Fix-It Chick: Turn existing wall switch into switch-outlet combo

Adding an outlet to any room may be as simple as replacing an existing wall switch with a combination switch/outlet. This can be done if the switch to be replaced is wired with the power source coming to it first, before being routed to the light fixture it controls.

Step 1: Use the breaker or fuse in the circuit panel to turn off the power to the switch to be replaced.

Step 2: Remove the switch cover plate and pull the switch out of the outlet box. Use a voltage sensor to confirm the power is off. Excluding the green or bare ground wires, if there are four wires running into the box, two attached to the switch and two tied together at the back of the box, the switch should be able to be replaced with an outlet-switch combination.

Step 3: Without removing any wires, turn the power back on and use a voltage sensor to identify the single hot wire running to the switch. If there is more than one hot wire in the box, consult an electrician before proceeding.

Step 4: Turn off the power to the switch again. Remove the hot wire from the existing switch. Use a wire nut and two short pieces of black 14-gauge solid wire to pig-tail the hot wire onto the two black screws located on the combo switch.

Step 5: Detach the second wire from the switch and attach it to the silver screw on the switch portion of the combo switch. Wrap the wires clockwise so when the terminal screw is tightened, the wire will be pulled in beneath it.

Step 6: Using a short piece of white 14-gauge solid-strand wire as a pig tail and a wire nut, attach one end of the pig tail to the two wires tied together at the back of the box. Attach the other end of the pig tail to the remaining gold screw located on the outlet side of the combo switch.

Step 7: If there is a ground wire, attach it to the green screw on the combo switch.

Step 8: Wrap the outer edges of the combo switch with electrical tape. Press the combo switch back into the outlet box and secure it with the mounting screws. Attach a new cover plate designed to accommodate the combo switch and turn the power back on.

— Have a home improvement question for Fix-It Chick? Email it to Linda Cottin at