Recessing elecric socket - please help!

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Hi,
Due to a forthcoming baby arrival, whilst decorarting the nursery-to-be we need to recess the existing sockets into the wall (to save headbumps at the later crawling stage!) and I have been told by a helpful handyman that this is something we can do, as opposed to having to get an expensive electrician in. (He could do it but is trying to save us money).
Not knowing much (understatement!) about this, can you please give me your opinion as to whether this is correct and something Joe Bloggs can do?
As I understand it, all we have to do is turn off the electicity supply, and chisel out a hole in the wall for the box to fit into, slot it in and hey presto. Is it really as easy as that?
Mind you, our walls appear to be made of 1930s steel lined bricks so chiselling out a hole (or three) may be quite a task.
Can anyone give me any tips as to how to make this go smoothly and any tools which may be helpful?
Your help would be much appreciated! Thanks Rebecca
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Rebecca wrote:

It sounds as though you have surface mounted sockets and wish them to be refitted flush with the wall.
The usual way to do this is to buy a metal recessed switch housing (to suit the socket you have if possible) mark the proposed position on the wall, remove the old socket if it is in the way, check that there are no buried pipes or cables in the area, drill a series of holes around the edges of the marked hole to a suitable depth for the new socket housing, use a chisel and hammer to join the holes up and finish off the recess, fix the metal housing in the bottom of the hole, plaster up round the edges and reattach the socket unit and wire it in.
If you are good then the above will only take a few hours per socket and parts will only be a couple of quid.
Tools needed good drill, preferably with depth gauge, sharp chisel and hammer, few screwdrivers and odds like that.
Main problems are whether the old wiring is suitable condition and position.
DIY stores sell a plastic jig that you screw to the wall first and drill round all the edges, these are pretty useful. There are also professional box sinking drills, but they are serious money.
MrCheerful
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On Wed, 23 Jul 2003 15:45:30 GMT, "MrCheerful"

A big issue could be that the electricity will be switched off when you need to use it.
Andrew
Do you need a handyman service? Check out our web site at http://www.handymac.co.uk
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Only you can know your own skill levels. The job consists of:
1. Turn off the electricity 2. Pull the MCB/fuse for the circuit. 3. Detach existing socket. 4. Drill/chisel out a chamber into the plaster/brick to the correct depth. Use an SDS drill, if possible. 5. Drill hole and insert rawlplugs to attach backplate. 6. Punch out hole on metal backplate. 7. Insert rubber grommit into hole. 8. Thread cables through grommit. 9. Insert backplate into the chamber. 10. Screw backplate into rawlplugs. 11. Reattach live and neutral to socket. 12. Cut new piece of earth wire to size. 13. Thread earth sleeving over wire. 14. Reattach earth cables to socket, with one end of the new earth wire. 15. Attach other end of earth wire to the terminal in metal backplate. 16. Screw socket back into place. 17. Test the circuit, or get electrician/competent friend to test for you. This requires specialist equipment, such as an insulation resistance tester and an earth loop impedence tester. These are expensive and not the same as a 5 quid "electrical tester" sold down the market.
If the socket has two earth terminals (i.e. you are using a new socket, as old ones always have one terminal), attach one circuit earth cable into one terminal and one into the other. The flying lead to the backplate can go to either.
Christian.
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There are good reasons for doing this, but head bumping isn't something to worry about - houses are full of endless things to bump heads on - and they only really get good at it once they can walk and climb :-)

It isn't a difficult job, others have outlined the job already, but then if you've done nothing much in the way of DIY it maybe more than you feel happy doing.
For cutting the holes for the back boxes (esp in hard brick - we've got some of those) and SDS drill is extremely handy.
This drill much more effectively than standard hammer drills, and also most have a chiselling action as well - I can cut a box hole out in our old hard bricks in 5- 10 minutes, with a standard drill and using a hammer and bolster etc. it could easily take 1/2 hours, and make a lot more mess of the wall.
I wouldn't in general recommend them, but you kight want to consider one of the el cheapo SDS drills if you don't want to spend much - there is a current thread on this. If you are wondering about SDS, do a Google Groups search on uk.d--i-y
--
Chris French, Leeds

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Rebecca wrote:

I wouldn't bother, if I were you. There are plenty of things for wrigglers (I've a recent one) to bump themselves on. I have taken the liberty of cross-posting this to uk.p.p, who are generally helpful. Bumps *will* happen - as long as they aren't *too* hard, they're part of natural learning.

Good Lord!

As long as Joe is reasonably practical, yes, no problem.

Very nearly. You can do this with a narrow-bladed (cold, not woodworking!) chisel, or a masonry drill/chisel. However, see my first sentence!

What is a steel-lined brick? Do you mean that there is metal between brick courses? I don't understand.

Budget seems important, should you do this. You haven't, I imagine, many to do, so low-tech methods will do:
1 ) Electric hammer drill[1], if you've got one 2 ) 6mm masonry bit. 3 ) 1/2" cold chisel. 4 ) hammer (claw will do). 5 ) screwdriver
Switch off the power (possibly ring circuit, check power is off with bedside lamp, check bedside lamp works afterwards in downstairs socket to make sure you have not tested with a dead lamp). Unscrew the socket face plate, note carefully where the wires go. Undo the wires. Get the metal box that goes in the wall and pencil out around it where it goes on the wall. Drill a lot of holes on this line being careful not to drill through the wire (drill on extension lead from downstairs). Drill a lot more holes in the block of stuff you are going to extract. A bit of tape around the drill to act as a depth guide is good. Use hammer and chisel to finish off the flat-bottomed hole. If you have not got a drill, chisel off any plaster and then chisel brick out to required depth/shape. You can sharpen a cold chisel by rubbing it on (for instance) a concrete kerbstone. When the hole is made, put the box in, and mark/drill a hole for a retaining screw. Screw in the box, packing behind if needed to ensure a flush fit. Put the wires through a push-out bit in the metal box (which should have a "rubber" grommet to protect against sharp edges). Fill gaps around the box with pollyfilla or similar. When set, put the wires back into the appropriate (noted) holes in the face plate (maybe a new one). There will probably be an earth wire to run to the metal box, too. Bend wires so they won't be pinched up anywhere by the face plate or its retaining screws Screw on the face plate. Done.
[1] Someone will soon tell you all about a thing called an SDS drill, I'm sure. If you can't get one, they are not vital!
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Quite agree! Presumably those who drafted BS1363 went to considerable lengths to come up with a design that would be safe for adults AND children.
I've always suspected those covers sold to people who think the electricity might "leak out" otherwise!
John.
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On Wed, 23 Jul 2003 21:04:49 +0100, John Mann

But that's only a problem if you live at the bottom of a hill :)
Andrew
Do you need a handyman service? Check out our web site at http://www.handymac.co.uk
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Surely if you live at the top you need them to stop the air getting sucked in?
Darren
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"Martin Angove" wrote | Maybe we're just a bit odd, but ever since our boy (now 22 | months) became interested in plugs and sockets (about a year | ago), we've taught him how to insert and remove plugs safely. | He now "helps" by plugging in the hairdryer and switching | on table lamps and the like.
Just wait until he "helps" by re-plugging all the leads on the back of the hi-fi!
I assume anything heat-generating is either out of his reach when unattended or has a lock-off cover over its plug (not the socket), so that he can't plug anything in he shouldn't or that you aren't expecting to be plugged in. Starting a fire is probably a greater risk than electrification.
When I were a lad, I used to have a book showing how to make switches and bulb-holders out of matchboxes, tinfoil and paperclips (for battery use of course). Can't remember the title, Things With Batteries and Magnets or something like that; I think there were a series of them.
Nowadays it's probably Building Your Own PC for Primary-School Children.
Owain
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well above his height and out of reach behind the unit upon which the television sits. Doesn't stop him getting at the remote, but he does at least "respect" the videos (yes, there are two, he's only supposed to use one of them).

don't see it as a major problem. The only other thing is the iron, but that is put away immediately after use. Kettles and the like are in the kitchen on the work surface beyond reach for at least another year... unless he does his trick with the chair :-)
Hwyl!
M.
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We do have the covers - ours are very hard to remove, but I think they probably serve little purpose.

We haven't done that, but mostly I think because it's never come up - I realise thinking about it that most stuff stays plugged in so she's never really come across it much.
In general though we've encouraged her to help out and be involved in things, she likes to empty the dishwasher and stand on a chair next to you chopping up veg when your cooking dinner - well, she can just about cut up a mushroom with a little blunt children's knife:-)
When she was little she found LV plug on the end of wall-wart power supply lead that was plugged in and turned on - didn't like it when she put it in her mouth :-( - I tried it too, you get quite a little tingle on your tongue :-)
What I love are those little table tennis ball sized things you are supposed to put over all the sharp corners on tables etc.
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Chris French, UK.
Dad to Elinor (born 2001/02/25)
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Chris French wrote:

Completely OT: but that reminds me of an entertaining incident (for me anyway) a few years ago.....
Sister in law was attempting to get a Gameboy working using an external wall wart power supply and was not having much success. So she is on the phone asking me how she can fix it. Having got her to check the various settings on the supply (one of those "universal" beasties) I asked if there was some other device she knew was working that she could try it with (so I could eliminate the PSU from the investigation). Alas she said there was nothing handy.
So I was wondering how I could find out if this PSU was working from my end of the phone, with no remote test equipment, and a non techie SIL.
Aha! - "Could you touch the tip of the connector with your tongue I asked - you should feel a tingling sensation if it's working?"
The "Owooooch!!" that came back down the phone was loud enough to be heard by SWMBO who was standing half way across the room!
Oddly she was not impressed when I told her that it was obviously working then!
(Think she may have had it on the 12V setting - unregulated supply - so approx 17V with no load - guess that does a bit more than tingle! ;-) )
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John.

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ROFL !!! And you're in the hairdressing business as well now ? Well it would be enough to make her hair stand on end anyway. :-))
Now the main point. Did you get the gameboy sorted ? LOL
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BigWallop wrote:

Truth be told - I can't remember if I got it sorted at the time... that bit of the story always seemed less interesting than the other bit ;-)
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Cheers,

John.

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The probably isn't one there if these sockets have been mounted on plastic surface mount boxes, but one should be installed.
Get some earth sleeving (yellow/green plastic sleeving) and use a scrap piece of earth cable from a length of the same sized cable.

Once you've used one once you soon realise that they are almost :-)
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When I was about 10 I managed to short out the electrical supply for half my school using only two pairs of scissors. I inserted one into the earth hole to raise the gate, another pair into one of the L&N holes, pulled the first pair out and inserted it into the other L&N hole. The two pairs of scissors weren't touching each other, but when I switched the socket on, **BANG**!! Half the school blacked out. I didn't get any form of shock somehow until I got home and was faced with my dad who was none too impressed.
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Well that's the point, isn't it? These socket covers are meant to protect "young children", presumably up to about 3 or 4, from accidentally hurting themselves. Beyond that, there are very few children who wouldn't be able to remove the covers (mind you I suspect that most 2-year-olds could manage it if they had enough curiosity), and certainly by 10 the kind of complicated method you described is more possible.
On a similar note, when I was about 13 or 14 I "recovered" an unused length of magnesium tape from the chemistry lab and then tried to light it using the 1-bar electric fire which was the only heating at that time in the "computer suite" (a room with ancient desks and 8 or 10 BBC micros). Disappointingly I took out that wing of the school (three classrooms and a lab) rather than lighting the tape. I presume I must have touched the grill on the fire at the same time as the element.
No-one realised it was me though. Or if they did, they didn't say. There weren't any teachers about at the time.
Bottom 3 most useless "child safety" items:
1: socket covers 2: things to stop children shutting doors and drawers on their fingers (#2 because there *are* limited circumstances where they are useful) 3: table corner protectors (#3 as above)
(and I'll argue any of those with anyone sensible)
One I'm not sure about: ?: fridge door lock
One I'm very fond of: 1: cupboard door latches (despite their awkwardness in use)
And there are *some* stair gates which I like, but others which seem to me to be more dangerous than not having one.
Hwyl!
M.
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Hmmm - must confess. I used to take wodges of magnesium ribbon and shove strips across the live/neutral of the sockets in the dormitory. Then switch on. Amazingly bright flash, impressive bang and, quite often, blown fuses.
Rod
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Rod Hewitt wrote:

16V capacitors.... When they take 240V mains they go bang & spray bits of lively ribbon everywhere...
They were always popular with us...

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