Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Multi-Light Switch Plate & Outlet Cover Solutions

What to do when you can't find the configuration you need.

As a homeowner, you've no doubt removed a switch plate or outlet cover at some point - whether you were painting your walls or adding paneling, wainscot or tile.

And it's so simple, you've probably given it very little thought (except maybe keeping track of the screws while the plate was off the wall).

If you've lost a cover (you'd be surprised how many get thrown out when a professional painter is hired) or broken one (perhaps screwing the screws in too tight), you've likely run over to your local hardware store to find a replacement.

If that errand failed, you probably a rare configuration - meaning 2, 3 or 4 electrical devices that share a plate are lined up in an order that you can't find a cover for. (At least, you think you can't find a cover.)

The good news is...

There are several ways to solve this problem, which we'll detail below.

How to Get a Switch Plate with Device Cutouts in the Right Order

Solution 1: Re-arrange Your Devices

Often times, we get calls from customers who "almost" find what they need. For instance, a plate with the correct 3 cutouts, but they're not in the right order to match their switches or outlets.

Guest what - this is super, super common.

What many people don't realize is how easy it is to change the order of the devices in your electrical box.

If you have a duplex outlet in between a rotary dimmer and a rocker light switch, as shown here:

You may be looking for this triple cover plate configuration:

And we do carry this plate in 5 finishes (shown in ivory above). But if you're looking to match a room with specialty finish covers - for instance, dark bronze or satin brass - you're out of luck.

Unless, you simply re-arrange your devices. Turn off the power supply to these devices, and then unscrew them from the electrical box and change the order, then screw back into the box.

Now, you can get a cover plate in 11 finishes. And it will take you roughly 5 minutes to swap the position of your switches/outlets.

Solution 2: Update Your Devices

When you need a plate with a mix of cutouts, it narrows your options (rare combo plates often only come in white).

Updating one or two of your devices can solve your problem. Using the same example as above, let's say you have a rotary dimmer, duplex outlet and rocker switch.

Replacing the duplex outlet with a block outlet that fits a "Decora rocker" opening (same as for the rocker light switch), will result in the need for this combo cover plate, available in 17 finishes:

Block outlets are manufactured in more finishes than older duplex style outlets, so you'll have greater flexibility if you update your wall outlets to this modern style.

It takes a little more time, since you have to unwire the old outlet and re-wire in the new one (see instructions for swapping out an outlet here), but, in the end, you'll get the look you want.

Just do a little research (there are lots of installation videos on YouTube) and you can swap out a device without hiring an electrician.

While you're at it, you can also update to a rocker style dimmer to make finding your plate even easier - a triple rocker switch plate will be available at any hardware store that sells wall plates.

Solution 3: Create Your Plate with Inserts

For very specialized configurations - such as when a multi-device cover plate needs openings for phone and data jacks or needs a slot that's blank (closed off completely if there is no device in the slot), you can craft a custom plate with inserts.

An outlet & cable jack plate (shown in stainless steel below) is difficult to find and manufactured in very few finishes.

To get a greater variety of finish options, simply swap out the cable jack for a cable jack insert that fits into a rocker opening.

Not only does the duplex/rocker plate look more balanced with the cable jack insert, but you have much more options for matching the surrounding decor.

When you have a spot in your multi-gang electrical box that is no longer in use, you can get a plate that has a blank slot that covers the empty area behind it.

There are many configurations that incorporate blank positions (no cutout for a device - see center of plate above), but many times these are available in limited finishes (for example, the toggle-blank-rocker plate above).

Getting a configuration that has 3 openings and simply filling the unused one with a dummy switch or blank filler can broaden your options in terms of available finishes. You'll hardly notice the blank toggle filling the center position in the black cover plate:

For a box with a toggle, duplex outlet and toggle switch - a rare configuration - you'll only find a white plate to cover your devices (unless you re-arrange or update them, as explained in solutions 1 & 2 above).

Or, you can get a plate with a rocker opening in place of one of the toggle cutouts (for the above example, this plate), and convert that slot with a toggle insert for rocker openings.

Now, you can choose from more finishes, so you can get a cover plate that matches the others in the same room.

See other inserts and fillers to see all the possibilities for converting switch plate cover openings.

There you go - 3 simple solutions to finding the cover plate you need, in the finish you want, even when you think it doesn't exist.