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Loose and Sunken Outlets

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Sometimes an electrical device (switch or receptacle) is either loose or sunken into the wall. During construction, cutouts are made in the wall for these devices. When the wall is installed, these cutouts should allow for the tabs of a device to rest against the front of the wall after the device is installed. This will ensure the proper device depth and that the front of the cover aligns with the front of the device. Sometimes the cutout is too large and one or both of the tabs on the device do not rest properly against the wall. This will cause the device to rest against the electrical box or float.

When a device is resting on the electrical box, the device appears sunken behind the device cover. This is most noticeable with receptacles.

When a device is floating (loose), it is usually being held in place by the cover. When a receptacle is loose, it will move in and out when plugging or unplugging a load. A floating receptacle can the cover to crack.

Sunken Receptacle

Sunken Receptacle 2 Sunken Receptacle

Device tabs properly resting on wall

Switch on Wall

Electrical Spacers

When the device tabs do not rest against the wall properly, electrical spacers should be added. These spacers can be adjusted to the space between the front of the electrical box and the front of the wall.

Electrical Spacers Full Strip

Strip of Electrical Spacers

Electrical Spacers Stacked

Stacked Electrical Spacers

Installing Electrical SpacersReceptacle Spacer Installed

Always turn off power when when working on an electrical device.

Electrical spacers are installed around the device mounting screws between the back of the tabs and the front of the electrical box. The device needs to be removed from the electrical box, but the wires do not need to be removed from the device.

When more than one spacer is needed these spacers can be folded and stacked together. To determine how many spacers are needed, measure the distance between the front of the electrical box and the front of the wall. Use this distance to see how many spacers are needed to bring the device forward to the proper distance.

After installing the spacer(s) screw the device back onto the electrical box, install the cover, and check the fit of the cover. Spacers then can be added or removed as needed.

When finished, power to the device can be restored.

How to Repair Loose and Sunken Electrical Outlets