In California, I know that code limits how recessed behind the finished wall the electrical panel can be. I'm interested in improving the acoustic STC of the wall assembly and the easiest way is to add more layers of drywall.

This would cause the panel to be 5/8" recessed into the wall, which I believe to be a code violation. I can't easily remove and remount the panel differently.

Do I have any remedy here if I want to make the drywall thicker? This is a square D QO panel, if that matters. With other boxes, for example, I am familiar with things like box extenders to address this, but I don't think these are made for entire panels

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    Can you stop the additional drywall layer 2" before the edge of the panel cover, and put a piece of wood trim to hide the edge? Like a picture frame for your panel. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 4 '20 at 17:52

Yeah, no. Panels do not work like switches and outlets. You can't jack the panel cover outward and use longer screws and have a drywall trim ring between panel cover and panel. No way. Not least, the breakers will fall out. Because the relationship between cover and panel must be precise; it's the only thing holding them in!

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You also can't bury the panel cover behind drywall, because as any regular visitor here has memorized, panel covers must be accessible without any tools and without modifying the house in any way.

Your only option is to stop the additional drywall layer a couple inches before it reaches the panel cover, and hide the jagged drywall edge with a simple piece of wood trim around the perimeter, like a picture frame. Finally, a use for that miter box!

enter image description here

ThreePhaseEel makes the point that a "picture frame" (and the drywall itself) intrudes on the "box" of open space that must be kept clear for a person to access and maintain the panel. That open-space "box" starts at the face of the panel and is 36" deep. It is 30" wide but need not be centered, and is 78" (6'6") tall.

However, I see no problem with what is described, for obvious reasons. I don't stand with my toes planar with the front of the panel (that would be very cramped, eh?) so I don't care about the wall being 3/4" thicker. Disclaimer here: I have an installation just like OP, that violates this in a statutory way, but is of no genuine inconvenience to the installer, and I really like the installation (it's a tasteful cabinet door concealing electrical and phone boxes). So of course I'd say this, wouldn't I?

However you would either need to get a variance from your AHJ, which I would think would be no trouble; or simply have the "picture frame" stop short of the open-space "box". In my case, the cover was done by a predecessor whose other work is impeccable, so I presume he got a variance :)

  • Actually, most panels can retain their breakers with the cover off Just Fine, TYVM; however, you are right that trim rings for panels aren't a thing. Note that QO panels mount through the back, so loosening the panel and sliding it forward isn't an option either; also, using a reverse picture frame strategy could be considered a 110.26(A) clear working area violation (the clear working space for a panel starts at the front of the panel) – ThreePhaseEel Jan 4 '20 at 18:09
  • @ThreePhaseEel your expertise in panels is sublime, and makes me wonder if I'm wildly misunderstanding. But my direct experience with non-boltdowns is that pushing them in the outward direction (e.g. Turning them off with zest) will make them rock out, unclipping from the inner clip/stab and loosing the outer hook; now the breaker is hanging by nothing but the wires. That being the very reason backfed breakers need bolt-down kits. Proper cover positioning prevents this. Like I say, I could be missing something. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 4 '20 at 18:31
  • You very well could be right on that point with regard to outward forces on the breakers, due to the way the retention feet on most loadcenter-type breakers work... – ThreePhaseEel Jan 4 '20 at 18:57
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    @ThreePhaseEel I've added a drawing to show what I mean. When I go after a breaker in the middle of the stack, you can't pull straight "up" to follow the pivot line, the only thing to grab onto is the handle or that tiny shelf, so I usually just push the handle very firmly past "off" and it lets go of the stab and rocks out. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jan 5 '20 at 0:40
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    Ah, thanks for the drawing, that is an excellent illustration! – ThreePhaseEel Jan 5 '20 at 1:19

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