Light Switch Cover Dimensions (with Pictures)
Light switch covers are wall plates that cover the switch mechanism and electrical wiring that operate the installed electrical fixtures. Their primary function is to protect the wiring and prevent electrocution, and most have a plain design that blends in. However, there are lots of different designs, types, and combinations that combine form, function, and even fashion.
Standard light switch cover plates, which are the most commonly used, measure 2.75 inches by 4.5 inches. There are two larger sized, preferred (midsized) and oversized (jumbo), which have a larger area to cover holes and imperfections. These covers measure 3.13 inches by 4.88 inches, and 5.5 inches by 3.5 inches, respectively.
Light switch covers have six main classes: size, style, number of gangs, material, color, and configuration. These classes can overlap based on the unit being housed, the setting, and the location aesthetic. The precise dimensions of a given light switch cover plate are determined by one or more of the different classes.
Light Switch Cover Plate Sizes
The basic standard-sized light switch cover is the most widely used cover plate– found in every electrified building. These cover plates measure 4.5 inches high and 2.75 inches wide and are the industry standard. They are the most economical, usually costing less than a dollar apiece even at the priciest hardware store.
Occasionally, an electrician or contractor will cut a larger hole than a standard cover plate can disguise. In this case, you would use an oversized plate that still fits the switch mechanism but covers more wall surface. Oversized light switch cover plates measure 5.5 inches across and 3.5 inches down to accommodate bigger wall cutouts.
The preferred size light switch cover plate measures midway between the standard and the oversized plates. Also called midway or mid-sized covers, the preferred size plate measures 3.13 inches across and 4.88 inches down. Preferred and oversized cover plates are quick cosmetic alternatives to cover uneven drywall cuts or old paint lines.
Light Switch Cover Plate Styles
Light switch cover plates have come a very long way from the neutral rectangular design. Many of them look like sculptural art that still adheres to the assorted cover plate sizes. You can find cover plates that look like ornate picture frames, stick figure people, animals, plants, and even guitars.
You can also find light switch cover plates in a variety of uncommon shapes. Hexagons and circles are among the newest design choices in cover plates. They still meet the standard measurements of 2.75 inches by 4.5 inches, with allowances for shape and design.
A circle light switch cover plate, for example, measures 5.75 inches high and 5.75 inches wide. The size is comparable to the oversized cover plate because the heights match, with the extra width forming the shape. A hexagon-shaped cover switch might match the standard cover plate, but measure longer in the center at the points.
Lightswitch Cover for Single, Standard Toggle Switch
Number of Gangs on a Light Switch Cover Plate
While light switch cover plates can be SHAPED like Sharks and Jets, the gangs mentioned here are a little different. A gang is simply the width of the boxes behind the wall plate that determine the power switch’s spacing. Cover switch gangs can come in a number of different combinations.
Switch-only cover plates come in single, double, triple, and even quadruple gangs for boxes containing more than one switch. Sometimes cover plates will have gangs for light switches and electrical outlets in the same plate. The gang cover plate you use will greatly depend on your electrical setup and how many elements are installed.
Lightswitch Cover for Double, Standard Toggle Switch
The dimensions on these plates vary depending on the number of gangs, but they are typically around the same height. Double and triple gang cover plates are about 4.5 inches high, but the extra switch placement adds width. So a double gang would be 4.56 inches long, and a triple gang would be 6.38 inches long.
Lightswitch Cover for Triple, Standard Toggle Switch
Configurations and Combination Cover Plates
In addition to the multifunction switch/outlet setup, light switch cover plates have other different features to accommodate different configurations. There are different types of light switches and outlets that require modifications for the cover plate to fit snugly. The external dimensions are mainly uniform; however the internal dimensions will vary depending on the switch, outlet or insert.
The toggle switch–the skinny lever that flips up and down–is the most common, measuring less than one by one inch. There is also the rocker switch, which is wider, longer, and more rectangular, and needs a wider plate opening. Other types of specialty switches–dimmers, slides, and tap switches–control the intensity of an electrical light source.
Your wall plate choice is also influenced by outlet types if you’re using a combination cover plate. Traditional socket outlets are shaped differently than ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) and require different plates. Likewise, there are many new rocker inserts such as cable, data, and phone ports that don’t fit traditional cover plates.
Standard Combination Plates
A standard combination plate will provide space for at least one wall switch and one wall outlet. It will at minimum be a double gang-style cover plate and measure 4.5 inches high. The width increases by each additional gang: 4.56 inches (double), 6.38 inches (triple), and 8.19 inches (quadruple).
The inside openings on the cover plate are specifically shaped to fit securely around the toggle switch and duplex outlet. The switch opening is approximately 1 inch by 1 inch and fits the toggle switch and the rotary dimmer mechanism. The outlet opening measures 1.12 inches across and 1.33 inches for each individual plug.
Here is an example of a switch and receptacle cover combination plate.
Decorator Combination Plates
Decorator combination plates are more uniform than standard plates, as the openings are all the same size. You can use this plate for multiple light switches as well as combining rocker switches, modern outlets and specialty ports. The inside openings of the decorator combination plates measure approximately 1.13 inches across and 2.5 inches high.
Because of their uniformity, decorator combination plates are more flexible in application. A four gang light switch cover plate accommodates four toggle switches but can easily switch to a combination setup. You can exchange a GFCI outlet or data port since the assembly measures 4.17 inches by 1.38 inches.
Combination cover plates can also have custom combinations of switch and outlet types. You can arrange toggles, duplex outlets, rocker switches, and GFCIs outlets that can sit in whatever configuration is desired. As with standard plates, decorator combination plates match the dimensions of multiple gang cover plates, with a 4.5-inch height.
Four Gang Lightswitch Cover with Standard Toggle Switches
What is the sturdiest light switch cover?
The ubiquitous light switch cover plate is made of thermoplastic, which is a hard, durable, heat-resistant material. While standard thermoplastic light switch cover plates are largely durable, you can crack or break them under extreme force. There is a stronger option called polycarbonate thermoplastic, a blend that is virtually indestructible and more resistant to excessive heat.There are a lot of decorative materials that have come into vogue for lights switch cover plates to add ambiance. Though they cost more per plate than thermoplastics, they’re still affordable enough to give a different look to your home. Some examples include bamboo, brass, bronze, brushed nickel, ceramic, chrome, copper, pewter, stainless steel, stone, and wood.
Should all light switch covers match?
Light switch cover plates should match up with the switch and/or outlets being covered. The main essential function of the cover plate is to shield the electrical components from inquisitive eyes and fingers. If the plate cannot fit snugly against the switch or outlet in the gang, it is inviting electrocution.As far as aesthetics go, architectural and design experts suggest that cover plates should match for a cohesive look. However, if you have a more eclectic artistic eye, there’s no reason you can’t mix and match colors and materials. Cover plates in the same room should at least be complementary if you’re not going to match them exactly.
How do you pick a light switch cover?
When purchasing light switch cover plates, the most important thing is to count how many you will need. Next, determine what type of cover plate you’ll need to fit and cover your switch, outlet, or gang box. Finally, choose a cover plate you like that suits your electrical needs and aesthetic tastes.One thing to be careful of is selecting a light switch cover plate with the proper orientation. Standard covers usually install in either direction; however, decorative and combination cover plates may have a specified top and bottom. Double-check that your cover plate matches the switch or switch/outlet configuration installed before committing to a given style.Lastly, while light switch cover plates are generally inexpensive, consider the overall cost. A basic light switch cover plate costs about $1 to $2. You can typically find them in multi-packs, like 10, 12, etc. for about $15 to $20.However, some decorative plates can run closer to $6 to $15 apiece. This can really add up when you start counting all of the switches in your house and realize you need over 20 or 30.
Stacy Randall is a wife, mother, and freelance writer from NOLA that has always had a love for DIY projects, home organization, and making spaces beautiful. Together with her husband, she has been spending the last several years lovingly renovating her grandparent's former home, making it their own and learning a lot about life along the way.
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