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I need to install some new outlet boxes in an old lathe and plaster wall. I have the baseboards pulled out so I can see where the studs are, which is just great. However, behind the lathe is a brick wall (exterior of the building) and I was wondering if it would be OK to just attach the boxes directly to the brick (through a box-sized hole) instead of having to dig out a bigger hole in the plaster to get at the studs and attach them there.

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If the brick is directly behind the lathe, it is unclear where the studs are. Is there a stud size gap between the lathe and brick? – bib Jul 14 '12 at 21:23
yes to all of those questions. But the studs are rather narrow, so the box itself is almost flush with the plaster (outer surface) when it is in the wall. – A.R. Jul 14 '12 at 21:35
the box is supposed to be flush with the plaster. – bib Jul 15 '12 at 1:37
yes, i understand. I was just going to shove a shim in there to make it all line up right. – A.R. Jul 15 '12 at 22:08
up vote 9 down vote accepted

There is no obligation to attach an outlet box to a stud. There are many applications where a box is "free floating" in a plaster wall using boxes that have various types of flanges that lock the box in. Boxes are sometimes embedded in wooden boards, such as baseboards.

The important thing is to ensure that the box is firmly secured. This could be done by screwing the box into the brick (using masonry anchors) through an existing opening in the box. It may be more practical to obtain "old-work" type boxes that have their own retaining mechanisms. the box is slipped in, then the retaining mechanism is tightened to grip the back of the plaster and lathe.

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