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Light Switch Help Please

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I'm in the UK at the moment and I've already been roped into helping family out.

I've got 3 light switches to replace and I'm hoping maybe someone might have something very similar in a junk box in their shed and might be willing to swap them for a couple of beer tokens.

The switches are very old and I'm assuming none of them are available as new items.



Yes… they are very old, and unlikely new switches will fit the old boxes.

I have a friend who likes this sort of thing, and I fitted out his house with new “old” switches… He sourced them online…. I think from here

The round one is surface mounted and can be replaced with a standard modern pattress and switch. That round type is non compliant these days as the front unscrews by hand giving direct access to live terminals.

The other two will probably be on cast iron back boxes, MK make an adaptor you can fix into the cast iron box to convert to the modern fixing hole pattern.
If they are on wooden back boxes then usually the only solution is to replace the back box.

Also be aware that if the wiring is equally old the insulation may be natural rubber which has disintegrated and disturbing it opens a very large can of worms.
Thanks, you've kinda touched on my next question.

Are the backboxes going to be compatible with the switches available today? I was desparately hoping not to have to replace the backboxes. I also don't want to remove them to investigate because it's cotton wrapped VIR wiring so the less I disturb it the better.

The house belongs to my auntie who was my moms second cousin...or something like that. She's 102 years old and about an inch away from being bed ridden and she can't operate the new type lever switches so whatever I use has to be an old fashioned toggle type switch.
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I'm tempted to sub contract this out to someone who's got tools and a van full of parts. I thought it was an easy like for like replacement until I popped in today to have a look but I'm now worried I start this and the VIR disintegrates or there's another problem that means I can't complete the job and the light circuit can't be reenergised.
Have a look at other parts of the installation. If the fuse board has been changed, then maybe it’s been rewired… or if other switches or ceiling roses have been changed already… there may not be any VIR left.

You’ll be able to take the plate or cover off the switch without disturbing the wires, just for a look first. The switch is fixed to the back box, cover screwed on top.

Whereabouts in Uk are you visiting? Maybe another forum member could assist??
I'm heading back there on Monday to get some more war time stories and investigate further. I'll replace the entire surface mounted metal switch in the first photo and armed with new knowledge I'm going to try to remove the face plates on the other two. The house is in Denton which is about 5 miles East or South East of Manchester, I'm not sure if there's any forum sparkies in that area.
If the installatiion is all original, based on those switches the cable is going to somewhere between 50 and 100 years old?

I would not be touching those switches unless it was part of a full Re-Wire
I would not be touching those switches unless it was part of a full Re-Wire

Honestly though... you can take the plates off without touching the actual switch, to examine the state of the wiring before anything else.

Your only issue is the round switch at the top.... the whole dome shape needs to be unscrewed from the base... and if its a bit stiff... a "gentle tap" could still smash it

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