I removed the cover plates for several of the GFI wall outlets and wall
switches over a friend's house (built 1993). I was surprised that the
fronts of the receptacle boxes were about 1/4 inch BEHIND the inside of
the wallboard, leaving a uniform air gap of 1/4 inch on all four sides.
Is this allowed by code?
Some DIY books say to mount the boxes so their fronts are flush with the
finished side of the wallboard.
I just realized that you wrote that the fronts of the receptacle boxes are
1/4 inch BEHIND the back of the wallboard.
In that case (if it is 1/2 inch wallboard), you will need a 3/4 inch plastic
box extender to fill the gap and bring the box out flush with the wall
*I think that the current code calls for the electrical box to be no more
than 1/8" set back from the front face of the drywall. In 1993 it may have
been 1/4". Of course in a perfect world they would all be flush. They do
make adjustable boxes, but they are more expensive than a standard nail-on
On Thu, 30 Jun 2011 16:47:33 -0400, "John Grabowski"
Or nail-on steel box..
Often the electrician does not know what drywall is being installed.
If he sets the box for 1/2" and 5/8" is installed you have a gap. If
he assumes 5/8 and 1/2" is installed, the plates sit proud and the
whole job looks lioke crap - - - - -.
On Thu, 30 Jun 2011 22:38:52 -0400, firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
I had a friend, the idiot I wrote about who wouldn't take his
second-string girlfriend and her daughter to the hospital, if I hadn't
owned the car, and he did his own wiring of the factory loft he bought
conversion to residential co-op. This was in so-ho before he moved
He put some of hte boxes in flush with the 2x4's or even below that
and the sheetrock guys were hired and did their job. They probably
cut holes for the boxes, but they always do that, right? Oh, in one
case he had put the wall plate on and they left it, covered the edges,
and one had to stick his finger almost an inch into the hole to get to
They should be installed flush to the outside of the drywall. But if
you're going to err, it's better they be
slightly short of flush. A cover will then fit and there is
no issue. If you have the box sticking out beyond the
drywall, at some point the cover plate will not fit flush
to the wall.
If I understand what you have described correctly, it's definitely weird to
have the box 1/4" short of the backside of the drywall. Not sure about the
code issue, but one would think one purpose of the box is to keep the wire
connection points enclosed within approved boxes for
fire protection. Having that big gap would seem to partially defeat that
Those were my exact concerns. I'll have to look closer next time, to see
if any of the boxes also contain a bunch of wire nut connections,
because the box also serves as a junction to other boxes. If so, the
nuts could become lose and cause problems.
I should have mentioned that the switches and outlets are flush with the
finished wall. The ears on the straps rest against the finished side of
the wall, and the long screws supplied with them secure them to the box.
So from inside the room, everything looks beautiful. It's just the
distance from the front of the wall to the front of the box is about
3/4" (1/2 inch wallboard + 1/4 inch setback). There is really no need
for me to use extenders.
*For 3/4" you need the extenders. It is odd that so many switch and outlet
boxes would be so far off from the finished wall surface. Maybe the wall
was built out a little after the electrician finished the rough-in. Maybe a
previous owner built the wall out a little.
On Thu, 30 Jun 2011 18:38:04 -0400, "John Grabowski"
Or mabee the previous owner did the job himself - possibly living in
the building without having it totally finished, so he installed the
boxes so plates were flush WITHOUT wallboard (particularly common in
Other than fire code (most places), as I understand it. No air gaps
between the device enclosure and burnable material, ie the inside of the
stud bay. And even if the outlets are sitting firm now, outlets used
for vacuums and such take a lot of abuse from lateral motion. Those ears
can easily dig notches in the drywall.
Not saying it is a big risk, mind you. I have seen outlets that have
been in place for decades like that (including this house). But the
plastic extenders are cheap, and often can be slipped over the device
without even disconnecting it.
As John Grabowski said, they should be set back no more than 1/4" from
the front face of the sheet-rock. The purpose for the code, and the
reason why you should use box extenders, would be to prevent hot molten
sparks from dropping inside the wall in the event of a short circuit
within the box.
The sparks would come from loose connections, shorts, etc. that may occur at
some time in the future. That is why the connections are all enclosed in
boxes -- to prevent sparks from future shorts etc. from setting something in
the surrounding area on fire. If that wasn't the case, there would be not
need for any electrical boxes -- all of the wiring would just be twisted
connections in the open space behind the drywall etc. But, of course, that
is not allowed, and the reason is so that the places where there are any
connections can be fully enclosed. Your present setup defeats that purpose
and is a hazard.
I read you as the box being 1/4 inch from the SURFACE of the drywall
- not the back of the drywall. DEFINITEWLY not code. Get approved box
extenders and install as per instructions.
Someone did NOT know what they were doing - interesting to know what
ELSE they screwed up - - -.
I think there really is a need to use the box extenders. The need is to
close the gap that is there now, which is the question you originally asked
about. That is a safety issue, not an issue about how to connect the
switches etc. to the box. I do understand the setup that you have now and
what you mean about how (with the existing longer screws) the switches are
already securely mounted in place. But, the point is that you should be
eliminating the gap -- for safety.
The cost of the box extenders is minimal and, as someone else already wrote,
they are really easy to install. You just take out the existing two screws
for each switch/outlet, slip the plastic box extender over the
switch/outlet, then replace the two screws which now go through the two
holes in the box extender.
I have done this myself. It is very easy, very cheap, and it is the safe
and correct thing to do.
One note -- In my area (New Jersey), my local Home Depot stores have a wide
selection of size/thickness of plastic box extenders (each thickness is a
different color as shown in the Home Depot link that I sent earlier). But,
my local Lowes only has one or two sizes. Your area may be different in
terms of who has what.
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