.

Should you measure from the top or bottom of the light switch?

Another great practical question is whether you measure from the bottom of the light switch or from its top edge when calculating with the measurements provided. Again, Part M of the building regulations is where you can find more detail on this, but the following is a useful way to think about applying the minimum and maximum in relation to the switch itself.

  • For the minimum height of 450mm from the floor, you measure up to the bottom of the switch.
  • For the maximum height of 1200mm you measure from the floor to the top of the switch.

That essentially creates a given space within which to position your light switch. It can be easier to think of it this way, knowing your light switch should be installed in the area that is 450mm from the floor up to 1200mm. 

Can I place light switches at a different height beside a bed?

The simple answer here is yes. It’s a common occurrence when trying to create a functional space that allows you to climb into bed at night and turn off your lights without having to get up again. The general height in line with your bed – traditionally above a bedside table – would probably fall between the recommended minimum and maximum height anyway.

How high can electrical sockets be?

Electrical sockets are a little different to light switches as they’re not often the first thing you need to have at hand when entering a room. They’re more of a practical feature to allow you to power appliances, devices and secondary lighting.

The guidance, however, on how far up or down a wall they’re installed remains the same as with light switches. This follows the same principle of making sure that they’re accessible to all users. The only difference is that sometimes there are instances where the configuration or function of a room may create exceptions, such as within a kitchen where a socket is required higher up the wall.

For less frequently inhabited areas of the home, such as your garage or in a utility room, there is a lower minimum level of 100mm that can be applied, as long as you account for the flex of the wiring. 

If you know your home is in an area at risk of flooding, or if it has flooded before, you may want to consider having a higher level for your electrical outlets in an attempt to limit damage should the worst happen.

What about in corners?

Corners present another tricky element to consider in terms of light switches and general socket placement. You should once again keep in mind the needs of any wheelchair users, keeping the switch a distance of at least 350mm from the corner of a room. This allows for manoeuvrability and accessibility for all, making switches practical and easy to use.

Overall, as long as you consider the practical aspects of using light switches and sockets for everyone – including your future self – you should be covered by the measurements provided.


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