September 10, 2014

DIY – CUTTING SWITCH PLATES TO SIZE (& BATHROOM SNEAK PEAK!)

This post is nothing extraordinary. Until you need it. And then, you’re welcome.

When my husband and I moved into a desperately-in-need-of-updates house last year we had a list of about 40 things we wanted to do to bring it into this century. We knocked out all of the larger things through Scovell Wolfe – remodeling the kitchen, adding recessed lighting, removing the popcorn ceilings, installing hardwoods, etc. etc. But one thing I left off the professional list was replacing all the switchplates from yellow to new, white ones. It was an altogether simple task. Mostly. Ain’t nothing ever that easy. I came across two places where the outlet was sitting so close to the base trim or door trim that the new cover wouldn’t fit. I grabbed some scissors to try to clip the corner to no avail. Then I got out an exacto knife and began sawing through. And you guessed it – the switch plate snapped in half. So I bought another and tried again – more carefully. And it snapped again. Major bummer.

I was reminded of this painstakingly annoying problem of switch plates not fitting, because Scovell Wolfe wrapped up our powder bath this past week and as I was putting the finishing touches on, I ran into the same problem yet again. By the way, I cannot wait to show the finished pictures of the powder bathroom that I showed you back here! We are waiting on a mirror, some art and the window treatments, then I’ll have it up on the blog! But you can catch a sneak peak below…with a little on the fly, quick table styling to make it halfway presentable…

switchplate

So, anyway, here’s the skinny on what to do when you need to trim a switch plate – a seemingly easy, yet oddly frustrating task.

+BUY VINYL. It’s that simple. I typically hate the word vinyl relating to houses. Vinyl siding. Vinyl flooring. They’re all fine and good, but we never recommend them. We always want you to go with with real wood siding, hardwood floors, etc if you can afford it. However when it comes to cutting switch plates, vinyl is your new best friend. I think Home Depot even had the word UNBREAKABLE on the package. Perhaps a little bold, but true enough.

++Take your vinyl cover, turn it upside on a scrap piece of plywood, and using a couple of extra screws through the manufactured holes, secure the plate to the plywood. This will reduce the chances of you losing your grip and sending the plate flying across the room and the blade flying into your hand.

+++The key is to have a super sharp blade. If you have a carpenter’s square or metal ruler, line it up against your cut and slide the blade slowly and firmly across the plate. Score it several times to create a nice groove before replacing your blade and going back one last time pushing all the way through the vinyl. Once you’ve begun your cut, you should even be able to pull up on one side and the plate will separate along the scored groove. And BOOM. You can now squeeze that cover in next to your base board. Problem solved.

Ok, so not a thrilling DIY, but if you’ve ever been at home trying to cut a plastic cover, then you know how frustrating the experience can be and you know you would have appreciated the tip to buy vinyl.

While we’re on the subject, here are a couple other thoughts on switch plate covers.

If you are awesome and decide to wallpaper a room, pay your wallpaper hanger a few extra dollars to cover your switch plates to match. The hanger Scovell Wolfe uses only charges between 10 and 25 dollars to cover light switches and vents.

Design-Manifest-bird-wallpaper-and-vent-cover

It’s totally worth it. And if you have someone detail oriented like our guy, John Wylie, they’ll actually match the pattern.  Like in this breakfast room we did years ago. I went ahead and circled the switchplate cover because it. blends. in. that. well.

simpson

And then there are electricians who, though are often wildly skilled at dealing with electricity, are not always wildly skilled at cutting drywall. So if you’ve had a new outlet installed somewhere and the cut they made into your drywall was a little too large or had a jagged edge, BUY AN OVERSIZED SWITCH PLATE COVER. No need for an unneccesary eyesore. They sell them at big box hardware stores for a few extra cents and they’re 3/8 inch wider and taller.

So there you have it. A few words on a little thing that done well makes your room that much more professional looking.

 

  • Bill R Majure

    I couldn’t find vinyl switch plates, but I did find nylon switch plates at Lowe’s and at Home Depot. I was able to cut them to the sizes that I needed with heavy duty shears. It was much easier and neater than cutting hard plastic switch plates. Thank you for the tip! Much appreciated.

  • Andy Lyke

    Thanks. I face exactly that problem. Off I go to the Depot.
    Incidentally, in some prtts the oversized plate is called a “goof plate”.

  • FishDawgX

    Home Depot sells “sectional” wall plates. This worked perfectly for me with no difficult cutting. These are meant to have multiple wall plated connected together. But I used just one and it fit well because one side was shorter than normal. I just snapped off the little hook on that side with a box cutter. And it is better than cutting a normal wall plate because it (mostly) filled in on the short side instead of exposing a gap.