How-To Guide for Selecting the Correct Light Switch Covers
By Kyle McKeown Mansfield
Choosing switchplates can be tricky, whether one is tackling a remodeling project, adding an addition to a house or moving into a new home. Many factors must be considered including switchplate color, finish, style, size and configuration. The last thing you want is to select the wrong switch plates and have to delay finishing your project. Here are the keys to the successful selection of light switchplate covers:
Make A List
For each room requiring switchplates, make a list or better yet, sketch each plate location and shape so you can make an accurate count. Miscounting is a VERY common mistake. Don't forget plates hidden behind furniture or others around a corner that would look odd if not coordinated with the rest of the plates in the adjoining room. If possible, put a sticky note on each one with the shape and location noted. Once you are confident that every electrical box is accounted for, gather up the sticky notes then count for your total.
Be clear on the device descriptions as well as your options when choosing configurations. Often people will select an outlet not realizing that these come in several variations. Do you need a Decora outlet (the large, block style rectangular opening for two receptacles) or a duplex outlet (for two slightly rounded plugs on one device)? Is your electrician installing Decora rockers or toggle switches? A "switch" could refer to either.
Plate Orientation Pay attention to the orientation of decorative combination plates that have different device openings. Plain plates can be rotated, but decorative plates will definitely having an "up" direction. For example, if you are selecting a decorator pattern such as Kyle Design's Bamboo Switch Plates and have need for a combination plate with a toggle switch on one side and a Decora outlet on the other, be sure that the design will be facing up. Is the toggle on the left or on the right? Note: Occasionally, outlets are mounted horizontally. If you have such a situation, would the pattern still work if the plate were mounted sideways?
Color and Finish
Determine what colors would best complement your decor. If redecorating includes updating the colors in a room, would the current devices seem out of place? Perhaps another color would better complement your current decor. For example, white devices might appear stark against a dark wall, so consider replacing switches, outlets and other devices before you spend money on new plates. To achieve a more cohesive look, consider black devices. if using darker wall colors or gray devices in a room with stainless steel switchplates and appliances.
Decorating On A Budget
Tip: If you have a limited budget but still are looking for the style and impact of decorative switch plates, it is certainly acceptable to select fancy plates for just the most visible locations while placing plain coordinating plates in the less visible locations. Kyle Switch Plates offers plain matching wall plate covers for all of their designer switchplates.
Don't Order Too Early
Wait until the electrical part of the project is nearly finished. Keep in mind that last minute changes often occur after discussions about usability and convenience. Once you see the electrical boxes installed, you may find that you would prefer a slightly different location or that more lighting or additional outlets are necessary. You don't want to discover you need an odd-sized or multi-gang plate that is not manufactured in the pattern you selected. A few companies specialize in stocking a wide selection, including hard-to-find wall plate sizes. Kyle Switch Plates, for example, stocks over 450 plate sizes in a choice of finishes.
Order the Correct Covers for Your Outlet
The most common mistake people make when ordering outlet covers is assuming they need duplex outlet covers when they acutally need block or GFCI outlet covers. See types of outlets and coordinating covers here.
Oversized Switchplates May Be Required
Many common problems can often be rectified with jumbo switchplates. These include contractor errors such as holes in a granite backsplash being cut too large for standard plates, electrical boxes needing to be moved slightly because of hidden beams, plaster chipping when old plates are removed or the desire to cover unattractive built-up paint around existing openings. You might also consider oversized switch plates if the scale of a room and its furnishings call for larger wall plate covers.