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I completed my first drywall project and I learned that I hate doing drywall. Apparently I'm not good at it either because when I finally screwed on the outlet covers it is obvious my measurements were off.

What is the best way to fix this? What is the easiest way to fix this? What would you recommend?

enter image description here enter image description here

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5  
What happened to the right side of that switch plate? It looks like 1/4 inch is missing – Brad Jan 11 at 21:07
    
@Brad there's bare wood to the right of the cut off plate. I'd guess that the wood is part of a door/window frame; and that the cover plate was cut to avoid notching the trim when they were found to overlap. I'm pretty sure there's at least once place like that in my parents house because when the overlap was found no one wanted to move the box to make it fit more gracefully. At the point of having to fix the drywall anyway, I'd be tempted to move the box slightly away from the door/window and buy a new cover plate now. – Dan Neely Jan 11 at 21:39
    
It looks like a snap together wall plate - the edge piece is just missing. The company that makes these, sells, individual sections, so you can "snap together" custom configurations. – tahwos Jan 12 at 9:36
up vote 20 down vote accepted

Luckily I just happened to have one of my own to do (in my case repairing plaster around an old work box, but exactly the same process), so I'll give a walk-through of repairing the gap on the left:

pre-work

What I usually do is fill the gap with wads of rolled up fiberglass joint tape:

wad of fiberglass tape

Pack the wads of fiberglass into the gap (I'm using a screwdriver because the gap on mine is pretty narrow). For wider gaps, you can either fold them into 'U' shapes or make larger balls of tape. Doesn't really matter how you do it as, but fill up the gap.

filling the gap

When you're done, it should look something like this:

gap packed

Make sure none of the fiber strands poke out beyond the plane of the wall (or you'll have to deal with it later during sanding and painting when it's more of a pain). Then, run a strip of fiberglass tape down the side of the box flush with the plane of the wall. You'll want to use a full width strip - mine is cut narrower because I'm working next to the trim:

over-taped

Then, use a putty knife to pack mud into the gap. For really wide gaps, take your time so you don't push the fiberglass backing out:

mudding

Skim coat the tape smooth with the wall, and you should end up with something like this:

finished

I've used the same method to fill in gaps around boxes as wide as an inch and haven't had any problems. The first "coat" will take a long time to dry, and the wider the gap, the longer it will take. It may also run a crack down the mud as it shrinks while it's drying, but that's fine - just pack mud into the crack on the next coat. After this point, it's basically like finishing any other mud joint.

Good luck.

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1  
Your pictures aren't finished. You still have a lot of tape showing and your surface looks flat. Meaning for your face plate to go on flat you have a lot of mudding left. I am not saying that this way is wrong, I am just saying to get a really good finished product it can often be more than what you think. Also the bumps and seams are usually really visible around plates. You had a lot of finishes up so I might have done same thing but this guy is just in the process of drywalling... do it right. – DMoore Jan 12 at 3:30
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@DMoore - There's a lot of tape showing because I was literally doing this as I wrote the post - that's only the first coat. The hard part about the pictured one is matching the texture, but it'll be unnoticeable when I'm done - been doing this for 20 years. ;-) – Comintern Jan 12 at 3:48
    
Yea but doing it this way your walls are not flat at the plates. That is my whole point. If I was doing a high end job I would never be able to do this. The plate area would be raised and not sit right. I have too been doing this for 20 years. Some people just want it done and some want it done right. – DMoore Jan 12 at 16:22
    
@DMoore - The OP is well beyond the point of replacing the sheetrock around the boxes - it's already been sanded and painted. Replacing drywall in that case would look a lot worse than the repair (or dinner plate sized covers). Fiberglass tape beds shallow, and feathering around the box will make the cover plate sit flat. If you're using nylon plates, they'll even conform with the wall. Not all situations allow for rehanging the sheet - this is how to deal with the ones that don't. Would you tear out all the plaster on my wall because it blew out a bit when the old box came out? – Comintern Jan 12 at 16:31
1  
OK the point here is the pictures in the answer are showing a basic meshing/mud to make a perfect box. The mesh/mud will mostly be behind the plate. All of the gap being covered would have been covered by a standard plate. The OP has a light switch that would need to be meshed/mudded all the way around and all well outside the plate. This would mean that they would need to use even more mud to get it to feather and they would basically have a face plate on a mound. We are talking about touch up stuff vs hiding major install issues and they simply aren't the same. And using mesh is right – DMoore Jan 12 at 17:06

Easiest way - buy bigger covers.

Best way - redrywall so it is done right.

Half-ass way - tape and mud the gaps.

Outlet covers for really bad drywallers

enter image description here

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3  
DMoore- do you really believe the sheet of drywall needs to be removed and then a new one installed to fix the gaps? Really? (Just askin' is all.) – ojait Jan 11 at 20:55
    
@ojait - you could patch the sections and have seams right by plates and stiffer plates probably won't sit flat, I understand that part, – DMoore Jan 11 at 21:14
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I think you could replace stud-to-stud and at least a foot above and below the switch. If it's near an existing seam then might be better just to go right to that seam -- so could very easily end up replacing half a sheet. That said, personally, before I resigned to the fact that I both hate and am bad at drywall (when I still did it myself), I'd probably opt for a combination of mostly "easy" and "half-ass" in this situation. – gregmac Jan 11 at 22:00
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I immediately thought of the bigger face plates :). Maybe get the bigger paddle switches so the bigger plate doesn't look so bad. – spozun Jan 12 at 1:20
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Where do you get those giant faceplates? I know a few guys that could really use them. – Tester101 Jan 12 at 16:56

The reason that drywall is enjoyable to do (for me anyway) is that most mistakes can quickly and easily be repaired. This is true in your situation.

Cutting a precise opening is sometimes difficult. The fastest way to cover the gaps, after wider wall plates, is to re-fill the gaps with joint compound if they are not larger than in the first photo. For the gap in the second photo it would be easier to press in a backing material (insulation or cardboard) first. This will prevent the spackle from falling into the wall cavity.

You can also use a latex caulk to fill smaller gaps.

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Do you mean the gap you see when you remove the cover plate? – DJohnM Jan 11 at 20:49
    
The gaps in the two photo's that are posted, yes. – ojait Jan 11 at 20:52
    
The posted photos have cover plates. Do you propose repairing the gaps without removing the cover plates? – DJohnM Jan 11 at 20:55
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The plates need to be removed otherwise they will get damaged and applying the joint compound will be difficult to get smooth. – ojait Jan 11 at 20:57
    
@ojait Trace the outline of the cover with a pencil before you remove it, so you know where you need to fill. – Mohair Jan 12 at 0:18

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