How to wire an electrical switch and outlet

Updated February 21, 2017

Wiring an outlet to a wall switch will give you the flexibility of having half of the outlet to be constantly powered, while the remaining half, or top plug, is controlled by the switch. Plugging a lamp into the top plug will allow you to turn on the lamp or other device as you enter the room. Simply installing a typical single pole wall switch inline with an existing outlet will give you the complete circuit.

Turn the power off to the outlet at the main service (circuit) panel.

Loosen and remove the screw holding the cover plate on the outlet. Also, remove the top and bottom screw holding the outlet in the junction box. Pull the outlet out of the box as far as the wiring will allow.

Mark the location on the wall above the outlet, where you will install the wall switch. Trace the shape of the junction box onto the wall at this mark. Cut a hole in the wall along the outline. Insert the junction box into the hole and secure it in place using the screws included in the kit. Punch out one of the knockout holes in the bottom of the box.

Run the electrical cable through the back of the new junction box hole and down to the existing outlet, and pull it out the front of the outlet box. Leave six inches of cable at each end, hanging out the two boxes and cut away the excess cable.

Strip three inches of the outer sheathing away at each end of the cable. Inside there will be three wires. Two insulated and one bare. Strip one inch of insulation off the end of the insulated wires at each end of the cable.

Connect the wall switch to the wiring at the new junction box. Connect the bare wire to the green screw, connect the black wire to the brass screw, and the white wire to the silver screw. Tighten each screw down on the wire. Push the wiring into the box and insert a screw into the top and bottom holes on the switch, and attach it to the box. Install the cover place over the switch in the same manner.

Loosen and remove the wires from the existing outlet, and set the outlet aside. Cut a six inch piece of cable (from the excess wire left over) and strip off all the outer sheathing and completely separate the wires. Take only the black wire and strip off one inch of insulation off each end. This will serve as a pigtail in the steps to follow.

Take one end of the pigtail and twist it together with the other two black wires, and twist a wire nut on the end. Connect the remaining free end of the pigtail to the brass screw next the bottom plug on the outlet. Twist all the bare wires together and connect them to the single green screw on the outlet.

Attach the white wire from the service panel to the silver screw on the left side of the outlet (left side as you look at the front of the outlet). Attach the white wire from the switch to the remaining brass screw on the right side of the outlet. Wrap a piece of black tape around the white wire from the switch to indicate it is a hot wire.

Cut away the brass connector between the two brass screws on right side of the outlet. Push the wiring into the box, and insert a screw into the top and bottom holes on the outlet and tighten them down to the box. Install the cover place and tighten it down with a single screw in the centre hole.

Turn the power on at the service panel, and plug in a light to the outlet to test for power and to check that the switch operates the light.


Never attempt to work on this or any other electrical cable without first turning the power off.

Things You'll Need

  • Electrical junction box
  • Pencil
  • Keyhole saw
  • 5 feet, 14-2 electrical cable
  • Wire cutters/strippers
  • Single pole wall switch
  • 1 package wire nuts
  • Electrical tape
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About the Author

Billy Brainard graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in education from Trinity College. As the department chairman he was responsible for creating and writing the curriculum for 7-12 grade students. Currently he writes for eHow and works part time helping employees by creating and writing resumes to help in their job search.