Installing tile backsplash around outlets and light switches

tinanFebruary 25, 2013

Do I need to turn off the breakers before removing the switch plates and pulling the outlets and switched slightly out (to align with tile)? Any helpful tips on aligning the electricals with the tile?

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ionized_gw

Best to turn off the power to those outlets. Was tile added to existing wall recently and the boxes not changed?

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 2:04PM
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tinan

I will be adding tile - haven't yet. The old backsplash was only 6" high I am going all the way up to the cabinets. The wall tile is thin, so from the tutorials I've read I will just need to pull the boxes forward slightly... is that not recommended?

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 2:44PM
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greg_2010

The boxes are most likely attached to the studs, so you won't be able to pull them forward.

Definitely turn the power off.

Unscrew the switches and outlets, pull them out so that they aren't in the way while you are tiling/grouting.

You should probably use box extenders when reinstalling the outlets/switches. They are used when the box isn't flush with the new surface of the wall. Someone else will probably hop in at this point to mention what the leeway is for whether you need the extenders or not. I'm not sure what the measurement is.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 3:01PM
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tinan

OK, thanks! The tile thickness is 8mm, and the adhesive will add a few mm. Townhouse was built in 1980. The outlets in the kitchen are on GFCI circuit breakers but do not have test/reset buttons.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 5:07PM
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ionized_gw

I found metal and plastic box extenders at a big box store. They also sell strips of (green) plastic spacers meant to be put under the yoke screws to bring the outlet or switch flush while leaving the box behind. Obviously, you have to be sure that you meet the spacing limitations.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 5:38PM
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tinan

Thank you - I would not even have known these existed. I'll look for them when I go to buy the tile this weekend.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 6:29PM
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petey_racer

Look for Arlington BE-1. These are MUCH easier than those spacer type box extenders.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 7:04AM
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mm11

Use box extenders if there is more than 1/4" from the box to the finished surface (NEC 314.20). I'm guessing you'll need them. I second petey_racer on the arlington BE1 extenders- very easy to use. Any electrical supply house should have these stocked. Definitely turn the circuit off before moving your devices. Good luck!

Mike

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 8:10AM
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ionized_gw

It seems like much less than 1/4 inch recess will leave you with bowed and, later, busted plates or recessed-looking outlets and switches.

My understanding is that the recess allowance applies only to non flammable surfaces. That would mean that you can get away with 1/4 with drywall, tile or plaster, but nothing with wood panel.

Thanks for the Arlington BE-1, tip. I still have not gotten to extending mine and I will look them over.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 10:30AM
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greg_2010

It seems like much less than 1/4 inch recess will leave you with bowed and, later, busted plates or recessed-looking outlets and switches.

The tabs of the switch/outlet will still be sitting on the surface of the wall. There will just be a gap between the switch/outlet and the box. So the plates that attach to the switch/outlet will not be bowed and the switches/outlets will not be recessed.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 11:35AM
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ionized_gw

"The tabs of the switch/outlet will still be sitting on the surface of the wall..."

That depends on how close the new wall surface approaches the sides of the box. If the tile, in this case, is cut close to the box, the tabs will sit on the tile, If the tile is cut further away from the box, the tabs will sit on the old wall surface. I've seen it misdone both ways.

Worse yet is when the new wall material is installed OVER the wiring device tabs!

This post was edited by ionized on Tue, Feb 26, 13 at 12:15

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 11:48AM
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greg_2010

Okay, I was assuming what I would consider a proper installation of the tile.

If the tile is too far away for the tabs to sit on it, and a box extender isn't required, then you'd use shims like the link below in order to keep the switches/outlets flush with the finished wall.

Here is a link that might be useful: shims

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 12:49PM
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alan_s_thefirst

I'd vote box extenders, as for shimming or whatever, if the tiles are cut just like the drywall would be, the ears of the switches and outlets should rest on the tile, bringing them out to the right level.

I just re-installed outlets and switches in a bathroom when I tiled it, and noticed that the cover plate screws hit the tiles before the plates were properly tightened down. This could crack the tiles if they got tightened too much, so you may want to notch the tiles where the cover plate screws are going to be.

In the end, I used a dremel with a rotary tile file, which did the trick.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 11:44PM
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brickeyee

The face of the box edge must be no more than 1/4 inch below a non-flammable surface.
Any more than 1/4 inch and box extenders are required.

For flammable surfaces the box front edge must be flush with the surface (it can also be slightly proud, but watch out that the plates will conceal it while against the box edge face).

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 11:14AM
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tinan

Thanks all - I will go with the Arlington BE-1 box inserts, that seems the safest option and will result in a sturdy outlet. The tile is of course not flammable, but I think it's safer to protect the sides of the wiring. I am glad I asked here because tile installation tutorials I saw only mentioned pulling the outlet out to rest on top of the tile, but did not mention the existence or benefit of spacers, box extenders etc.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2013 at 8:01PM
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brickeyee

" tile installation tutorials I saw only mentioned pulling the outlet out to rest on top of the tile"

Tile setters are not electricians.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 1:58PM
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tinan

brickeyee, yes - that's why I posted here to find out more, and as I said I am glad I did!

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 4:48PM
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