Have you recently moved into a new home that’s missing some of the electrical outlet or switch plate covers? Outlet covers not only prevent accidental shock, but are an ornamental way of covering up the electrical outlet and switch receptacles in a home. These covers are usually made of a heavy type of plastic, though also come in decorative metals, wood, ceramic, or glass.
Replacing a missing electrical outlet or switch plate cover is a super easy do it yourself repair, but oddly enough doesn’t seem to get made in older rental properties or rural properties outside of a building code district. My guess is that the landlord or previous owner couldn’t be bothered, leaving this repair up to the new residents.
For safety’s sake, all those electrical outlets and switches really should have some sort of cover. Instead of ignoring this repair, you can tackle it yourself for under a few dollars. Here’s how it’s done:
Replacing a missing outlet cover only requires a few supplies, all of which are available at a hardware store. I prefer buying my DIY repair supplies at neighborhood hardware stores since the clerks are more than happy to walk me through the process of these simple home repairs.
* Medium sized flat tip screw driver. If you don’t own one, you can buy a cheapie at the hardware store for a couple of dollars.
* Outlet covers or switch covers, enough for the job. These cost anywhere from 39 cents and up and usually come in white or off white. If you are not sure of the type of outlet cover to get, draw a sketch of the receptacle to bring with you to the hardware store.
* Screws to install the outlet covers. Most outlet and switch covers some with a tiny screw to hold the cover in place. However, if the receptacle appears to be recessed into the wall, a longer screw may be necessary to hold the cover in place. What I do is just buy some extra screws (they’re cheap) so I’ll have them just in case. What doesn’t get used can always be returned.
Installing the outlet cover or switch plate
1. Turn the switch to the off position.
2. Use compressed air (or your own lung power) to blow away accumulated dust around the receptacle.
3. Place the outlet cover or switch plate directly over the receptacle, lining up the opening in the cover with the outlet plugs or switch.
4. Use your fingers to insert the screw through the screw hole in the plate. Twist in a clockwise motion until it “grips” the threaded bracket on the other side. Outlet covers are usually attached with a single screw located between the two prongs; switch plates are attached with two screws, one above and one below the switch itself.
5. Tighten down the screw with the screwdriver. If the screw doesn’t want to catch, the screw hole might not be completely centered over the bracket. Move the outlet cover ever so slightly to line up with the bracket and try again. if the screw still won’t thread through, it’s possible that the receptacle is too deep and the longer screw will be needed instead.