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In my house, there are maybe three or four outlet boxes and switch boxes where there was damage done to the drywall surrounding the box at some point. There are no structural or electrical issues (well, none that I haven't already fixed at least—some wires were spliced with electrical tape and broken wire nuts!), but cosmetically, I'd like to do better.

Example (see top of switchplate):

Switchplate with broken drywall on top

For standard one-gang switch plates and outlet covers, I typically buy a wider cover, and that takes care of the issue. However, for a plate like the one in the picture above, it's hard enough finding a plate with a decora cutout and a switch cutout in standard size—much less one in a wider size.

Is there any way of fixing the drywall around a plate like this short of cutting back the drywall to a stud and trying to mount/support new sheetrock so it's flush with the outlet box?

For small nicks, I can just fill them in with spackling compound, but for larger breaks like this, I can't make it look nice and not crumble after a year or two.

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Possible Duplicate: How do I fill holes around a light switch –  Tester101 Mar 12 '13 at 12:03
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3 Answers 3

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I wouldn't start cutting out chunks of drywall to fix a small area like that.

Take off the wall plate and remove any loose or crumbling drywall. Apply a piece of fiberglass tape over the area, mud, sand and repeat as necessary to get a blended finish. Then prime and paint to match.

The fiberglass tape is nice for repairs like this because you can stick it to the wall and then mud on top of, unlike paper tape which you need to apply on top of mud. I've fixed a bunch of similar defects like this and several years later there are no cracks and they look great.

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Can you find a good tutorial on how to mud with tape properly? I've tried before and failed pretty badly. This sounds like the way to go. –  geerlingguy Mar 11 '13 at 18:26
    
Honestly I'm not very good at it and I always end up sanding way too much - but it's really forgiving like that in that you can sand it down to get the correct finish. Better to put on a few thin coats then 1 really thick one (reduces cracking), and for such a small area, sanding isn't really a big deal –  Steven Mar 11 '13 at 18:46
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Alternate answer:

You could swap the switch for a decora switch and then just look for a large double-decora wallplate, which are definitely easier to find.

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Upvote for the idea, but I'd still like to try fixing the drywall where possible. –  geerlingguy Mar 11 '13 at 18:25
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Here's a small nightmare my electrician left me (am looking for a new one).

repair sequence for damaged drywall around switchbox

Sometimes, making the hole BIGGER is easier and makes a more secure repair, because drywall is stronger when fully supported. I've done tape repairs as @Steven has suggested, but they are inherently weak, because the repair is necessarily cantilevered around the e-box.

Myron Ferguson is a frequent contributor to Fine HomeBuilding and JLC. His book has a great section on repairs.

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