Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Voice & App Controlled Smart Light Switches [Lutron Caseta]


Want to access the lights in your home with a remote control, your phone or tablet, or even your voice?

Transforming your home with modern lighting technology is easier than you think.

Smart light switches & dimmers from Lutron allow total control of your home's lighting - right from the couch or from across the world.

Simply replace your current light switches with Lutron Caseta smart switches & let the fun begin.

Here's what you need to know to update to smart lighting in your home.


A smart switch has separate on and off buttons with no dimming capability.

Dimmers allow for lights to be dimmed. They work with dimmable LEDs and CFLs, as well as incandescent and halogen bulbs.

If you are using LED bulbs, see Lutron's LED compatibility tool to ensure the bulb you're dimming is compatible with your Cas├ęta Wireless dimmer.

First, you need to remove old lighting controls and wire in Caseta switches and/or dimmers. You can replace a single switch to get started and add more as you like, or replace them all at once.

There are 3 ways to control smart switches & dimmers without going to the wall to press them:

  1. Wireless Control (with Pico remote)
  2. Mobile Control (with Smart Phone / Tablet)*
  3. Voice Control*
*Separate Smart Bridge required for mobile & voice control. (Voice control also requires separate voice assistant such as Amazon Alexa).


Pico remotes can be paired to Caseta switches for wireless control.

You can pair more than one light/dimmer to a single remote, or pair multiple remotes to a single switch/dimmer.

Remotes can be left on a table top, mounted to the wall or clipped to your car visor for control as you pull up to your home (note that extra hardware is required for mounting or clipping).


Controlling the lights from a smart phone or tablet allows you to control the lights from anywhere in the world.

A Smart Bridge hub is required to gain access to your Caseta switches & dimmers via a mobile device.

Your mobile device must be running 8.0 or later software for iOS devices or 4.1+ for Android.


Probably the most exciting feature of adding Smart Switches to your home is be able to turn the lights on and off with your voice.

Voice control requires both a Smart Bridge (Lutron's hub) and a separate Voice Assistant such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant & Apple HomeKit.


Switches/dimmers, Smart Bridges and Pico remotes can all be purchased separately.

Or, you can get a starter kit bundled with all 3 (1 dimmer switch, 1 remote, 1 Smart Bridge), and buy additional on/off switches, Caseta dimmers and/or remotes to add the the kit.

(*Lutron Smart Bridge required for following features)

  • Schedule lights for certain times of day (auto adjusts with seasons and Daylight Savings)
  • Set scenes (ex: "dinner", "movie night", etc.)
  • Smart Away feature turns lights on and off randomly when you are traveling
  • Connects with Smart Home brands including the Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Nest, Serena shades, and Sonos)
See all compatible products for Lutron's Caseta smart home system.


Single pole switches & dimmers control the lights from 1 location on the wall.

Three-way switches & dimmers are wired to control the same lights from 2 separate wall locations (for example, at opposite ends of a hall).

Lutron Caseta smart switches and dimmers can be used either way (single-pole or 3-way).

To achieve 3-way functionality, simply wire in a smart switch (or dimmer) into 1 of the 2 locations. In the 2nd location, mount a Pico remote into the electrical box (with this bracket) instead of wiring in an additional device. The remote will fit the rocker switch plate opening (same cover as the switch or dimmer).



Use the links below or shop all smart lighting home controls here.

 Buy a Caseta Smart Lighting Starter Bundle

-dimmer switch
-wall plate

 Buy a Lutron Smart On/Off Light Switch

-purchase separate remote for wireless control
-purchase separate Smart Bridge for phone & tablet control (also required for voice control through separate voice assistant)

 Buy a Lutron Smart Switch Remote

-pair with smart switch to control throughout home
-mount in electrical box to add 3-way functionality to Caseta switch.

  Buy a Lutron Caseta Smart Dimming Switch

-dims the lights & turns on/off at wall
-add remote for wireless control
-add Smart Bridge hub for tablet & smart phone control via Lutron's app
-Smart Bridge also allows for voice control through a separate Voice Assistant such as Amazon Alexa

 Buy a Lutron Pico Dimmer Switch Remote Control

-controls Caseta dimmer switch remotely
-may be installed in wall box in place of a switch or dimmer to create 3-way funtionality with another existing Caseta dimmer

 Buy a Pico Remote Mounting Bracket

-makes it possible to mount a Pico remote (for a switch or a dimmer) into the electrical box - needs rocker cover

 Buy a Smart Bridge Hub

-allows Caseta line of dimmers and switches to be controlled via Lutron's app on a tablet or smart phone
-allows integration of voice assistant for control of lighting verbally

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Update An Intercom to a New Video Doorbell with these Covers

If you want to install a video doorbell in place of your old intercom system, you may find that the large box that held the speaker is much bigger than the cutout necessary for the smart doorbell.

To cover the old intercom speaker hole and mount a new video doorbell, follow the steps listed below.


  • Steps are provided as a courtesy to help mount a video doorbell to a back plate that covers a larger opening (from an old intercom speaker). 
  • Always adhere to the installation instructions provided with the smart doorbell itself.
  • Simply modify installation by attaching the unit to the cover plate instead of the side of your house.


Choose and purchase a video doorbell unit (such as a Ring doorbell).

Open the package and read all of the installation instructions thoroughly.

Be sure you understand very clearly how the unit is installed.

Note whether it is external or recessed when mounted. And, determine whether you'll be wiring it in or using it wirelessly.

You can see below that the different video doorbell types will be mounted to different plates:


The next step is to remove the intercom button & speaker completely from the box. If you don't plan to wire in the replacement doorbell, cap off any wires.

You may have a NutTone, TekTone or another vintage brand.

If your particular model has an extra mounting ring (like the one shown below), remove that as well.


Because the old intercom is much larger than the downsized video doorbell models available today, you'll need to cover the box & install the video doorbell unit onto the new box cover.

In order to select the correct new cover, you'll need to get some measurements from the box.

Read through all steps below before purchasing a cover plate!

First, get the height and width needed to cover the box (without leaving any of it exposed).

Next, note if there are any obstructions that will prevent a cover from fitting, such as elevated brick or stone.

If so, measure the largest area in which a cover will fit.

Then, look for the 2 openings where the new cover will be screwed into the box. Note if they are on the sides (horizontal orientation) or at the top and bottom (vertical orientation).

Measure from the center of one screw hole straight across to the center of the other screw hole. The distance should be one of these:
3.281" (3-9/32")
4.5" (popular spacing)
5.25" (popular spacing)
6.625" (6-5/8")

You should now have these key measurements:

  1. Empty box's height and width.
  2. Obstruction's height and width (if any).
  3. Screw holes (orientation & space apart).


Follow these steps to narrow down which cover is right for you (based on the information you gathered in Steps 1-3).

You will need to review the installation instructions for your specific video or Ring doorbell model.

You will be selecting from 3 types of covers (each type comes in a variety of sizes with varying screw spacing):

  • (A) recessed video doorbell model
  • (B) surface mount hard-wired model
  • (C) surface mount wireless model

A - If the Doorbell Recesses Into the Wall:

Recessed units that sit back into the wall's surface will need a cover with a large center opening (if going on top of a larger intercom you have removed).

These covers are 6-3/8" high x 4-1/2" wide.

Screw spacing options are 4.5" apart or 5.25" apart, with screws placed top and bottom (vertically spaced).

If your box is larger than 6-3/8" X 4.5", see step 5 below.

Order covers here:

Recessed Video Doorbell Plate with 4.5" Screw Spacing

Recessed Video Doorbell Cover with 5.25" Screw Spacing

B - If the Doorbell is Surface Mount & Hard-Wired:

These covers have a small round opening in the center for the wires to pass through.

Regardless of the size you order, you will be drilling holes into the plate to align with the mounting bracket that comes packaged with your video doorbell (see Step 6).

Available sizes are:

Smaller Covers (6.4 x 4.5):

6-3/8" H x 4-1/2" W with Wire Opening - 4.5" Vertical Screws

6-3/8" H x 4-1/2" W with Wire Opening - 5.25 Vertical Screws

Larger Covers (7.5 x 5.5):

7.5" H x 5.5" W with Wire Opening - 4.5" Vertical Screws

7.5" H x 5.5" W with Wire Opening 5.25" Vertical Screws

C - If the Doorbell is Surface Mount & Wireless:

Get a "blank" intercom cover with 2 screw holes and no other cutouts. You will be drilling holes that align with the camera's bracket. (See Step 6).

Two sizes with various screw spacing options are available:
6.4" x 4.5"
7.5" x 5.5"

Available sizes are:

Smaller Covers (6.4 x 4.5):

6-3/8" x 4.5" Wireless with 4" Vertical Screws

6-3/8" x 4.5" Wireless with 4.5" Vertical Screws

6-3/8" x 4.5" Wireless with 5.25" Vertical Screws

Larger Covers (7.5 x 5.5):

7.5" x 5.5" Wireless with 3.75" Horizontal Screws

7.5" x 5.5" Wireless with 4.5" Vertical Screws

7.5" x 5.5" Wireless with 5.25" Vertical Screws

7.5 x 5.5 Wireless with 6-5/8" Vertical Screws


If the new cover isn't quite large enough to completely hide the box, place gaskets underneath the cover.

Here, 2 triple-gang gaskets have been stacked underneath the plate.

Simply trim the moisture gaskets down to match the size of the box underneath the plate.

Again, moisture gaskets are only necessary if the plate isn't large enough to cover the box opening.

To review, note these 4 things about the cover prior to ordering:

  1. height and width dimensions (to cover box but not hit any obstructions nearby)
  2. placement of screw holes (vertical or horizontal & space between them)
  3. any other cutouts needed (for recessed or hard-wired units)
  4. are gaskets necessary (if replacement cover is smaller than edge of box)

Use the links above to purchase the cover you need or shop all intercom doorbell speaker covers here.

Once your receive the cover, continue with Step 6.


Regardless of the cover size, you will need to drill holes into the plate to align with the mounting bracket that comes packaged with your video doorbell.

Read through all of step 6 prior to drilling your plate.

Drilling into the plate to attach the doorbell's mounting bracket is a similar installation process as if you were mounting directly to the side of your house.

Instead of drilling into the stucco or paneling on your home, you will instead drill and mount the doorbell's bracket to the cover plate.

You will need to add hex nuts (not included) to the back side of the plate to secure the screws that attach the bracket to the plate. Be sure to buy nuts that fit the screws included with the video doorbell's installation hardware.

Note the size of your video doorbell unit and the placement of the cover plate's screw holes. You may need to mount the doorbell off-center on the cover plate in order to complete installation.

Try snapping the doorbell into the bracket and placing it centered on the cover plate prior to drilling any holes. If the screw holes on the plate (for attaching the plate to the box) are blocked, look for a better spot on the plate to position the doorbell bracket.

When ready, drill holes into the plate and attach the bracket.


Use the provided screws to mount the cover (with the installed bracket) to the box.

Be sure to pull any wires through the plate's center opening if you are hard-wiring the doorbell. Otherwise, properly cap off the old wires.

If the doorbell unit itself is mounted without a bracket, follow the installation instructions from the doorbell manufacturer to attach the doorbell to the cover as you would the side of your house.


Once the cover is securely installed to the box (with the doorbell unit's mounting bracket attached per the doorbell manufacturer's instructions), continue to follow manufacturer instructions to attach the doorbell's video unit to the bracket.


Instructions provided in this post are for modifying the installation process to retrofit the smaller doorbell to a larger intercom box.

They are provided as a courtesy, but do not cover every brand, size or type of doorbell unit.

Be sure to follow proper instructions for wiring and setting up your video doorbell.


We'd love to see the finished product of your smart video doorbell unit installed on one of our custom-made intercom covers.

Bonus points if you have a "before" picture of your old doorbell speaker.

Here are a couple we've received so far:

Submit pictures to

We hope this post gives you the confidence to remove your old intercom and upgrade to the security of video surveillance when someone rings your doorbell.

Monday, July 9, 2018

How to Plan Space for Electrical & Avoid Unsightly Mistakes

Planning ample room for light switches and outlets (and their covers) is super important during any DIY home improvement projects.

It's one of the top things that gets overlooked during the planning stages. Which is terribly unfortunate because it can be hard to fix once installation of everything else is complete.

Below are some of the most common home improvement projects in which too little space is created for electrical devices.

Follow our advice & take time to plan room for electrical ahead of time to avoid unsightly mistakes.

Wall Tile & Trim

Adding trim to a bedroom wall or installing tile on your bathroom walls can really dress up your living space.

Before you even begin, be sure to look around the room and take note of where all the light switches and outlets are located. Then, plan the height of your tile accordingly.

And don't forget to factor in trim pieces.

The bullnose trim on this backsplash tile is too large based on how close it is to the electrical devices. The homeowner wasn't able to get the cover plate back on and had to order a specialty cover plate to complete his wet bar project.

In this bathroom, the tile runs right into the light switches. Cutting out portions of the tile was the solution, but it doesn't look good. The trim simply should have been installed higher or lower to clear the cover plate.

Another poorly planned project was completed by extending the tile up and around the switch and faceplate.

Here, the wall trim got very close to the outlet. The standard cover fit, but had it not, this shifted outlet cover is perfect for tight spaces.

Board and Batten / Wainscoting

I am obsessed with wainscot walls. So much so that within the last 2 years I've added either wainscot or board and batten to 4 different rooms in my house.

Here's an example of a wainscot wall I saw recently that is very well planned out. You can see that none of the grid beams intersect with switches or sockets.

Even though I know to plan enough room for the wall plates to go back up, I had some mis-fortune when installing my first board and batten wall.

The two orange arrows indicate where the trim got in the way. It covered the top of my dimmer switch and the side of my outlet.

In the original design of our accent wall, the beams cleared the electrical box (as I'd planned when determining the beam spacing).

But I didn't like the look of the thick batten beams we purchased after we put them up.

To fix it, we added decorative trim inside each rectangle. Once the decorative part was up, there wasn't room for the standard outlet cover anymore, and I had to get this narrow one.

For the dimmer switch, we were able to notch the trim to fit over the standard size cover. It's not nailed into place so we can still access the switch if we need to. Another option is this trimmed rocker plate.

By the way, I highly recommend buying metal switch plates and painting them to match your wainscot. It really makes quite a difference not having the stark white cover creating an eye sore on such a beautiful statement wall.

I saw this in a model home recently:

Such a shame that the placement of this outlet ruined the look of an otherwise nicely upgraded room. Especially since it could have been avoided if someone had planned the spacing of the beams to avoid running right into this receptacle.

Here's another example:

I really recommend adjusting the spacing of your batten or wainscot trim so that it avoids ALL electrical devices. Your project will look much better in the end if you do!

My sister-in-law did a great job avoiding this outlet:

She built this entire batten wall by herself! Very impressed! There's no cover there yet - she still needs to put a single spacer behind the receptacle to pull it forward and then cover it with an oversized socket cover.

New Wall Surface

If you're putting up a mirror wall or adding paneling, be sure you cut a big enough opening to access any electrical devices.

There are 3 reasons you want tile, mirrors, beadboard, wainscot and paneling to completely clear the electrical:

  1. to meet safety code / prevent a fire
  2. to have the ability to pull devices up to new surface so they're not sunken in the switch plate
  3. to have access to switches and outlets to replace if any break or if you want a different style or finish down the road

This homeowner installed a mirror over their dimmer switches.

As a result, the switches can't be pulled up to the final surface of the mirror. The cover plate will rest on top of the mirror and the switches will be set back quite a bit.

Don't Forget the Cover Plate Dimensions
Always keep in mind that electrical device covers extend beyond the electrical box. Leave ample room around electrical boxes for the covers to fit back on.

Here, an outlet in a kitchen island is put in the center of the cabinet. A good way to go to ensure you don't run into any problems.

For covers sitting on cabinets, consider painting them to match, or selecting a quality metal finish that complements your color scheme.

If you want to add trim or granite and find that you don't have room for the outlet and cover, keep in mind you can always rotate the electrical box so that your devices sit sideways.

If you end up cutting too large a hole for the electrical box and a standard cover doesn't hide everything, buy oversized switch covers.

If you've already created a problem and need a solution:

Get instructions for shifting your electrical devices and measuring for a short or narrow switch plate.