Question from Morgan - Bathrooms
"We want to add tile to our bathroom walls and were thinking of stopping about halfway up the wall with a fancy border trim. The problem is, when we lay out our tile, it hits the light and fan switches. Can we move them?"
Answer from Ross Sanders
This question comes up a lot, especially when a wainscot treatment is applied to walls. Wainscot is wood paneling, tile, or some other non-porous treatment such as fiber-reinforced plastics that usually stands three to four feet tall and is generally capped by a chair rail or other decorative molding. Typically, switches are located 48” - 52” above the finished floor, which makes them easily accessible. Sheetrock installers like this approach because it puts the cut-out for the junction box at the upper edge of the bottom piece of sheetrock which is easier to cut out than locating and cutting a floating hole at a random spot. For a great article about switch height check out Timothy Thiele’s piece on About Home.
You may be able to move the box up or down, if you are willing to cut tile and if you have enough wire. Make sure to follow electrical safety procedures and turn off the power, then double-check at the switch that power is off before you get to work. From a design point of view, just try to keep the centerline of the switch no higher than 54” from the ground; someday the switches may need to be accessed by someone in a wheelchair or with limited reach. Remember, Universal Design! Keep in mind around countertops, that a typical backsplash may be as high as 4”, so be sure the bottom of the switch cover will clear the backsplash. Also check things like towel racks, mirrors and other possible obstructions before relocating the switch, as it will be difficult to go back and move it if there is a conflict.
For some wainscot inspiration check out Houzz.