Making an outlet or switch flush

Hello and how are ya? Today I’m sharing a quick solution to a problem I run into quite a bit – only because I’m constantly putting planks/board/trim on my walls. :)
I had to do it on our beadboard backsplash:
beadboard backsplash
And on the board and batten/beadboard island:
beadboard island
And in the planked walls powder room as well: wood planked walls
Any time you put anything on the wall that adds to the thickness you’ll have an issue with the outlets and switches – the outlet itself won’t be flush with the wall anymore, like this:
making outlet flush with wall
Of course to avoid this you can just cut the wood around the switch plate so it stays against the wall, but I like the cleaner look of having it go behind the switch or outlet plate. I had the same issue in the mud room near the bench I am building:
DIY bench with kitchen cabinets
I had to just tape the covers back on for the time being since the screw wasn’t long enough to even hold them on. The beadboard isn’t that thick but you need to make adjustments to make it work.
It’s actually very easy to do and very cheap. You’ll need these plastic spacers from the electrical aisle:
electrical spacers
First thing you need to do is make SURE the power is off to the outlets or switches your working with. Turn them off at the breaker, then double check with a voltage tester like this:
voltage tester
No light or a short light and/or beep means the power is off.
But you’re not done -- plug something into it to triple check that it doesn’t work. And THEN check it one more time by using the detector on the screws next to the outlet:
making sure power is OFF
The light went on and it beeped continuously, which meant there was still power coming from somewhere. This one must be wired to the light in the room -- I turned off the breaker to that light and then all was good.
I know electrical work can be scary but once you are sure it is OFF, you are good to go!
You’ll want to take the two screws out of the outlet so it comes loose a little bit:
adding spacers to outlet
And then you just need to figure out how much space you need to make it flush. So for this one I tried a few different numbers and ended up with five spacers – you just fold them accordion style and they snap together:
adding spacers to outlet
Each spacer is 1/8th of an inch, so you can measure to see how far out you’ll need – so 5/8’s of an inch would be five spacers. I just do the trial and error method because the measuring doesn’t always work perfectly for me.
Then you just put the screw back in and slide the spacers on it behind the outlet:
adding spacers to outletDo this for both the top and bottom screw and then tighten them like usual. You may need a longer screw if you need to add this much behind the outlet or switch – I had to get longer screws because the ones that were there were too short with the spacers added.
When you’re done put the plate back on and you're good to go!:
Adding spacers to outlet to make it flush with wall
Of course this works when installing tile too. If you tile your backsplash you’ll want to use these to make the outlets flush against the tile instead of inset.
Here’s the before and after to show you the difference again:
How to make an outlet flush with wall
By the way you’ll need these if you use the pretty switch covers I told you about here:
light switch covers They are pretty thick and will need a spacer or two to make the switches flush again. (On that outlet we have dimmers installed, that’s why the switches are different.)
Hopefully this will help if you ever run into this problem! It’s really a very easy, fast fix and the package of spacers are pretty cheap. (And they last forever.) Have you ever used these little plastic doodads?

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