Day #18 – the secret to getting your outlets to sit flush with the outlet cover

Ok, so here’s a little DIY tip for you.

You know, ’cause we’re a DIY blog.

We’ve talked a lot about having to update every single surface in this house.  From the walls to the ceilings to the floors.

We’ve worked through layers of paneling and drywall and wood slats.  Remember that weird old ceiling height in the front of the house and those little square windows?

living room demolition

And as we’re either adding or removing layers from our walls we have all of the previously run electric boxes to contend with.

They’re good quality boxes with upgraded electric … if you have ungrounded wires you might want to call in a professional.

So the only issue that we found ourselves contending with in most cases, was getting our outlets to sit flush with the cover plates.

There’s this wall for instance.

diy wood frame bed

The drywall was all torn and ripped and patched in weird places.  And I may have been burnt out on demolition so we opted to just drywall right over it after our new windows were installed.

guest bedroom October 2013

Let’s not worry about what is going on on the bed, look right past that and just check out the new drywall. Thanks.  :)

So, adding a new layer of drywall added another 1/2 inch of depth to our wall, but we didn’t change the depth or location of our outlet boxes.

And then I’ve got another scenario for you.

An accent wall.  Or feature wall.  Or whatever-you-want-to-call-it wall.

That I haven’t shown you yet.  But looks like this close up.

outlet and cover plate

Those are wood slats that are 3/4 inches thick.  But we installed the outlet boxes for regular drywall at a 1/2 inch thick depth.

So what’s a girl to do?

screw outlet in with a nut adding depth

You can’t just not screw in your outlets all the way or they will always move back and forth when you plug and unplug things.  Trust me.  :)

screw outlet in with a nut adding depth

But, if you screw in a nut behind the outlet that will give you the added depth you need to screw it in tight but also keep the outlet set out a bit to sit flush with your cover.

Update:  I received a comment that this method isn’t to code, I haven’t checked my local code to verify but here is an affiliate link to a product called an outlet box extender that is definitely to code in all areas.

I just keep mismatched nuts in a little organizer in our shed.  You can even double them up if you need to.

Update: I am reading this post, now published, drinking my first cup of coffee and thinking, man, I didn’t even plan that little nut pun.  Geesh.  :)

screw outlet in with a nut adding depth

Easy peasy, right?!?!

screw outlet in with a nut adding depth

Get caught up on the entire 31 day series here.

31 things you need to know



  1. Nancy Carr says

    I may have to use this idea this week. Just had a backsplash put on the wall and I bought a new switch plate cover and was wondering about putting it on. Again — you are so good. Thank you.

  2. Sue says

    Oh thank you thank you thank you thank you! We have an outlet in the workout room that was set too far into the wall for the cover to attach. A nut! What a great idea!!! Cannot WAIT to put the cover on the exposed outlet now!!! Ahhhhh…. :)

  3. Wendy says

    I had this same problem and came up with this same solution only I’ve always had a concern in the back of my mind, wondering if it was safe. If you did it and wrote about it, that must mean you believe it is ok, and that makes me feel better. :)

    • says

      Hi Wendy!! We talked to our electrician about it and as long as the outlet is still in a box it’s good to go. We also wrap our outlets and switches with electrical tape inside each box, that’s something we saw the professionals do when the upgraded our electric service right after we moved in.

  4. Amy says

    I loved this easy fix! I was restoring a dresser yesterday, and this came to mind as a repair fix for a drawer that riding too low. I did the washer trick under the drawer glide and it stopped it from dragging on the drawer below it! Thanks so much for these awesome ideas… Can’t wait to read them all and tuck them away in my MacGyver mind!

  5. Mick says

    Hi Karah,

    Love your site – but I have to call you out on this. The nut thing is illegal. I don’t know what your electrician told you but it’s not legal. What you need it called a box extender. It will sit flush with the wall and sit inside the box, bringing the outlet flush with the wall. Example:

    I used them in older homes and they work like a charm and are code compliant. Below are the codes from the National Electric Code:

    314.20 In Wall or Ceiling. In walls or ceilings with a surface of concrete, tile, gypsum, plaster, or other noncombustible material, boxes employing a flush-type cover or faceplate shall be installed so that the front edge of the box, plaster ring, extension ring, or listed extender will not be set back of the finished surface more than 6 mm (1⁄4 in.). In walls and ceilings constructed of wood or other combustible surface material, boxes, plaster rings, extension rings, or listed extenders shall be flush with the finished surface or project therefrom.

    This might also be relevant.

    406.4 Receptacle Mounting. Receptacles shall be mounted in boxes or assemblies designed for the purpose, and such boxes or assemblies shall be securely fastened in place unless otherwise permitted elsewhere in this Code.

    (A) Boxes That Are Set Back. Receptacles mounted in boxes that are set back from the finished surface as permitted in 314.20 shall be installed such that the mounting yoke or strap of the receptacle is held rigidly at the finished surface.

    I hope this helps. Taping the outlets and switches is a practice (not required by NEC) that prevents metal on metal contact. Not needed when using plastic boxes, but a good trait to follow. Feel free to ask any more questions…..

  6. says

    Thanks for the link for the extenders. I ran into this same problem when I put glass tile in my kitchen. My outlets haven’t fit right ever since.

  7. Cyndi says

    My daughter just put a glass tile backsplash in her kitchen and she used the extension boxes for her switch and electric boxes and they worked great. They got them at Home Depot but Lowes will have them too.

  8. Jim says

    Karah: What can you do if the outlet box sticks out past the drywall? I have one that sticks out about 1/8 of an inch. Therefore, the outlet cover doesn’t sit flush against the drywall.



  1. […] Day #25 – the trick to perfect looking outlet holes   By Karah | October 25, 2013 – 7:08 pm | home improvement projects, key west, quick tip (function() { var po = document.createElement('script'); po.type = 'text/javascript'; po.async = true; po.src = ''; var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(po, s); })(); So we’re tearing out walls and building them back.  And resurrecting old wood slat walls. And adding wood and rope accent walls. […]

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