Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Electrical Spacers

Despite the lack of posting going here this week, I am actually getting lots of stuff done. I have hung all the chair rail in the dining area and I am now in the process of installing a beadboard backsplash in the kitchen. This is a project that I started about 2(!) years ago. I bought beadboard planking and began cutting it into backsplash lengths. I was excited about the project and anxious to see the result. But then I looked around the kitchen at the nine outlets I would have to cut around and I got intimidated. I didn't know what to do about the outlets. I knew that even if I got energetic and went ahead and made all those cuts with my jigsaw, I still didn't know how to get them flush with the new wallcovering. So my pieces of beadboard sat in my garage for months and months. They narrowly escaped being thrown out by my husband on more than one garage cleaning/purging. Then, about a year ago, I heard about electrical spacers. Basically, all I knew was that these little doohickies could be installed behind the outlet to bring it flush with the new wall. So I went in search of them. Let me save you a lot of wandering and searching time by telling you to just ask someone where the electrical outlet spacers are. Trust me. Even when I know exactly what they look like and what I'm looking for, I usually need to get an employee to point them out to me. I purchased some about a year ago, knowing I needed some for the girls' bedroom, my kitchen island (where I had previously installed beadboard and simply cut around the outlet cover), and my kitchen backsplash. But here's the kicker. I was still intimidated to try using them because I didn't know exactly how they worked. Let me just say that this was weird for me. I am generally not intimidated by home improvement projects. I have installed many light fixtures, pulled and reinstalled a few toilets, tiled floors and backsplashes, hung crown moulding, installed hardwood floors, hung wallpaper, installed sinks, changed faucets, hung mudded and taped drywall, installed heating ductwork, etc etc. But these intimidated me. Go figure. When my mom/hero/electrician was here last summer, I asked her if she would help me install them in my kitchen island outlet. We made sure the power was shut off to it and pulled the outlet cover off. At this point we realized this was much simpler than we had thought. So, to avoid anyone else feeling like I did about these puppies, I took some pictures of the process as I installed some during my backsplash project yesterday and created a little tutorial.

1. Remove your outlet cover by unscrewing the center screw. Set aside. This is what you'll see:

2. Loosen the screws at the top and bottom of the outlet. They have a little washer that will prevent them from coming out completely. This is good, because you don't want to expose any wires.

3. Grab your bag of spacers that the helpful employee helped you locate at your local hardware store. In the bag you will find strips of spacers.

4. You will need to determine how many spacers you will need to bring the outlet flush to your new wall. For me, it was three. Twist to tear off the appropriate amount.

5. Now, fold them together to get your determined thickness. They have little holes and posts that snap into each other, although sometimes not very neatly. That's OK. You will need two for each outlet, one for each screw.

6. Insert the spacer behind the main body of the outlet, onto the screw.

7. Repeat with the other screw. In this picture you can see a little better the u-shaped opening on the spacer allowing you to snap it onto the screw without completely removing the screw.

8. Because I didn't have this piece cut yet, I don't have a picture of the new wall here, but you should install your new wallcovering now so that the little metal lips at the top and bottom of the outlet can rest on top of it, just like they did on the wall before (see top picture). Then, tighten the screws, securing the outlet to the new wall.

*Edit- I finished this area this morning, so here is a picture of the outlet resting against the new wall.

9. Replace the outlet cover and you're done!

Go ahead and shut off the breaker to your outlet(s) before beginning to avoid any electrocution mishaps. I did not, but better safe than sorry when working with electricity.

Really, so very simple and incredibly useful!

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