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Adding Sockets And Lights

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 11 Oct 2010 | comments*Discuss
Lights Switches Sockets Property

Most renovation jobs will involve some electrical work, from a complete rewire to the simpler jobs of moving or adding lights, switches and sockets. With the demands of modern living on an electrical supply, it would be a short-sighted renovator who didn’t put at least half-a-dozen sockets in every major room, and more in areas like kitchens, living rooms and home offices.

Central Lighting is so Yesterday

Increasingly, modern design ideas frown upon the humble central pendant light that almost all houses have in the middle of every room. Removing that central light and fitting wall lights instead might mean some complicated wiring but it will also involve a lot of non-electrical work too, such as chasing channels in the plaster to take the wires, installing protective conduit and then making good the plaster and redecorating over the top. But if you’re ripping the plaster out as part of an overall renovation job in any case, then it makes sense to put some classy lighting options in at the same time.

You will need to understand wiring rules and regulations and understand how the circuits fit together to make changes such as this. If you add a large number of extra lights it may mean adding further circuits to the lighting system, something that could entail buying a larger central distribution box.

Switch Choices

When designing your new lighting system, put as many switches in as you can. If you are putting ceiling spots all over a kitchen, for example, you will want to be able to switch on lights on and off in different areas rather than having only two options, all on and all off.

Also consider using something other than boring white plastic switches and fittings. Different coloured plastics, metal finishes and even leather ones are available and different shapes, oval, round and wavy, but be careful that the end result looks classy rather than naff. Be particularly sure before you put in those brass-effect ‘Georgian’ style switch plates with scrolled edges and square plastic rocker switches. Nice!

Check Your Back Boxes

Be aware that some switches, particularly metal ones, may require back boxes deeper than the standard 28mm inset into the walls to accept the switch plates. Dimmer switches can help create atmosphere but note that they too often require deeper back boxes (up to 35mm) to take the components behind the switch plate. If you are rewiring it might be worth considering installing deep back boxes all over so that you can accommodate any switch in any room.


If you are renovating a house that’s anything more than forty years old, the chances are that there’ll only be one socket, or at most two, in each room, unless it’s been rewired in the past. As an absolute minimum, if you’re renovating any property, it makes sense to convert single sockets to double. Apart from the excavation of the extra size hole, this is a simple swap-in job.

It’s also possible to add sockets into a circuit but it’s important that you completely understand electrical installations to avoid overloading a circuit. To do more than this may involve extra circuits going back to the distribution box and it is essential to get expert advice to do work such as this.

Safety First

Please remember -- adding or changing sockets and lights can be a relatively simple job but we do recommend that if you have not been trained that you employ a qualified electrician to do the job for you. Better safe than sorry!

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