You may run into an electrical outlet or junction box when renovating your home. Can you put drywall over it, or is something else needed?
If joined or terminated wires are inside, you should never install drywall over an electrical outlet or junction box. As long as no wires are inside the box or the wires run through it without interruption, drywall can cover the box.
I can remember very clearly when I learned this lesson. I was doing work on my home, and my uncle, a master electrician, stopped by to visit.
I intended on covering an electrical outlet after removing the receptacle and putting some wire nuts on the wires. My uncle pointed out the error, saying that it was not only a bad idea but it was also illegal to do it.
The National Electric Code (NEC) regulates how electrical work is done in the United States. It is a violation of the NEC for those boxes to be covered.
The NEC plainly says that any electrical junctions must be accessible. It would be illegal to hide a junction box. It’s also a bad idea for other reasons.
Although it doesn’t happen frequently, there are times when a fire can start inside a junction box or outlet. If it is easily accessible, you can fix the problem quickly, but the house will likely catch on fire if it is behind drywall.
Now that we have the legal aspect out of the way let’s talk about how we can legally cover an electrical outlet or junction box. It is possible and permissible to do so, provided there are no electrical connections inside.
Even if a wire runs through the box, you can cover the box with drywall, provided there is no wiring interruption. If the wires are cut and connected or cut and terminated with wire nuts, you have to have access.
Fortunately, there are ways to make it possible to access those boxes without having an eyesore. You could cover the box with a blank wall plate, for example. Otherwise, plates are available to cover these boxes, so it blends into the room.
For the rest of this article, we will discuss legally covering an electric box with drywall. There are several different ways to do so, as there are several different types of electrical boxes.
Here are some of the different electric boxes you may have to cover.
Junction Box: This is a basic electric box where wires are usually connected. Typically, the wires are connected but not attached to a receptacle or switch. The junction box is covered with a plate, making it easily accessible.
Old Work Box: This is the type of box that is typically installed when doing remodeling work. After cutting a hole in the drywall, you can insert an old work box and fasten it to the wall using screws.
New Work Box: When doing new construction, a new work box is typically installed by attaching it to a stud. It can be nailed straight into the stud, or it may be nailed in at an angle.
Some new work boxes are nailed to the stud from the inside of the box. Check to see if that is the case for you because you can remove them quickly. That makes it easier to patch the hole after you remove the box.
Handy Box: This box is usually found on the wall’s surface rather than installed in the drywall. You don’t have to cover a handy box. You remove it.
Should You Put Drywall Over Electrical Outlet/Junction Box? (Any Problems To Look Out For)
Putting drywall over an electrical outlet or junction box is relatively easy. The key is to prepare appropriately.
There are also some problems to watch out for. Keep in mind that you have larger issues when you are dealing with electricity.
Short-Circuits: One of the biggest problems in a junction box is a short circuit. If you cover the box with drywall you might not catch the issue fast enough. A short circuit can catch the inside of the wall on fire.
Future Work: It always pays to think ahead, which is undoubtedly true regarding this type of DIY project. Plan for any future work that might take place and do the work appropriately. You will be saving yourself a lot of potential headaches.
Electrocution: One of the biggest problems associated with working with electricity is the possibility of shock or electrocution. That is why it is so vital that you shut off the power before working in the area.
It isn’t enough to flip a switch or turn off the outlet. They could mistakenly be turned back on while you are doing the work.
Disconnect the power before working on any part of the home that would expose you to electricity. You should then verify that it is off and install a lock or other measure to keep people from turning the power back on.
What Tools Do You Need To Put Drywall Over Electrical Outlet/Junction Box
The tools necessary for putting drywall over an electrical outlet or junction box are relatively basic. They are similar to the tools you would use when patching any hole in the drywall.
Have the following tools on hand:
Utility Knife with Extra Blades
Screw Gun with Drywall Screw Bit
Four or 6 Inch Drywall Knife
Copyright protected content owner: ReadyToDIY.com and was initially posted on February 10, 2023.
There may be other tools that are needed for this job. They are typically general construction tools, so have your toolbox handy.
What Preparations Do You Need To Put Drywall Over Electrical Outlet/Junction Box
Before installing drywall over an electrical outlet or junction box, there are several things to do. These must be done in almost every case, as they protect your safety and make the job go well.
Turn off Power: A crucial part of preparing for installing drywall over an electric outlet is to disconnect the power. Doing so is not necessary if there is no wire in the area, but if wires are inside the box, they need to be de-energized.
Remember that the wires running through the box should be continuous and not terminated in the box or connected using wire nuts or other means. Only if they are continuous can you legally install drywall over the box.
Turn the power off at the breaker box and lock it out. Ensure that nobody has access to the breaker, or it could be turned on accidentally.
Copyright article owner is ReadyToDiy.com for this article. This post was first published on February 10, 2023.
Remove the Box: Remove the box if possible. If it is an old work box, you can often remove it by unscrewing the connectors.
If trying to remove a new work box, you may need to use a hacksaw blade and cut the nails that attach the box to the stud.
Removing the box gives you easier access to the hole you will cover.
Clean the Area: If it is not possible to remove the box or if there is a cable running through the box, you should clean it as thoroughly as possible. Remove as much dirt and dust from the box as possible and clean the surrounding drywall.
How To Put Drywall Over Electrical Outlet/Junction Box
Now that you have prepared to install the drywall patch, it’s time to get to work.
If the Box Was Removed: If you removed the box successfully, take a stick, such as a paint stir stick, and affix it to the back of the drywall. Cut the stick a few inches longer than the hole and screw through the drywall at the top and bottom to connect the stick to the drywall backing.
You can cut the drywall patch the same size or slightly smaller size than the hole. Use two screws to attach the drywall patch in the area and then proceed to the finishing process.
Pro Tip: Avoid putting drywall screws near the edge of the patch. If necessary, put some drywall adhesive or joint compound on the back of the patch to hold it in place and use a single screw in the middle. The joint compound will keep the patch from moving.
If the Box Was Not Removed: If you did not remove the box, make sure it is not protruding beyond the face of the drywall. It is usually easy to move an outlet box back in place.
Cut a scrap piece of drywall to fit the opening. You should spray some foam insulation into the box and allow it to expand.
When the spray foam gets to the point where it bulges beyond the box, push the drywall patch back into the area until it is flush with the face of the drywall.
Hold the patch in place until it sticks without moving. Allow the foam to dry and cut off any excess. You can then proceed to the finishing process.
How to Finish the Patch: Finish the patch by filling gaps with the joint compound. Use the drywall knife to spread the mix so it feathers several inches onto the wall.
Some people use drywall tape on the seams, but I have never found it necessary to do so. It may take a few coatings of drywall compound, but it will eventually fill the gap and feather out smoothly.
That you can then use a wet sponge to wet sand the wall. Run the wet sponge over the dry drywall compound to smooth it out until any lines disappear. It is now ready for primer and paint.
It is illegal to put drywall over an electrical outlet or junction box with electrical wires connected or terminated inside the box. If the electrical outlet box is empty or the wire runs through it without terminating, you can cover it with drywall.
ReadyToDIY is the owner of this article. This post was published on February 10, 2023.