Electric outlets and backsplash

bellcrestJanuary 25, 2009

My first post here.

Thanks so much for all the info I have learned so far. I have looked at so many beautiful kitchens.

We have made all important decisions and and awaiting the arrival of cabinets. (supposed to arrive week of Feb 16-20)

In the mean time, we are dealing with plumbinging and electrical issues.

I really dislike the look of outlets and light switches in the middle of beautiful backsplashes and wonder if there is a way to do the electric works so that it is not so obtrusive looking? Electrician arriving in a day or two and I would like to have suggestions for him on where to put outlets and switches.

So far we have had very pleasant experiences with KD and HD. We chose Maple Thomasville cabinets in spice finish (we are in Northern Ontario) and silestone countertops (Kala Hari). All new GE profile stainless appliances.

This is my very first ever brand new kitchen. We will be celebrating 48 years of marriage Feb 11 so you can see how very excited we are about this remodel.

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First and most importantly, congratulations on the anniversary! That is quite an accomplishment!

Second, you can have a backsplash free of electrical. For outlets, the two options I know of are plugmold, which I used, and Mocketts. You can do a search on those - they're cool pop-up outlets.

I also put my switched up under the cabinets.

And the garbage is powered by an airswitch at my sink.

The airswitch is the tiny button 4" to the right of my faucet.

Good luck,


    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 10:31AM
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I used angled plugmold on my perimeter cabs and island as well as an airswitch so I have wall mimimal outlets. LOVE them!

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 10:46AM
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Angled! That's the ticket. Can you give me a little description about how the installer angled them so I can pass it on to my guy.
Thank you.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 11:58AM
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These suggestions are for minimizing (not completely getting rid of) the outlets. It depends on your backsplash. If you have subway tile and can plan ahead this far, have your elec outlets turned sideways (landscape, not portrait) and placed exactly in the space where a tile would go. If you have granite backsplash, have switchplate covers made out of granite scraps. Cloud_swift has a beautiful example, complete with "before" pix. I have an island with two levels and hid one outlet in the short vertical face rather than having anything show on the horizontal surface, then used cloudswift's idea to make a switchplate out of a granite scrap.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 12:01PM
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Plugmold is a good solution, but it does have a drawback. That is, if you have appliances that you like to leave plugged in, like a coffeemaker or toaster, you will have cords dangling down your backsplash from the plugmold to the appliance. Also, some people feel you have to crane your neck to plug or unplug things, but others don't notice that. A solution would be to have plugmold, and also plan an outlet in the backsplash where you will be leaving your coffeemaker or toaster or whatever. The outlet should be mounted horizontally, as Bluekitobsessed said. Furthermore, they should be mounted as close to the countertop as your local Code will allow. That distance will differ depending upon your region. My electrician was really stringent about Code. For my region, the Code stipulated 4" from the countertop to the center of the receptacles. That is fine, because I can set the coffee maker and paper towel holder in front of them and hide the receptacles completely.

(Note, the receptacle pictured is not GFCI because it is across the kitchen from the sink. My receptacles on the sink wall are all GFCI. I believe they make GFCI plugmold too.)

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 12:59PM
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I'm with you, I think outlets really disturb the look of most backsplashes. I put in a batch disposal instead of one with a switch and don't regret it.

Plugmold is not easy to install. Some electricians can't or won't do it.

Columbia Gorge Stoneworks will make custom switchplate covers from their stock or even your own stone. They are pricey. They are at www.stonewallplates.com.

Lutron makes everything you need in about 20 colors. They'll send you samples.

Taymac makes a line of switches and outlet covers that are specifically designed to be painted. Someone posted a picture of a complicated stone backsplash with painted covers that blended so well you could barely see them. Other people have said they have had good luck just lightly sanding and painting regular plastic covers.

Here is a link that might be useful: Taymac

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 1:17PM
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Circus Peanut

I'm not a fan of the cords reaching up to a taskmold strip, so I just moved the electrical outlets lower down to fit right into one subway tile. They're nicely covered by the toaster/coffeemaker, etc, but still very handy.

(fyi on the angled plugstrip from tasklighting. I found that they are quite picky about only selling to contractors, so you may have to find someone with a contractor license # to order them for you. Another option is to install a regular plug mold on a strip of angled wood.)

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 1:24PM
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I also love the look of no outlets on the backsplash, but I agree that if you plan to keep any small appliances plugged in, the (usually black) wires hanging down the wall don't look so good. I positioned my outlets on the backsplash behind where the coffeemaker and toaster oven are going - well, I didn't specify so well for the toaster oven, but I might actually unplug that when I'm not using it.

I love the idea people gave of turning the outlet sideways to fit within a subway tile - I didn't know at the time I was getting subway tiles, and though mine are horizontal, they still cut across rows of tiles. Still looks okay, I think. I bought the outlets and switch plates as closely color-matched to the tile as possible. Lutron makes a large variety of colors, and my tile guy said you can get stone or tile covers too.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 1:39PM
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bellcrest - I have one outlet in my backsplash where my toaster sits, plugmold under a long run of upper cabinets & low-profile electric outlets mounted under the upper cabinets everywere else. The low profile outlets are easier for the electricians to install than plugmold & you still can't see them. I also used an airswitch for the disposal & located all light switches on a nearby wall rather than in the backsplash.

Also, if you have an island or penninsula, figure out where those outlets will go ahead of time so they don't have to drill through your endpanels like my electricians almost did.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 4:56PM
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We used plug mold, but put one outlet where we keep a toaster plugged in most of the time. We are happy with that decision. Make sure you know what code requirements are for your area. In the first picture, the one plug is behind the crock filled with utensils. The next is a close-up picture of the plugmold. We cut some old wood flooring to angle it down and used more wood flooring to make a drop down shield so the plug mold can't be seen when sitting at the kitchen table. Our island is black. On one side we just put a black outet on the wood, on the other we put the plug set a few inches back into a shelf.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 5:22PM
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You won't believe this, but with all this talk about plug mold and not having electrical outlets cutting into the backsplash, I looked under my top cabinets and discovered our fluorescent recessed lights have electrical outlets built right in. I took an appliance to see if they work and they do!!! We've lived in this house 29 years and NEVER knew the outlets were there. I have just reached up and pushed in the button to turn them on and never took a good look at them. Why aren't recessed lights today coming with the outlets installed as part of the unit today? That would eliminate any need for a plug mold.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 6:05PM
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Oh! The horror of "dangling" cords! What will the neighbors think? They will know that I actually toil in the kitchen to prepare (gasp!) meals for my household! Oh, the shame!

Get a grip. It's real life, not Real Housewives of Orange County.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 6:31PM
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There was a neat link on this forum the other day that caught my eye - hopefully it will be available soon. It's hard to disguise the outlets and while some appliance cords are white, others are black and really stick out. We didn't plan the locations of our outlets as well as we should have, so I seem to have cords running everywhere. Maybe one day this new technology will help. You sure can learn a lot on these forums!

Here is a link that might be useful: No outlets/cords

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 6:47PM
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Sombreuil_Mongrel, I do not get why you wrote that post with that tone. The whole point of this thread is to answer specifically the OP's question, "I really dislike the look of outlets and light switches in the middle of beautiful backsplashes and wonder if there is a way to do the electric works so that it is not so obtrusive looking?" If the OP finds the outlets and switches obtrusive, it is unlikely he/she will think dangling cords is the more beautiful and better solution.

Since so many questions on the Kitchens Forum have to do with creative ways to make a kitchen beautiful, do you feel that ALL those people need "to get a grip", and need to be scolded with sarcasm (your words "the shame!" was too much). Will you be answering every question on this Forum that same way? I don't know why you need to criticize posters' solutions to keeping a backsplash free of dangling cords. You have not added anything edifying to this thread. What makes this forum great is all the helpful people, and we do not need grumpy posts.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 7:46PM
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Just want to sress be honest with yourself about how you will be using the kitchen afterward. I thought about plugmold for my Mom's kitchen but the cords snaking up the backsplash were a lot more obtrusive than regular plugs and my Mom isn't the type to plug and unplug appliances. We did put the plug for the phone inside the cabinet though.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 9:07PM
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caryscott, thanks so much for posting that photo! I was planning to find a little table to put next to my closet to hold the phone and message pad but your idea is so much better! You can stash your phonebooks underneath out of sight. I'd probably do something with a little drawer to hold extra pens and pads.

I won't have any wall cabinets to hide plugmold except in my hutch area, and there I'll leave the coffee maker and toaster plugged in, so plugmold wouldn't work well. I'm wishing now I had asked the electrician to place the outlets lower on the wall to make them less obtrusive, but hopefully I'll be able to find some wall plates to make them blend in a little.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 9:20PM
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Circus Peanut

That did seem inordinately snarky, Casey. Since you single me out: I don't like the plugmold and dangling cords because I'm a clumsy cook and am afraid I'll catch something in them, for one, and they look like more clutter in an already very small and very busy kitchen, which I'd like to avoid. I'm sure others have their reasons as well, all of which are valid, even if purely aesthetic -- as aesthetically valid as your wanting to hide your soffits behind false-front cabinetry, hmm?

This is a commonly-asked question on this forum, and it doesn't seem very sporting to invalidate others' concerns out of a fit of momentary spleen.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 9:33PM
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Babka NorCal 9b

I don't like dangling cords either. All our outlets are low and horizontal (center of horizontal outlet is 3" above the countertop). They hide behind the toaster, knife block coffee maker, etc. I would have a problem bending down and looking up (with tri-focals)every time I wanted to plug in an appliance. Different strokes for different folks.


    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 10:00PM
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You probably already know this, but outlets are available in many different colors (Lutron makes them, for example). They can also be faux painted to blend it quite well, at least the cover plate can.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 10:28PM
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I was going to get plugmold, but my electrician balked because it is more of a PITA to install. Yes, I know that people on this forum always recommend to stand up for what you want with your contractor, and make the contractor do those PITA things, but actually, I wasn't so sure I really wanted it. So he pushed me around, and I guess I let him! And I did feel I would not like the dangling cords. So I had initially put plugmold on my Scope of Work, but actually have not minded not having it, although others' pics of their plugmold look really cool. Also, I could not have done an install of a receptacle the way Bluekitobsessed's photo shows. My electrician insisted on the 4" height above the counters. The receptacles are still low enough to be hidden behind things like the tea kettle and coffee pot, so I am happy with how it turned out. I recommend that the OP should check into what is Code in his/her area so as to be prepared when talking to the electrician.

My undercabinet light switch is, however, in the middle of the backsplash. It's not so bad. I don't even notice it. I don't have a switch for the disposal because I have a batch feed style disposal which does not need a switch.

Since this is Bellcrest's first time posting, I feel compelled to say that you will sometimes get one unhelpful post among a whole bunch of nice ones, and don't worry about it. Please don't be turned off to this Forum by Sombreuil Mongrel's sarcasm. We are really a nice bunch here! Most of us have either been through the arduous reno process or are currently going through it, and sometimes this Forum is the only place we can turn to where people will relate and empathize (versus DH's or other family members who are tired of hearing these questions, sigh). Keep your questions coming!

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 11:23PM
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Another option, plan ahead to work your outlets and tile pattern so they fit inside the lines, outlets resessed to mount flush with the backsplash tile using magnets, or a hole plug drops down to outlet inside cabinet, or a shelf to hide, over plugmold mounted low on the backsplash, anything's possible if planned carefully in advance.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2009 at 12:11AM
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What about, for those countertop appliances that will always be plugged in, a hole in the counter to take the cords down to a plug under the counter? The back of the cabinet is removed there.


    Bookmark   January 26, 2009 at 12:39AM
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Davidro1, I think your suggestion goes against most if not all building Codes out there. You can't have cords going from on top the counter, through and under a kitchen counter, and especially where there is water.

One option that is closest to what you suggest is the Mockett Kitchen Power Grommet that Nomorebluekitchen mentioned. But they are costly, and also the cut in the countertop for them has to be extremely precise, so you better be certain that your fabricator is perfect. But there was a thread about Mocketts on the NACHI (National Association of Certified Home Inspectors) Forum which I am linking below. The second page of that thread seems to indicate that most building inspectors won't like them, but of course it would depend on your own building inspector to determine whether it is acceptable.

Here is a link that might be useful: NACHI Forum Thread on Mocketts

    Bookmark   January 26, 2009 at 1:13AM
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Our electrician wasn't sure the inspector would sign off as they have been cracking down, many people have apparently been putting quite substantial sound systems into enclosed cabinets which generate a lot of heat and are a hazard. We had no problem getting our sign off and certificate in the end. Cupboard is quite small (and the phone jack was right there) so what we could do there was limited and our intent was pretty clear. Electrician couldn't have done it on the main 'L' because of the water access..

    Bookmark   January 26, 2009 at 1:36AM
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oldalgebra--I bought my angled plugmold at Task Lighting about 1.5 years ago. My electrician installed it but I have no idea how he did it.

To clarify and what I think has worked best for us is that we have a mixture of electrical outlets due to code and practicality. We lowered all outlets so they are not in the middle of the BS.

In addition to the angled plugmold on the perimeter cabs and island, we also have a wall outlet for the toaster oven and phone so there are no dangling cords. We also have an outlet in a wall cab for recharging, etc.

It works great for us!

Here is a link that might be useful: Angled Plugmold at Task Lighting

    Bookmark   January 26, 2009 at 8:18AM
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