The positioning of light switches affects a home’s convenience, safety and aesthetics. Good placement should mean you should never have to move about in a darkened room at night, whether you’re entering or leaving it. There are also rules about heights of switches that need to be obeyed in new installations. Here’s a rundown of the basics of light switch placement around the home.

Building regulations: height of light switches

There’s some confusion about the height above floor level for light switches. You’ll often see that the law states that switches should be between 900mm and 1100mm above the floor, and level with door handles. However, that rule applies to buildings that are accessible to the general public, as detailed in the Building Regulations Part M.

For domestic properties, according to Part M, light switches should be between 750mm and 1200mm above the floor. That gives you more control over the aesthetics and utility. Even 1200mm is still considerably lower than switches found in older dwellings. Many of us will have grown up in homes with light switches at 1400–1600mm above the floor. Having them lower has accessibility benefits, especially for people who use wheelchairs, and children – hence the changes in regulations.

Room-by-room guide

With the regs covered, here are some guidelines for where to place light switches in various types of rooms around the home.

Regular rooms

We’ll call a room with one door or opening to get in and out as a regular room, i.e. one connected only to a hallway or another room – not to other rooms. This is the simplest to place light switches in, as you generally only need one by the door. When you walk in, you can switch it on, and when you walk out, you switch it off. This setup is typical of a living room or spare room.

If you want extra mood lighting, you can have table lamps, uplights or such like. But the important thing is that you can enter the room in brightness, turn on the mood lighting, then return to the main switch and turn it off. You’re never navigating the room in darkness. 


Bedrooms get a little more complicated, as people want to have illumination as they approach or leave the bed, but darkness when they’re in bed. The bedside light is one solution, and can be operated just like mood lighting in the living room. But let’s face it – that’s a bit of a faff in the morning or evening.

It’s much more convenient to have a two-way switch system (called a three-way switch in the USA). There’s one two-way switch by the door and another one on the wall near the bed. You can switch the main light on or off from either switch. Obviously, you’ll need to know exactly where your bed is going to be situated for this to work, so make sure you plan properly.

Through rooms

Any room that has more than one door leading to/from another room or hallway is a through room. Hallways are through rooms, but if you’ve had a door knocked through a wall, or had a conservatory built against a back room, you’ve probably created a through room. A bedroom with an en-suite attached would also be a through room.

The issue here is that sometimes you’re using the room to live in, but other times it’s effectively a corridor – you’re passing through on your way to another space. That’s why it’s a good idea to have two-way light switches next to every door. You shouldn’t have to leave a light on in a room just because you’ve passed through it. 

Hall and landing

The size and layout of your main entrance hall can determine where lights are placed. While it might be convenient to have a switch right next to the front door, it would need to be part of a two-way circuit to let you switch the light off from another location. That’s why most entrance halls have a switch in the middle of the space, near the internal doors. As long as there’s enough light around the front door area, either from street-lighting or from an entrance light, you should be fine. A motion-activated light with an off-timer is good to have near the front door.

Next, you need to be able to turn on the landing light from downstairs. For this, a classic two-way switch is recommended. You can turn the light on when you’re downstairs, then off again with a separate two-way switch in the landing. 

If you want, you can extend the concept even further by including intermediate switches. Having these lets you turn the landing light on or off using any of three or more switches, so you can have landing light switches near the bedroom or bathroom doors, for example.

Bathrooms, extra toilets and washrooms

Regular manual switches are not generally allowed in the bathroom, thanks to the presence of water splashes and water vapour. An exception would be a very large bathroom, where you can safely have a switch far away from the “wet” area.

For most purposes, there are two options: a switch outside the bathroom door, or a pull-cord switch mounted on the ceiling. Both are safe and convenient options, so the choice will normally come down to aesthetics.

It’s possible to have switches with very high IP ratings (IP67 or IP68) to maintain safe use in extreme wet or even submerged situations. But for the most part the extra convenience isn’t worth the added engineering and cost, and would probably fall under “novelty” use.


Kitchens generally follow the same guidelines as regular rooms or through-rooms detailed above. It’s OK to have a switch inside the kitchen close to the door(s), but avoid having light switches close to the sink, unless it has an adequate IP rating.

Switch gangs

All of the above guidelines relate to a single switch, but in reality, people will want two, three or even four-gang switches around the home. For example, the hall light and the downstairs landing light switches look much neater when they’re in a single unit. Similarly, if you have wall lights and a main candelabra, it’s handy to be able to control them independently, in which case a two-gang or three-gang switch is perfect.

The important thing to note is that you might need two-gang switches that are also two-way switches. For example, the two-gang switch in the hall also has to be a two-way switch if you want it to control the landing light, even though the hall light is a simple circuit. If it’s a simple setup (i.e. the wall light/candelabra combination), you don’t need two-way switches; just a regular two gang switch should do.