HELP! Dont know how to install electrical outlet in back splash

mjlbOctober 4, 2009

We have windows above one run of kitchen counter, so for the narrow back splash, we decided to continue the engineered stone that we are using on the countertop, which is 1-1/7-inch thick. The countertop installer ran into a problem that he could not resolve: our existing electrical box has small metal pieces that stick out and keep the engineered stone from fitting. The installer thought a plastic electrical box would be more malleable, so I consulted with someone at LoweÂs, and brought back a selection of blue plastic electrical boxes. I am quite mechanically challenged, but none of them to me seemed to be a solution.

I know itÂs not that common to use something so thick for the back splash, but I have seen it done. What is the normal way to handle electrical outlets in this circumstance? What sort of electrical box? How is the faceplate usually attached, since you canÂt screw into the engineered stone? I would really appreciate your help!

(Cross-posted on electric and kitchen forums) PICS on kitchen forum)

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    Bookmark   October 4, 2009 at 2:15PM
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If the hole is too small for the box, the stone is going to have to be enlarged a little where needed to allow it to slide in. (If you're challeged by something like this, you need a professional to help.) The faceplate will cover the enlargement if this is done right. There are boxes called "old work" boxes that you can get at any Home Depot type store that have little "wings" that lie against the side of the box, and then flipout to hold the box in place after it's inserted in the hole and you turn the locking screws. The hole will have to be able to accommodate the little bit of extra width these wings add. Alternatively, I suppose you could have a box that slides in, and is held in place by a decent quallity construction adhesive all around the edge, but I don't know if that would pass code in your area.

And, whatever you do, there has to be some clearance for the faceplate mounting screws. This wouldn't be a problem for a receptacle since the screw is in the middle, but a switch has two screws at the outside edges and you need clearance for them.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2009 at 2:23PM
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"The countertop installer ran into a problem that he could not resolve: our existing electrical box has small metal pieces that stick out and keep the engineered stone from fitting."

Tell him to cut a larger hole.

You will then need to use a box extender to bring the front face of the box to withing 1/8 inch of the face of the wall before mounting a receptacle.

The installer is pretty green if he does not know how to fit around electric boxes.

They are in the wall every 4 feet in every kitchen wall-counter space.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2009 at 4:09PM
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Circus Peanut

I posted this over on the kitchens forum, but I fear those "small metal pieces" might actually be the flanges you use to screw the box to the face of the drywall, and that keep the box from falling into the drywall.

It looks like your box was actually removed before installing the stone? The way I learned it when I tiled my backsplash: the box is installed first, over the drywall, then the stone or tile is installed with a cutout over the box opening, then the receptacle is pulled out and is screwed to the box, and finally the faceplate is screwed to the receptacle's ears. The faceplate screws don't need more room than just into those ear screwholes.

Here's my pic of tile, not stone, but same idea. You can get little plastic rectangle box extenders the thickness of your stone so that the screws fastening receptacle to box are still long enough to reach through the stone's thickness (you're never actually screwing anything to the stone -- the box and receptacle are tightened to one another with the stone/box extender wedged in between).

    Bookmark   October 4, 2009 at 5:12PM
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Thanks so much! I think (all fingers crossed), we may have a solution - but if you think not, PLEASE post!

Todds: we have about 4-1/4-in. from front of engineered stone to the wall behind - so about 3-in. from back of stone to wall. I think the pic below is a blue retrofit box, and it's about 2-7/8-in. deep. It has the dog ears that may be tightened to grab onto the stone. (At Lowe's suggestion, I also bought a bigger one just for the longer screws).

Markw: We are replacing countertop, not installing new, so the box was there before. We removed the box so I could take it to Lowe's and hardware store to try to find something without the protruding pieces. In both cases, I was told that our old box was no longer made (it's about 30 yrs old), and that the new boxes are a bit larger. I did find metal ones with no protruding edges, but the blue plastic one seems to be the keeper (I hope).

It won't be a problem for the installer to cut a bigger hole - it was just those protruding pieces that fell within the 1-1/4-in. depth of the stone that caused problems.

Circuspeanut: We don't have drywall immediately behind the stone, but rather 4-inches away on the outside wall of the house. But I think I see what you mean about attaching the outlet to box, and the box is held on to the stone by the dog ear flaps?

Brickeyee: I bought a box extender, but I think it won't be needed with blue retrofit box? You're no doubt right about the installer. He's been installing countertops for 8 years, often with a 4-in. backsplash, but none of the photos on his website show any electrical outlet cutouts in the backsplash. I definitely selected him because he was much less money that others, and believe me, I sweated that decision. But there was no vendor whom I could afford.

Thanks so much, all -- thankfully, my stupidity in things mechanical does not extend to all areas of my life!

    Bookmark   October 4, 2009 at 5:48PM
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Sounds like it will work...and you learned something useful in the process.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2009 at 12:46AM
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"I bought a box extender, but I think it won't be needed with blue retrofit box?"

As long as you mount the box so the face is no more than 1/8 inch behind the surface.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2009 at 8:01PM
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