electrical outlets in the kitchen backsplash

lucylu25September 16, 2010

I have 3x6 tile for my backsplash in the kitchen. Should the electrical outlets be placed horizontally or vertically?


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I like them horizontally in that case.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 12:25AM
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I just asked my electrician the same thing as I thought horizontal would look better with my tiling-they said it wouldn't....I sure hope they are right...I am worried though.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 1:11AM
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I wouldn't trust what the electrician says. he just wants to do what is easiest. doesn't care about how it looks.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 2:54AM
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My tile is 1" x 6" and my outlets are installed horizontally and low to the counters. I am very happy with how they look. Don't think I would have felt that way if they were vertical.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 4:39AM
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Can I sugggest you place them horizontally and as high as possible-directly underneath the uppers? then they are not visible unless you bend down (really hidden if you use light trim under the uppers) and less cuts because you don't have to cut trim for over the outlet, just sides & under.
I did leave 1 double outlet vertical about 6" from the counter for coffee maker & toaster which are always plugged in, so you can't see the cords behind them.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 8:45AM
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Thank you everyone for your input. stacys the outlets are not where there are any upper cabinets! They are on either side of a stone hood for the stove.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 8:50AM
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On a project we had the electrician leave an extra long tail of wire and the carpenter put a horizontal nailer between the studs at 39" above the finished floor all along the backsplash. (for one row of tile between countertop and outlet, you could do any X multiple of 3" above the countertop for X rows of tile)

We did not have the electrician affix any boxes until the subway tile was figured out. When the subway tile pattern was determined the boxes were placed horizontally so that they aligned with the tile perfectly: each box fits within one tile and the only cut tile is the extra two inches that make up the 6" of the tile, since the box is 4" long.

So each outlet and plate fits into the over all pattern.

Did the electrician like doing this? No, he was annoyed. But it looks great.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 9:21AM
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palimpsest, do you have any pictures you can share? Thanks.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 11:42AM
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Circus Peanut

I was DIY, but we did the same thing that Palimpsest describes. I actually measured exactly and DREW the subway tile pattern with a Sharpie onto the drywall, so I'd know exactly where to insert the outlet box before tiling.

We love it because the appliance in front of the outlet covers it completely, with no cord hanging down from below the cabinet (or wall).

It does require cutting out a 3x6 tile with a Rotozip or similar tool, which is nitpicky but most professional tilers should be well up to the job.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 12:10PM
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Hijacking here, but my tiles will be 2x6 (white calacatta marble)...going today to pick them up after being honed and cut. I chose 2x6 because the upstairs original bathroom has that size (old house) and because I read somewhere that in the Northwest at that time of the century, 2x6 was more commonly found, unlike on the East coast. So I was having some fun w/ history although it could have all been b.s., too. Who knows. ;)

Anyway, it hadn't even occurred to me to think about outlets and their direction and in relationship to the tile. Mine are already in place and are all vertical, because some are light switches and I guess I just wanted them to all look even. The light switches will probably be the push-button kind so that would seem odd, horizontally.

But... 2x6 tile will be a lot more awkward with light switch plates than 3x6 would be, because obviously the plates are about 3" on the short side!

Any advice on that would be appreciated as well...

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 12:24PM
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Circus Peanut

Theresse, I left my pushbutton switches vertical, as well. For 2x6 tile, I don't think it matters which way you align the electrical outlets. (Standard switchplates are around 3x5).

Whatever you decide vis a vis outlet placement, just let your plumber and tiler know ahead of time. Seriously, get out that big black permanent marker, it's a real help in demonstrating EXACTLY where you want something. :-)

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 12:40PM
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This is a genius idea. Thanks so much. My electrician is going to love me. ;)

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 5:06PM
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Here you go. Its the best picture I have :

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 5:09PM
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Why do the outlets in the backsplash at all? We're doing electrical rails mounted under the cabinets. The price was the same as doing the regular outlets but I won't have anything to install in my backsplash - just a nice run of pretty tile.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 5:59PM
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brittu, where do you get electrical rails?

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 6:09PM
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It may be regional. I have never worked with an electrician that would willingly install plugmold. They don't like it around here, at all. I am not sure why.

The other reason for doing some low outlets is for things that stay on the counter all the time. If all the outlets are high up under the cabinet, then you see the cord hanging over the backsplash. Unless you unplug all countertop appliances except when you are using them. Of the two I would rather see the outlet rather than the cord going up under the cabinet.

I usually do some low, for things that stay on the counter -- in the locations where they will be covered by toaster oven, coffee maker, whatever, and hidden, high ones for things plugged in occasionally.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 6:54PM
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I NEVER thought about having cords hanging from the plug molds! My kitchen is already wired for plugmolds and not outlets. I totally agree with you, I don't want to see wires hanging all the time. It did not even enter my mind that would happen!!!

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 7:16PM
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Thanks Circuspeanut! I just adore your kitchen.

Looks like the kitchen that's my paint-inspiration (Sally Wheat's) uses vertical plates on subway tile as well! See pic below...

Also Circuspeanut, you've just inspired me to possibly do my outlet/light switch plates in nickel! :) I've been wondering whether or not to do a nickel color or a white color, because my backsplash will be mostly white subway tile (the white calacatta marble subway). I was worried the plates should match the backsplash to avoid looking too busy and take away from the tile...and was also concerned that with having a stainless counter, faucet and polished nickel bin pulls/latches, nickel plates might be overkill. But your copper counter w/ copper outlet plates - and non-matching tile - is really pretty. Love it. Hmmm... my countertop will be stainless, my faucet is polished stainless (not chrome, not nickel), but they don't make stainless switch plates. So what will match better - brushed or polished nickel?! :-p

As for considering having my plates be white, they don't make plastic plates for the push-button style. However, they do make porcelain white plates (as well as other great colors, FYI everyone) which is another thing I could consider, only they're a bit chunky and probably from the 1940's period...still kinda cool though. Only those have the outlet plates but not the pushbutton plates. But hey - I just found white painted metal ones!:


Here's that Sally Wheat kitchen (for the thousandth time):

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 8:35PM
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I had a similar conversation with the electrician today re the placement of outlets. I asked for plugmold, which he has done before and would do it, but he pointed out that I will be bending down to see where to put the plug since it's not readily visible with the added light rail, as well as the cord hanging thing. then there was the code mumbo jumbo about all outlets required to be gfci, and using plugmold would mean putting something extra at the box blah blah blah...OK normal is fine. BUT, now that I see Palimpsest's lower outlets.......hmmmmmm. I think there will be another conversation.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 9:26PM
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Sorry to hijack, but Circuspeanut.. where did you buy your tile? What is the brand? I love the variation and vintage look....

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 10:57PM
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Oooh, good point on the things that you'd normally leave plugged in. I don't leave much plugged in. I'm afraid of fire after having lost a house to a fire several years ago. But my DH does like his coffee maker. Wonder if I can figure out where he'll want it before we get to electrical. I'd never thought of the hanging cord issue.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 11:06PM
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Circus Peanut

I also considered plugmold, or angled plugmold (Task Lighting is one source, btw, although the price is outrageous), but didn't want the cord hanging issue. I don't think it bothers folks who have the plugmold, though, and it's certainly one solution to save the backsplash tile from being cut up.

Theresse, they do make button switchplates in stainless, both polished and satin! Check out Classic Accents, link below, great prices and superior service. I've purchased quite a few things from them. (They're the ones that manufacture the 'new' pushbutton guts that other stores sell at a big markup.) They also have smooth painted white. AND you can get virtually any combination of pushbutton/outlet/toggle you can dream up. I've loved working with these guys and can't recommend Classic Accents warmly enough.
By the by, my own switchplates are actually just old vintage brass from eBay, but they do look copper because of the reflection from the countertop.

Dianalo, you're a sweetheart, thanks, that's the look I was aiming for. My tile is from New England Art Tile Company, local here in Maine and no longer available. But you can buy excellent doppelgängers from Solistone Tile in their Mission Tile collection. The color I used is closest to their Amarillo yellow. Great colors and I love the variation in the painted glaze. Also check out their gorgeous deco designs.

Here is a link that might be useful: Classic Accents stamped stainless pushbutton switchplates

    Bookmark   September 16, 2010 at 11:35PM
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Circuspeanut - OMG thank you soooo much for linking me to Classic Accents! I looked so hard for those things - including pushbutton style single pole dimmer switches...I can't believe this place exists! Wow - what a find. Thank you!! I need one of those door stops too! Will order everything today!

    Bookmark   September 17, 2010 at 3:10AM
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Thank you Circuspeanut!
One hiccup.... I went to look at New England Art Tile's website and got a security warning from Google telling me that visiting that site would harm my computer! I have never seen a warning like this before. I read the explanation and it says that sometimes hackers add malicious code to a legitimate company and spread viruses that way. I wonder if those S.O.B.s used their talents for good, how much could get solved in this world! Grrrrrr.....

    Bookmark   September 17, 2010 at 11:09AM
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laura mcleod

Such terrific points made here. Because of the great advice I learned from GW'ers, I had two outlets placed (horizontal and low) in specific locations on the backsplash, one for the coffee pot and one for the toaster because I did not want to look at cords hanging down since they always sit on the counter (my architect was mystified about this and even did a mockup of the kitchen with my coffee pot to show me that the hanging cord would not be too bad). All the other outlets were run under the upper cabinets for the random appliance that gets pulled out and used. My electrician was grumpy about this also - but he was pretty much grumpy about everything...just like the plumber.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2010 at 2:01PM
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