Remodeling Tips and Reviews

Moving an electrical plug or Switch a Small Distance in an Existing wall.

Moving an electrical plug or Switch a Small Distance in an Existing wall.

Feb 18, 2012

On occasion I have a need to move an older plug or switch in the wall. This requires some knowledge about how gang boxes are set on studs with nails and wiring. Your average home has plastic blue single or double gang boxes nailed to the stud they are next to. If you need to move the box for what ever reason there are a few things that will need to be done.

First you will need to take the plate off the plug and remove the screws holding the plug on to the gang box. Making sure the electricity to the plug is off, pull the plug out of the box. If it has more than 2 sets of wires, this job may be more difficult to do.

Secondly,  you need to make sure the wall is open in what ever direction that you need to

Notice nails above and below holding box in place.

move the box. If you need to move it 2″ to the right then the stud needs to be on the left and nothing else should be on the right side to get in the way. I recommend cutting a small hole to the right of the box and looking or using a piece of wire to see if there is space in the direction you want to go. Once that is done you need to see if there is enough slack in the wiring to move it. Code requires electrical wiring to be stapled every so many feet on studs to keep it from becoming pinched or tangled during sheetrock and other phases of construction. There may be enough extra wire in the box to move it, you will need to make sure at least 4 or 5″ of wire remain.

You may have to move the box up or down a little to accommodate the staples that are holding the wire in place. If there is one just above or below the box you may be able to carefully use a flat head screw driver and remove it after the gang box is loose and you can see it.

Loosening up the electrical box

With the plug out to the side, use a flat head prybar and start to work the box off the stud. You may need to cut a box on the other side to have room to remove the box from the wall. Usually a small 1/2 wide space is enough. The nails are located above and below the box. I find it easier to work it off a 1/2″ and then confirm where all the wires are located. I then move the plug socket away from the plug and use a sawsall to cut the 2 nails carefully and slowly, making sure not to cut any wire. Once the nails are cut the box is ready to move.

Using a utility knife you will need to cut a hole where the box is going to be located. If you are just sliding the unit a couple of inches then you will make the existing hole bigger.

A wall plug moved over 2". Right screws hold a 1x 2 in place

Once the hole is cut you have to insert a 1×2 piece of wood with glue on its face into the wall that is about 12″ long and center it on the side you are moving the box to. You will then want to hold it in place and shoot 4 sheetrock screws into the wood through the sheetrock, being careful to go just below the surface of the sheetrock, but not through. This will give you a secure spot to screw the electrical box into so it does not move. You will need to move the box to the new spot flush with the wall, move the plug and wires out of the way, and angle 2 screws from inside the box into the wood that you just secured. I recommend you pre-dill the holes in the box so you get the right angle. Once this is done the box should be secured and ready to for the plug to be screwed back in place.