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A Brief Guide to Wall Plate Openings

Brief Guide to Wall Plate

Wall plates are a necessity for keeping electrical boxes in place, protecting you and others from electric shock, and even keeping out pests. Wall plates also happen to look neat and sleek, especially if you shop in the right place.

But you may be confused as to which types of cover plates you need for your home or office, especially if you plan to shop for cover plates online. Not all wall plate openings are alike, and you may have special needs for wall plate openings that mix outlet types. The wrong type of wall plate won't work to protect you and your electrical boxes, and it may even deny you access to important outlets and switches.

Before you shop, browse through this helpful guide to wall plate openings, including different designs and configurations your home or office may have in place.


First, it's important to learn about gangs. To an electrician, a "gang" refers to the width of the cover plate, and the amount of slots that are in place to accommodate different switches and outlets. Many bedrooms have two-gang wall plate openings: one space for a light switch, and a second for a ceiling fan. While wall plate openings can go up to 10-gang, one to three-gang openings are more common.

Light Switches

There are different types of switches, each of which will require a different wall plate. The common types are toggle, decora, pushbutton, despard, slide, and block. There may be space for single or duplex switches in each wall plate opening.

Light switches may also have a dimmer or be positioned sideways. Kitchen garbage disposals often have a sideways switch because they're harder to toggle by accident and increase kitchen safety.


There are fewer types of outlets, because these tend to be standardized. The basic types are duplex, block, and GFCI. The latter is frequently found in bathrooms, as they include test and reset buttons, and are designed to shut off to prevent electric shock accidents.

More rarely, you may find round or despard outlets. As with switches, outlets may have a single or duplex configuration, though single wall plate openings are usually only installed behind kitchen appliances, where only one outlet is needed and it's inaccessible once the appliance is in place.

2-Toggle Chocolate Wallplate

Odd Designs

If you occupy an older building, you may encounter some odd designs, including tiny or oversized outlets. These can be tough to pair, but these are also fairly rare. You may want to shop for vintage wall plates to find a product that can appropriately cover these unique wall plate openings.

Your home or office may also have mixed wall plate openings that combine switches and outlets, or switches and other features, like phone jacks or cable jacks.

Hopefully, the above information has helped you learn more about which electrical cover plates you need for your home or office. You can browse designs, explore the latest design trends, and buy cover plates online at Wallplate Warehouse offers the finest selection of cover plates in a variety of configurations, finishes, and designs. Not only do they fit securely, they offer a clean look that's sure to impress.

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Wallplate Configuration Chart

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