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Wallplate Selection Guide: Types and Configuration

Wall Outlet Covers

Choosing the right wall outlet covers doesn't sound like a very difficult task—and, in reality, it doesn't have to be. However, you have to understand the type of wall plate you need and the configuration of your outlets and switches. Wall plates can come in many shapes and sizes, so choosing one that will fit properly is important. Keep reading to learn more about the different types of wall plates and the various configurations available.

Types of Wall Plates

First, it's important to understand the different types of wall plates available. A wall plate's "type" refers to the shape of the opening and the device that that opening is intended to fit. Here are the key types of wall plates available; you might be surprised by how many there are:

  • Blank wall plates – These actually have no opening at all. They're intended to cover and close off any unused outlets or switches.
  • Cable TV plates – These contain a cable TV connector.
  • Data jack wall plates – Data jacks provide a physical network connection for computer devices.
  • Duplex outlet covers – These plates have two openings, both with rounded sides and flat tops and bottoms, for plugging in electrical cords.
  • Phone jack wall plates – While these are becoming less common, phone jack wall plates house an opening to plug in a landline.
  • Rocker wall plate – This type of plate has a large, rectangular opening that fits a rocker switch. It can also fit what is known as a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlet, a common type in bathrooms.
  • Toggle switch plate – Toggle switches are the most common type of light switches, and these plates have a small rectangular opening just large enough to house one.

Combination Plates

The different types of openings and connections mentioned above can often be combined into what is known as a "combination" plate. A combination plate can have any combination of the above-mentioned openings, though multiple switch openings or outlet openings are the most common. The number of openings on a combination plate is referred to as a "gang." So, a plate with two different types of switches or other openings is called a 2-gang plate, a plate with three openings is a 3-gang, and so on. Two-gang switch plates are the most common, but many houses will have 4- or even 5-gang switch plates in areas with many lights in one area (such as by the front door).

Plate Sizes

When we talk about "larger" plates, we don't mean a higher number of combinations. Rather, we're referring to plates with a slightly larger surface area. While most wall plates come in a standard size that's just large enough to cover the hole behind the switch or outlet, some larger wall plates do exist. These can be a good option for those with reduced visual acuity or simply to make more of a statement with your wall plates. If either of these is essential to you, oversized wall plates are a good option to keep in mind.

Outlet Plate Covers

Plate Materials

Finally, it's important to address the different materials that are available for wall plates. While plastic is the most common material used in homes—primarily because they're cheap for builders—this is far from the only option. Other material options include the following:

  • Aluminum
  • Brass
  • Bronze
  • Copper
  • Nickel
  • Steel
  • Ceramic
  • Plastic
  • Porcelain
  • Wood
  • And more

Switching up your outlet plate covers for a new, more upscale material can surprisingly impact your space's overall style. To see the different materials we carry and the variety of plate types and combinations available, check out our online store.

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Wallplate Configuration Chart

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