What You Should Do with Crowded Electrical Boxes

Double the box size without destroying the wall.

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Introduction

Adding an electrical receptacle or switch to an existing box can make it too crowded, but you can remove the old box and add a larger remodeling box without destroying the wall.

Tools Required

  1. 4-in-1 screwdriver
  2. Drywall saw
  3. Hacksaw
  4. Needle-nose pliers
  5. Non-contact voltage tester
  6. Utility knife
  7. Wire stripper/cutter

Project step-by-step (3)

Step 1

Remove the old box and enlarge the opening

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Cut the old box loose. To remove the old small gang box, pry it away from the stud slightly to expose the nail shafts and cut them with a hacksaw. Then work the wires through the box as you pull it free of the hole.

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Step 2

Install the new box

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Enlarge the hole to accept a new double electrical box. Fit the wires through the box as you work it into place. Then tighten the lock wings and do the final wiring.

As a general rule, a standard 18-cu.-in. box maxes out at three 14-2 cables. (The box size in cubic inches is marked on the inside of the box.) The easiest way to accommodate the fourth cable is to install a larger box. However, you should check with your electrical inspector for a permit and approval.

Stop at a home center and buy a double-gang “old work” box (also called a “remodel box”). You can install a second receptacle in the larger box and cover it with a two-receptacle cover plate. Or you can stick with a single receptacle and use a two-piece “snap together” cover plate (with one receptacle and one blank).

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Step 3

Label the wires

tape1:Peter Kotoff/2:kenary820/shutterstock

Start by turning off the main breaker. Then remove the existing receptacle and use a tester to make sure none of the wires in the box is “hot.” Use a fine-tip marker and tape to label the wires that go to each wire nut so you can keep them straight later.

Turn off the circuit breaker to the box before beginning any work.

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