How to Measure and Cut Out Electrical Boxes When Hanging Drywall

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It's not difficult to hang a new sheet of drywall when there are no electrical outlets in the way. But, add a receptacle or switch box and the task can quickly become a lesson in patience. Some people just aren't that adept at measuring--and before long--the ruined sheets of drywall begin to mount up. Here are a few tips to help you easily measure and cut out electrical boxes when hanging drywall.

  • If you're doing a renovation in your home, odds are you will be using a chalk line at some point. But, the blue chalk that you use in your chalk line can actually help you figure out where your electrical boxes will be located on your new sheet of drywall. Simply run some chalk along the edge of the electrical box (with the plate removed) and hold the drywall up against the wall as if you are installing it. Be sure to press the backside of the drywall to the wall.

  • When you remove the drywall, a chalk outline will appear in the location of the electrical box. Trace the chalk outline with a pencil and cut it out.

  • Chalk is one of the least expensive tricks, but there are many products available in your home improvement store or online that are also useful and effective at marking electrical box locations on drywall. Some examples of these tools are available in Resources below.

  • These tools are made of plastic to reduce the threat of shock and they feature little legs that puncture the backside of the drywall. When you pull the drywall away, the plastic box stays connected to the board, allowing you to easily trace it and then cut it. It's a perfect measurement every time!

  • Whether you choose the poor man's method of using chalk or you opt to purchase a box marking tool (which can be used again and again), hanging drywall over electrical boxes no longer has to be a headache-inducing task.

Tips & Warnings

  • If using chalk, be sure to apply it liberally and press the board firmly against it to get the best imprint.
  • Besides chalk, you can use a slow-drying marker to make a perfect electrical box imprint.
  • Remember to use caution around the receptacles and switches when the plates are removed. Turn the power off if you are uncomfortable working around electricity.

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