Electrical Box Extenders - This .83 cent piece of plastic could keep you sober.

Within about five minutes of looking at the brand new drywall in my basement I had a mild freak out attack. 

electrical box extenders for basement finishing

If you set your electrical boxes to far back during your basement finishing project these extension pieces will save you!

The drywall guys didn't do anything wrong. They had dry walled the wall exactly as I had framed it.

This problem was that I had set the blue electrical box to deep in the stud.

So when I went to install an outlet switch or a plug it was not flush with the drywall.

In some cases they were so far back I couldn't even screw on a cover plate. I really had a minor freak out down in the basement.

I'm not OCD but I do have 2 quirky items that I like to have a certain way. I'll get to those 2 things in a moment but first let me tell you the problem.I was throwing stuff, cursing up a storm and slamming back Miller Lights, thinking that all this little problem needed was some beer.

Despite my drunken tirade the problem did not go away. I determined that my only solution was to cut away some of the drywall, rip out the electrical box and then re-install it closer to the front of the stud.

I had about 15 different light switches or plugs that would need an adjustment of some type.  This was going to take all weekend!

But then it hit me. Like Gallagher's sledge-hammer to a watermelon.

All I need to do is "extend" the electrical box. The wiring itself had plenty of length. The box can stay right where it is, I just need to extend it a bit so I can securely install the switches and plugs!

Off to Home Depot

I walked all the way back to the electrical section. Ever notice how the electrical section is usually way in the back?  What's up with that? I searched all over but didn’t see anything.

Electrical box extenders of various sizes. Helpful if you are finishing a basement.

This Home Depot near my office had an easy to find display. At my local store they were tucked away near the blue electrical boxes.

Now, as a man, and a strong smart one at that, I do NOT like to ask for help. In almost all circumstances I would rather get kicked in the head by a horse.

But… it was either ask for help or spend the weekend ripping out drywall and re-installing electrical boxes. So I flagged down an orange apron.

There they were. Just simple little plastic frames. Various sizes and colors (why different colors...no freakin' clue).  Problem solved!

Extra Long Cover Plate Screws

extra long light switch cover screws

I think they also sell up to 2" long. The regular size will not work, I think it's only a half or quarter-inch.

Oh, don't forget to buy extra long cover screws,  one to two inches should do it.

Or, if you can, just do a better job of getting the depth of the box right in the first place.

Just keep in mind though, it's easy to extend a box, nearly impossible to make it shorter. So error on the side of caution.

Whether it's a box for light switches or plugs each one has a depth gauge mark on it. You just need to follow that gauge as best you can.

Not sure which boxes to buy? Check out the post on electrical boxes.


My 2 OCD Quirks

why electrical box extenders are important

This was just an example. In my finished basement all screws are perfectly aligned!

So my two OCD moments are....

1. light switches that don't have the proper reveal depth.

2. non-uniform cover screws.

I just can't help myself. If I have a coin in my pocket and I walk past a light cover with mis-aligned screws, I have to stop a fix it.

The reveal edge on the switch can be a bit harder to fix. Sometimes you can tighten the cover down far enough to bend the metal a bit (always get metal switch plates, plastic is for suckers!).  

Other times, it's to deep and you have to install an extender to fix it (turn of the power first!!!)

basement finishing jason 205So look, don't have a heart attack if this happens to you.  And don't berate your drywall crew, when it's really your fault.

Just remember this post and go solve your problem for about .83 cents.

Cheers -  Jason


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Questions and Comments

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  1. Josh Price says

    We have all been there with this! The different colors are different thicknesses. So make sure to measure how far back you are in the wall. Get the closest thickness...WITHOUT GOING OVER!

  2. Mark M says

    Great web site. I've checked it out a couple times over the last 3 months. I'm almost done my second DIY basement.

    A couple tips....to add to your collection.
    1. On the topic of drywall that is too far out for a proper outlet / switch depth, I've also used small washers between the outlet and the blue box to help gain the desired spacing.
    2. For keeping the basement quiet, I chose to wrap carpet padding loosely under the main sewer line and also used excess insulation over the sewer line where it made hard bends so as to insure my perfect movie night would not be distracted by the sound of flushing toilets from upstairs in the house.
    3. Lally Column, I used your tip and framed off my column using a sandwich of 2x6 and 2x4 to create the square. I then added a low profile blue electrical box and ran a 20 amp feed. When the basement is finished I'll have a sectional couch and end table near by, so having the outlet there on the column is perfect for a reading lamp or a cell charger.
    4. For constructing soffits, I had to encase duct work and a beam running parallel 24' across the basement. Being OCD, I wanted to insure the verticals were precise. I had sheets of 1/2" OSB ripped down at the lumber yard on their table saw to the dimension I needed - 12" width. Then I first attached 2x3" studs to the above floor joists. Second, I attached 2x3 studs to the bottom end of the OSB. Third, simply lift them up and screw or nail them to the ones already affixed to the joists. Forth, measure your cross pieces and screw or nail them in. This worked much easier than the ladder building technique and created perfectly straight edges.

    Keep up the great work....and your door bell tip was clutch....I took that to heart and wired it in. Thanks!

  3. Dave says

    Gotta laugh. Just running into this myself. The blue electrical boxes have gauges built into them, so you can leave the proper amount sticking out past the stud. HOWEVER, the drywall is almost always thicker than that reveal, and, the drywall is often not smack against the stud. So half of my outlets are perfect, and the other half are buried in the wall. Weird. Off to Home Depot!!

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