At first, wallplates seem surprisingly simple. There are light switch covers and outlet covers, and that’s about all the variety you need, right? That couldn’t be further from the truth. Even if you ignore materials and styles (which you really shouldn’t when choosing a wallplate), there’s an incredible variety of different wallplates out there, and each one has different terms used to describe it. Do you know your wallplate vocabulary? Check out our glossary of terms below.
Light Switch Cover Types
Even if you’re just looking at a single light switch, there are still 2 different types you should be familiar with:
- Rocker plates – These have the larger rectangular openings for rocker switches, which are used for increasingly common smart switches in homes. It may also be called a decorator plate.
- Toggle plates – These are the more traditional plates, used for the toggle switches that you most often see in households.
Outlet Cover Types
Outlet covers also come in 3 different types, and you should know how to describe them properly:
- Duplex plates – Most home outlets have two separate, slightly rounded protrusions for the sockets. A duplex plate has the necessary cutouts to fit these two sockets.
- Decorator plates – Remember how we said rocker plates can also be called decorator plates? That’s because they can be used for a separate type of outlet and be used for rocker switches. Many bathrooms will have switched outlets, connecting the two sockets in one rectangular shape that fits a decorator plate.
- Single outlet plates – Appliance outlets have one large, circular opening. For these, you’ll need a single outlet plate.
When it comes to wallplate terms, a gang is not as sinister as it might sound. The term “gang” simply refers to how many openings a wallplate has. If you look around your home, most switches and outlets are probably a single gang—meaning they have only one element, either an outlet or a switch. However, you likely have a few places in your home where there are two or more switches side by side. Obviously, a single-gang plate wouldn’t work for this. That’s why there are 2, 3, and 4 gang plate designs, which have multiple openings to accommodate multiple switches.
But what if you don’t just have identical switches all in a row? That’s where the term “combination” comes in. If you have a toggle switch alongside a duplex outlet, you’ll need a combination plate that includes openings for both. There’s a huge variety of combination options out there, including toggle switches and rocker switches, phone jacks and cable jacks, rocker switches and outlets, and more. The term combination would apply to them all, but you will need to be able to describe the exact openings you need as well in order to find the right plate.
Other Plate Types
Though toggle switches, rocker switches, and outlets are the most common elements needed in a wallplate, some homes do have other elements that need to be fitted to a plate. Here are a few other terms to be familiar with:
- Coax plate – A wallplate for cable TV or satellite coaxial cable jacks.
- Phone jack plate – A plate specifically designed for phone jacks.
- Blank plate – A wallplate with no openings, used to cover an empty electrical box or an electrical box no longer in use.
- Push-button plate – A plate designed specifically for use with push-button switches; these are more commonly seen in industrial applications.
Now that you know how to describe the kind of wallplate you need, you can start looking for the right style for your home. Check out our extensive selection of outlet and light plate covers here at the Wallplate Warehouse!