Where Should A Light Switch Be Placed In A Kitchen?

If you are renovating your kitchen then you get excited about all the new cabinets, the new wall colors and all the trimmings you picked out. Then you realize that there is one thing you forgot to think about, where should a light switch be placed in the kitchen? My friend forgot about this detail, and I decided to write about this topic to help others out.

The location of a light switch in a kitchen is based on a few different criteria points such as design and layout, current light switches and fixtures and planned changes to the current setup. The requirements of the local building codes and the national electrical code should also be considered.

I visited some of my friends recently and decided to sleep over, after everyone went to bed I wanted to get a glass of water in the kitchen. Of course I couldn’t switch on the lights because I could not find the  light switch. It turns out it was hidden behind the fridge. I was so intriqued with this occurance that I decided to write about the location of light switches in a kitchen.

Common Locations For Light Switches In The Kitchen

Kitchen designs has changed quite a bit in the last few years and that has brought about a few changes in the placement of light switches. It is not uncommon to have a few different light switches in one kitchen, we are going to look at a few locations below:

Light Switch On Inner Entrance Wall Of The Kitchen

It would make sense to install a light switch close to an entrance of the kitchen, especially if the rest of the house is dark. It is a convenient location but that does not mean that it would be the only light switch in the kitchen.

In some cases this light switch will only switch on the ceiling light. There will be some switches for the above counter lights,

Light Switch Against The Wall For Above Counter Lights

We can all agree that ceiling lights do not give enough light for us to really see what we are doing when doing work on the kitchen counter. This is because the cabinets is throwing shadows on the working areas. So the solution would be to install over counter lighting in your kitchen and with that we need a light switch within reach of the countertops. These light switches are normally camouflaged against the kitchen backsplash.

Light Switch Close To The Kitchen Island Lights

Kithen islands have become very popular with kithen designers across the world. There is nothing as frustrating as an island that does not have enough light. It is currently very popular to have hanging lights above the kitchen island. Obviously it would make sense to have a light switch close to the kitchen Island. These are normally installed with the light switches for the above counter lights but it could also be a hanging down light switch close to one of the  hanging lights. 

Light Switch Close To The Kitchen Sink

As strange as it may seem for a light switch to be close to a source of water in the kitchen it is actually not unheard of. Some people prefer to have lights close to the kitchen sink. In a lot of older buildings the ceiling light are too far to offer enough illumination to this critical space in the kitchen.

Modern people prefer to keep switches for kitchen areas separated to conserve energy. Obviously water and electricity should not be introduced to each other, so it is advised to keep this light switch as far as possible from the source of water. A lot of kitchen designers will suggest the same style of lighting as for a kitchen island so the same will apply to the switch.

Light Switch On Outer Entrance Wall Of The Kitchen

Because of emergency procedures we often have more than one door in our residences, one of them almost always in the kitchen. It would make a lot of sense to have a light switch in close proximity to this door as well. If you decide to enter the residence from this door it will obviously be best to switch on at least the ceiling light to the kitchen.

This switch normally works with the opposite entrance switch, meaning that you would be able to switch on or off from both side or alternitavely on when you enter and off on the switch leading out of the kitchen on the opposite side of the kitchen. 

 Factors Affecting The Location Of A Kitchen Light Switch

As mentioned before there is a lot of planning that needs to be done when planning the location of a light switch in a kitchen. Here is a list of factors that may affect your decision:

  • The design and the layout of the kitchen.
  • The budget that you have.
  • The current position of light switches.
  • The local building codes
  • The local electrical codes

We are now going to look at these factors in a bit more detail starting with the design and layout of the kitchen.

Light Switches Affected By Design And Layout Of The Kitchen

In some kitchens it may prove very difficult to find suitable places to install a light switch for the kitchen light. This is because in some cases the designers and the clients themselves get so wrapped up in making things pretty and modern that they forget to also focus on practicality.

What we do with available spaces is critical here.

In cases like this we have to improvise on locations for light switches and in a lot of cases the light switches end up in places that are not exactly suitable. This was the case with my friend and the reason for the light switch being partly blocked by the refridgerator.

Budgets Affect The Location Of The Kitchen Light Switch 

The funds that we have to our disposal plays a huge role in terms of deciding where to install light switches in the kitchen. The decision that we make here in a lot of situations is to spend the budget on new and more modern light fixtures but we leave the switch like it is. It has become very popular to modernize and re-purpose a lot of the things that we already have.

It is also not always possible to consult experts and as a result we may make mistakes that can be costly in the end, so it is advised to use qualified and knowledgable trades people to do any electrical work.

The Current Position Of A Light Switch May Not Work

If you do not have budget constraints then it will be possible to have new light switches for the kitchen installed. This option is normally not the most cost effective but definitely the best in terms of getting the job done right. As mentioned before it should be done by qualified and experienced tradesmen.

The old light switches will be replaced with new and modern switches, the island light switches will be installed with the new fixtures. The above counter light switch will be installed to work with the new fixtures. The possibilities are endless if you have the budget for it.

In my friends case this was another contributing factor to their choice, they had to leave the light switch in the original position, but they did not have any open space for the refridgerator, so voila fridge blocking the light switch.

Local Building Codes Not Affecting Light Switches In Kitchen

Building codes will depend on where you stay although federal laws are not specific in terms of where you put a light switch in the kitchen. The national electrical code is not published by a federal agency but instead by the national fire protection association. This code is what guides electricians in terms of where and how to install light switches.

Electrical installations are dangerous and could lead to unwanted fire to your residence so it is essential to follow the national electrical code. If it can be proven that a switch installation or any electrical installation for that matter was unsafe or dangerous it could lead to you ending up in court or the insurer not paying out.

National Electrical Codes And Light Switches In a Kitchen

It is essential to follow local bylaws as well as the requirements of the national electrical codes which is available on the website of the NFPA (national fireprotection association). The requirements of this code has to do with the safety of installations and not necessarily the location of light switches.

It was very surprising to find this out about this specific code. But when you go to most building sites there is a set process that is being followed in terms of locations for light switches in the kitchen , so in the next section we will look into this.

Recommended Distances For Kitchen Light Switches

Most builders in the industry have adopted measurements to help make decisions easier about the location of light switches in the kitchen and other rooms in the house. In this section we are going to look at these critical points.

Distance Of  Kitchen Light Switch From Door Frame

It is recommended that a gap of at least eight inches is left from a light switch to the frame of a door. There is no set distance for the maximum distance but we do not want to increase the distance too much because then we a fumbling for a kitchen switch in the dark.

There is also a very good reason why we install the kitchen light switch on the same side as the locking part of the door, can you guess what it is ?… Well obviously we then need to first close the door before we can access the light switch, now that is good planning.

Distance From The Floor To Kitchen Light Switch

In terms of this measurement we need to take the legal requirement into consideration that is given to us by the American disabilities association. The distance of a light switch in a kitchen or any other room from the floor upwards is between fourty and fourty-eight inches.

A person in a wheelchair would be able to reach at fourty inches but might still have difficulty if it is installed higher, so take this into consideration. We also don’t want light switches to be in reach of small children so there is a reason for everything.

Distance From Kitchen Counter Top To Light Switch

If you need to install a light switch above a kitchen counter top then it is recommended that it is installed four inches above the top of the kitchen counter, it is interesting here that most counters are thirty-six inches from the ground so it is then still fourty inches from the ground. That way it works out perfectly even for people in a wheelchair. 

Distance From Kitchen Island To Light Switch

When deciding where to place the light switch in the kitchenin relation with your kitchen island it is about personal choice. It is all about reaching the light switch, if you decided on a pendant switch it needs to be low enough. If you decide to use a swith on a nearby wall then it also need to be in reach.

There are other option as well such as remote controlled options or motion sensor options. It will depend on your budget. Remember to take the maintenance of systems into account when choosing these options. Think of how you will getinto working positions, afte everythingis moved into place.


When making the choice about where to put a light switch in the kitchen it is all about doing proper planning and doing the research. Qualified electricians have the ability to help getting the task done according to the codes of practice. The common sense principle helps in making informed choices,with that said I will never look at light switches in the kitchen the same way.


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