Quick Fix — Lamplight too bright? How to Add a Dimmer to a Lamp

By Jean Nayar

floor lamp image via Home Sweet SolutionsNot every floor or table lamp comes with an integral dimmer, but you can easily attach a foot-control dimmer to a floor lamp or add an in-line cord-operated dimmer to a table lamp to enable you to adjust the light level for different functions or different times of day.

Dimmers also help conserve energy and save money on your utility bills. And they’re incredibly easy to install. Lamp-base dimmers, for example, screw directly into a lamp’s socket. Plug-in foot-control floor lamp dimmers plug directly into the wall and contain a socket that lets you simply plug your lamp into the dimming device. In-line cord-control dimmers can be attached to a lamp cord and require just a few basic tools to install. Here’s how to install a dimmer.


Most tools needed for this job can be found our in a basic homeowners toolkit. For help with building your own, see our article – The Ten Essential Tools for HomeOwners.


1. Select the position

Unplug your lamp. Select the position along the cord where you want to add the dimmer switch to the lamp. (Choose a spot within easy reach of where you will be turning it on, such as from a chair or bed.)

2. Prepare the wire

With a utility knife, separate the two wires of your lamp’s cord at the position you want to add the dimmer switch, about an inch or so along the groove in the center of the cord. Determine which of the strands of the cord is neutral and which one is hot by observing the insulation casing: The hot wire has smooth casing, and the neutral wire has ribbed casing. Using the cutting pliers, slice through only the hot wire at the center of the juncture where you wish to install your dimmer. Using the wire strippers, strip away about one inch of insulation from both ends of the cut hot wire.

3. Install the dimmer

Unscrew and remove the cover of the dimmer switch. Place the neutral wire along the inside of the switch box, as indicated in the manufacturer’s instructions. Using the long-nose pliers, place the cut ends of the hot wire under the two terminal clamps and fasten them in place by turning the screws with a screwdriver. Replace the dimmer switch cover and screw into place.

4. Test the dimmer switch

Plug in the lamp and turn it on to be sure the new dimmer switch functions properly. Then adjust the dimmer as desired.


Jean Nayar is a journalist, the author of eight books on decorating and design, and the founder of TheHappyHomeWorkshop.com, a blog on decorating and home improvement.

Notes from the hosts: For more on lighting or electrical see those categories here on BuildingMoxie. Lighting, there. Electrical, here. ~jb