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Recently I took a wall plate off a 4 switch box to paint the wall. When I did this, I found that the wall plate was being held on by paint alone.

It appears that 4 light switches were installed in 2 adjacent double gang boxes. There is a stud on the left side of box 1 and a stud on the right side of box 2.

After taking the wall plate off

To get things stabilized and provide a way to attach the wall plate, I installed 2 mud rings (shown in the picture).

current switches

However, I quickly realized that the 4 device wall plate will not cover this now that they are seated properly. I tried initially to fix this by cutting a standard 2 device plate and positioning it next to a standard plate:

First attempt to cut a wall plate to size

Q1: Is it possible to replace the 2 gang boxes with a single 4 gang box? I'm hesitant to go down this path because my instincts tell me that there is a reason why someone did it like this.

Q2: One other idea I had was to combine some of the switches. Three of the switches control recessed lighting in the room and we rarely turn on one without the others. So, I'm considering combining those 3 into a single switch. I read a few other similar questions but I'm not entirely sure if I can do this. Outside of verifying the switch can handle the load, what other things do I need to consider? Would it be simpler/easier to do this rather than replacing the whole thing with a 4 gang box?

Thank you for any help you can provide!

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    If you'd rather not use combination switches (which can be awkward in the dark and less intuitive), replacing the box with a 4-gang is the right way. There's not likely a reason you can't do this. – isherwood Feb 26 at 19:38
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    Welcome to the site. Good question and good pictures. Let me just warn you to be extra careful working on any of the electric in this house/building now that you've found this. Other things might also be "not quite standard" so be careful. Imminent danger? Maybe not, but I wouldn't trust wire colors or any normal wiring patterns. – JPhi1618 Feb 26 at 19:53
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    thanks @isherwood! it does look like a 4-gang box will fit. The combination switch is awkward but the current set up is awkward too. I end up turning them all on/off to remind myself which is which. :) I think I would prefer to combine the 3 into a single switch now that I think about it. But, that seems like it might be more complicated than just replacing it with a 4-gang box and put the cover back on it and call it done. – Mike M Feb 26 at 20:10
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    @AloysiusDefenestrate thanks for the tip! I couldn't find a 4 gang mud ring is the honest answer (looking at Home Depot at the time). I see they have one at Menard's. Will that fit, though? Are there others I should consider? thanks for the help! – Mike M Mar 2 at 21:24
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    I'm not surprised that evil orange doesn't have a full line of stuff. That menards one looks like it'll do fine, though you may have to remove/replace some plaster at the sides to attach to the studs. You can google some others, but you're pretty much in the same boat, I think. – Aloysius Defenestrate Mar 2 at 21:49
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You have 3 dimmer switches, so if you want to keep them (or combine all the recessed lights into one) you won't want to use any combo switches. Based on what I can see with the wiring, you could attach all the lights to one dimmer (check the wattage rating on the dimmer, but you're going to replace the recessed lights with LEDs anyway, right?). That would leave one dimmer and one regular switch and those would both fit into a single 2-gang box.

If you want to minimize the amount of patch work you do, you can just replace the two boxes with a 4-gang, but you't going to have some repair on the edges either way. I hate having to do drywall repair, so I personally would try to make a 4-gang fit as best as I could, but that's really just preference. I can't think of a reason they used two boxes other than that's what they happened to have on hand at the time.

When you do replace the boxes, make sure the new box has the proper wire clamps on it. Right now I bet the wires are just fed into those boxes with no clamps or anything to cover the sharp edges of the knock outs. Look for damaged insulation on all the wires.

  • That all makes sense. Thanks for the tip on the wire clamps. I hadn't thought of that. – Mike M Feb 26 at 20:57
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Assuming the 3 switches for recessed lighting are on the same circuit (same hot wire) replace them with a 3-in-1 switch. I have those for light /fan /heat in my bathrooms but there is no reason they can't be 3 light circuits.

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  • thanks @manassehkatz! I hadn't thought of this type of switch. That's a great idea! If I do this, can I simply remove the second gang box and patch the hole? Or, do I need to leave the hole and use a cover? – Mike M Feb 26 at 19:41
  • If there are any wires left in the box then you need a cover. If all wires are moved into the other box then you can patch and paint. – manassehkatz Feb 26 at 19:48
  • Be careful here -- it could be they split this up across 4 gangs of box for box fill reasons, and trying to cram all those wires into 2 gangs would result in a BoxOverflowError – ThreePhaseEel Feb 27 at 1:58
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    @ThreePhaseEel You may be right. It may also be that originally there was a 2-gang with 2 switches and then somebody decided to put in more/different lights with separate switches and had absolutely no idea what they were doing with the end result of 2 x 2-gang with a 4-gang cover crammed over it. – manassehkatz Feb 27 at 2:07

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