Seating a Switch or Receptacle Snuggly

TIP: When Switches or Receptacles are recessed too much because of faulty installation of box or plaster ring.

Sometimes in the installation of a device box, a craftsperson may install it too deep in the wall not allowing for the thickness of the drywall or plywood covering. If a metal box is used, they may use a plaster ring too shallow; again not allowing for the thickness of the drywall or plywood covering. As a result of this kind of installation, the device, such as a switch or duplex receptacle may not seat properly when fastened down. In addition, sometimes the tabs on these devices do not seat against the drywall when fastened down because the opening for the device box of the drywall was cut too much.

Switch Receptacle Fix

Correct cutout compared with oversize cutout.

If you find an outlet box that has not been installed properly or the device opening on the wall covering too large, there are at leastĀ four things you can do to have the device seat snuggly.

1. You can use an appropriate size metal or plastic spacer over the hold down screw. If you do not have these handy, read on for other methods.

2. This next method is more complex and does not always work given the materials and time to work with. If you have the right type of flat head screw for the device hold-down, this next method might work sufficiently. Unless it has been changed by a maintenance person, the standard size screws are number 6-32. Put the screw in the device hold-down hole or if the screw is already in the device hole, take the paper card that holds the screw off. Take a 6-32 nut and screw it on the number 6 screw that holds down the device. Screw the nut all the way, it should not put pressure on the device itself. If it does you will not be able to screw the screw to the box. For the ideal, there should be some light play or slop so the screw has movement. If this cannot be achieved, move on to the next method. Take another 6-32 nut and screw in on the screw. Adjust the nut on the screw to the proper distance needed so that the device does not sink into the wall when screwing the screw. You may need to do this process with both screws that fasten the device to the box. If the nut turns while screwing in the screw the purpose of the nut will be defeated. You can carefully crimp or cut a groove on the screw diagonally across the threads. This will prevent the nut from moving any further than desired while screwing in the screw. The threads of the screw have to be cut exactly where you want the nut to stop.

3. This next method is less complicated and will work well if you have the parts. With the device 6-32 hold-down screws, use a combination of oversize nuts like 8-32 as wide spacers and small flat washers. You can also use a 6-32 nut to hold them in place. The washers work well to make fine adjustments to length.

4. With this next method you make your own spacer. TakeĀ  #12 insulated soft drawn solid copper wire and wrap a length of it around the screw. Soft drawn copper wire is easier to bend and work with. Keep the insulation on the wire. It may be easier to first form the wire, then slip it over the screw without taking the screw off the device. Form the wire longer than needed, install on screw, then cut to proper length with diagonal pliers or cutters.

With all these methods, make sure your device is grounded properly. Some of these methods may compromise a good ground. In this case use a bare or green insulated copper wire attached to the device’s ground screw and proper ground. It just takes some practice to see which method works best for a given situation. Give it a try.