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
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!
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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, 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.
 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!
Sent via the PAXemail system at paxemail.com
Quite agree! Presumably those who drafted BS1363 went to considerable
lengths to come up with a design that would be safe for adults AND
I've always suspected those covers sold to people who think the
electricity might "leak out" otherwise!
"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
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.
At the moment most of that is on a (self-built) alcove shelving system,
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).
Well there is the odd table lamp which *could* be pulled over, but I
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 :-)
Martin Angove (it's Cornish for "Smith") - ARM/Digital SA110 RPC
See the Aber Valley -- http://www.tridwr.demon.co.uk/abervalley.html
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.
Chris French, UK.
Dad to Elinor (born 2001/02/25)
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
(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! ;-) )
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 :-)
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.
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
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.
Martin Angove (it's Cornish for "Smith") - ARM/Digital SA110 RPC
See the Aber Valley -- http://www.tridwr.demon.co.uk/abervalley.html
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.
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