Two years ago when Adam and I planked our kitchen we had no idea what to do around the outlets and switches. We ended up just cutting the planks around the current outlets and leaving them like that. It never really bothered me…but I never liked it either. The great thing about being a serial DIYer (or a DIY blog reader!) is that you are always learning new things, and while planking the boy’s room I learned that no one expects you to leave your outlets cut around and unfinished looking. In fact, there is a really easy fix for it.
First thing you’re going to want to do is turn off power to the areas you will be working on. I know y’all know this, but I have to stress it anyway….you must be SO EXTREMELY careful with anything electrical because if you do it wrong it can kill you. Literally.
So this is our breaker box. What I did was flip on the overhead light in the boy’s room and switch off the assigned breaker, which caused the light to go off.
Good to go, right? No so much. I went and grabbed a lamp to double-check everything. I plugged in a lamp and it came on, which meant the outlets still had power going to them. So I went back to the breaker box and looked around…turns out the outlets in that room are on a different breaker than the switches.
This is why double and triple checking is so important. My breakers are labeled correctly, but I assumed that everything in their room would be on the same one….which isn’t the case. (I don’t have one, but buying a voltage tester is a good idea.)
Here is the secret to flush outlets…this little plastic doodad called and electrical spacer (or outlet extender).
I bought mine at Home Depot – but I had to drive to three different ones to find them (you can’t buy them online). Every employee looked at me like I had two heads when I tried to explain what I was looking for, and finally a heroic fellow customer knew what I was talking about and found them for me. You can also buy them on Amazon, they are really overpriced but you don’t have to go on a scavenger hunt to find them.
Anyway, each section of the spacer is a 1/8 inch, you just snap them together until you find the right depth and cut off the excess. BTW, by “find the right depth” I actually mean do a long series of guess and check while using your teeth to repeatedly snap and unsnap them.
Next you place the spacer between the two screw holes and screw it tightly in place.
Although, if you added enough depth the original screw won’t be long enough, so will have to buy longer ones.
Here’s the outlet at the new level, that black abyss behind it is the spacers.
The final step is to add the outlet cover. I purchased new ones that are 3/8 inch larger than normal so that all the edges will be hidden. If you plan ahead and cut your planks (or beadboard, or tile) accordingly you can use the same covers…we didn’t plan ahead though.
These new covers are also supposed to be unbreakable, which is nice considering I’ve broken my fair share by screwing them in too tightly. I know, I know…just call me Muscles.
Here is the outlet now, it looks so much cleaner than it did before. Now to do my kitchen and dining room!
UPDATE – A reader sent me the following comment, I wanted to share since I wouldn’t want to recommend something that’s a potential safety hazard.
I’m not sure your fix is ‘safe’…Electrical boxes must be flush to the wall surface if the wall surface is a combustible material. Boxes recessed behind combustible materials like wood present a fire hazard because the wood is left exposed to potential heat and sparks. Your box is recessed inside the wall which allows the outlet to potentially in contact with the wood of your plank board. You should instead use a electrical box extension which is easily inserted inside the existing box and clamps to the outside of the plank board…of course using your extra long screws to screw into the original box. Then put on the large faceplate. The only time you can use the plastic pieces you bought are if you are extending through a non-combustible surface (tile, concrete, sheetrock, plaster) and even then you can only extend up to 1/4″.