I’ve been DIYing for 30 years, and sometimes I’m surprised at how much I don’t know. Some of the things I’ve learned yet seem so basic! For example, yesterday I finally learned how to expand an outlet for tile or wainscoting using the safest, easiest, and fastest way I’ve ever done.
So if you’ve ever done tile or wainscoting, you know what I mean. You’ve finished your tile or wainscoting, and your electrical outlet is set back anywhere from 1/4-inch to 3/4-inch because that’s where the original box was. Then you need to find a way to extend the outlet so that it sits against the new tile or wainscoting.
In the past, I used to use it all the time these caterpillar spacer shimswhich are small plastic pieces that fit together like Legos and are packed with screws that hold the electrical outlet to the box.
I can’t stand those things. I could never get them to stay in place while putting the outlet back on, and it took me several tries to get them to stay. And they look soft. Plus, it can only be used to extend an outlet so far – maybe 1/4-inch or less. But if I need the outlet to be released more than 1/4-inch, I don’t really want to use that. And the last issue with those is that if you need to extend the outlet more than 1/4-inch or so, then you have screws on either side of the outlet (the screws that actually conduct the electricity ) exposed to the building. material than to be safely placed inside an electrical box.
But I didn’t know I had other options until this week. This week, after 30 years of DIY, I found the electrical box extenders! I mean…WHAT?! How in the world did I go so long without knowing about this? How many tile backsplashes have I installed? How many walls do I cover with wainscoting? How did I not know these things existed?!
And they are incredibly easy to use. No more fiddling with tiny, flimsy Lego-like spacers. These box extenders are the only way to go!
The reason I needed one to begin with was because in one bathroom wall, the outlet box was only on one of the wood pieces in the wainscoting, and that was without the inner cap (base cap) installed. I hated the look of the trim just dead-ending an outlet, so I decided to add trim around the outlet and bring the outlet in front of the trim. (I turned off the electricity in this room before starting.)
So I removed the pieces of trim that were attached around the outlet, and then used a liberal amount of wood filler, just like my MO 😀 While I waited for that to dry, I put the outlet back in place for my display you have the problem (and danger) that arises if you don’t use a box extender, or if you use small worm spacers. See where the screws are on the sides of the outlet? Those screws carried electricity, and they were right next to the building materials. That could be a potential risk.
So I removed the plug and passed my wood filler smooth when it dried…
And then I used an electrical box extender, like this…
It has sides, but no back…
This is the package for the one I use…
I like this style because it’s fully variable, meaning it can extend the box anywhere from 1/4-inch to 1.5 inches, and anywhere in between. It has another style of box extender, but what I don’t like about those is that they come in specific sizes, usually 1/4-inch, 3/8-inch, and 1/2-inch. But if your wall space isn’t exactly one of those dimensions, then you have other issues.
To use this extender, I simply put the outlet on the back of the extender…
And then use the extra long screws that come with it, and put the screws into the outlet, through the box extender, and into the holes in the original electrical box. And now those screws that run the electricity on the sides of the outlet are safe again inside a box and not exposed to the building material.
And the outlet cover fits perfectly…
These are my favorite outlet covers. I love how beautiful they look, and they can also be painted so they can blend right into the wall.
I use it often, but I especially use it in places where I don’t want a shining white rectangle that calls attention to itself, like the end of my peninsula in the kitchen. See it there at the end?
They hold the paint well. I painted that over when I painted the cabinets in April 2017, and I haven’t had to do any retouching on it.
So with white walls, cabinets, or trim, I don’t need it. But on walls, cabinets, or trim of any color other than white, full-cover, paintable outlet covers are my standard covers. I can’t imagine looking at a gleaming white outlet at the end of my teal kitchen peninsula.
However, I’ve been DIYing for 30 years, and I’ve done my fair share of modifications over the years. And yet, I keep learning all the time, and sometimes I’m still learning the basics.
Addicted 2 Decorating is where I share my DIY and decorating journey as I remodel and decorate the 1948 fixer upper that my husband, Matt, and I purchased in 2013. Matt has MS and is physically unable to work, so I did most of the work at home by myself. You can learn more about me here.
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