I'm working on replacing the light switches in my house, but I've got one box that I'm not sure what to do with. It's a two gang box with double switches in each slot (4 switches total). It looks like the box was installed horizontally instead of vertically (screws on the sides instead of the top and bottom). This allowed for all 4 switches to be vertical instead of horizontal as double switches normally are.

However, I'm planning to replace the 2 double switches with 1 single switch and 1 double switch as one of the switches can be eliminated, but I really don't want the single switch to run horizontally.

Are there any gadgets or tools that would allow for easy rotation of the switch box? It's conduit so I don't think physically moving the box is going to be easy.

Here's what it looks like now vs what I'd like to put in:

  • One option is to cut the wall open, remove the existing box and reinstall a new box in the proper orientation. Then replace the drywall you cut out, mud and tape and sand and texture.
    – Alaska Man
    Mar 22 '20 at 15:04
  • @AlaskaMan -- that's a mess, as a result of the OP's house being wired in conduit Mar 22 '20 at 18:00
  • @ThreePhaseEel yes I understand He called the box conduit but since the wall hasn’t been opened up, do we know that conduit with wiring inside actually runs to the box. Even a Messy option is still an option.
    – Alaska Man
    Mar 23 '20 at 0:21

Your plan ain't gonna happen. There's no way to do that. I realize from your perspective it seems obvious that somebody ought to make "kit" for that, but they don't. Nobody installs junction boxes sideways like that.

Since you won't turn the box, you are married to this sideways arrangement. That's OK, it may still work out.

Your particular line of switches, there, is called Despard which is largely obsolete. The problem with Despard is they use bizarre and largely unobtanium switch plate covers. And part of the problem with their covers is they don't have a good answer when you use fewer than all three voids, or all six in your case. For instance I have a 2-gang switch plate with 3 switch positions populated (out of 6). They improvised the cover plate by wrapping a 6-hole cover plate with wallpaper. You don't have much other choice, you can't leave empty holes for curious fingers to explore!

However, the market has plenty of dual switches which use either the common "dual oval receptacle" cover, or the "Decora style" rectangular cover. They even have a few triple switches in Decora, in case you want to just have switches 1-2-3 in the first rank, and nothing in the second. That may be the option for you.

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Note that all double/triple switches on the market have the throw going sideways. That means in your sideways box, the throw would be up and down. Which would validate the designer's original vision after all.

You realize, of course, that a single switch throws nominally "up and down", so in your application would result in a sideways single.

  • I'm not sure I understand your answer- are you saying the only way to get it up and down is to take the box out?
    – lucasvw
    Mar 22 '20 at 12:38
  • 1
    @lucasvw -- no, Harper is saying that you should take the existing Despard switches/yokes out and replace it with a single triple-switch in a decorator (Decora) form factor, then use a two-gang faceplate with a Decora opening on one side and a blank on the other Mar 22 '20 at 14:28
  • But if I want a single switch up and down, the only way is to physically rotate the box?
    – lucasvw
    Mar 22 '20 at 14:33
  • 2
    @lucasvw correct. Design freedom isn't free. Mar 22 '20 at 15:47

If there's no mudring, or you don't want to rotate it, add an outlet, assuming you have a hot and neutral. Use a switch and receptacle for one slot switch with outlet

and a double switch for the other.double switch

These can be mounted sideways so you keep your up/down orientation for the switches.

  • Hmm that's an option. I don't think I really need an outlet there though
    – lucasvw
    Mar 22 '20 at 13:29
  • 1
    They also make switch/ indicator lighted instead of an outlet the indicators were very often used with despard setups and the one thing that folks like when the switches control outside lights the indicators used to be neon lamps that lasted decades I am not sure if neon today or led.
    – Ed Beal
    Mar 22 '20 at 16:45

Those yokes and switches are still available , getting new may be easier than knocking the box out and installing an old work box . Breaking that box out may turn into a hassle, I think I see some colored wire so it may not be two bad and have some modern wire , but those were common in cloth wire days it also looks like Sheetrock so it may be a modern install. But a new “old work” box is designed to be put in a hole.

I would verify the wiring prior to knocking the old box out and installing a new old work box. Look up despard for the options on those yokes and switch covers.

  • What is a yoke?
    – lucasvw
    Mar 22 '20 at 1:14
  • @lucasvw a "yoke" is the metal strap that you put screws through to fasten a receptacle or a switch to a junction box (it's a strap, really -- it goes all the way through from one end of the wiring device to the other, instead of being two brackets attached to some sort of plastic frame) Mar 22 '20 at 4:26
  • Really a downvote for someone that has no idea what a yoke is? I provided the type of switch and how to do it with an old work box.
    – Ed Beal
    Mar 22 '20 at 11:42
  • I don't think you really addressed my question though. I have new switches I want to put in, I just want them to run up and down instead of side to side like the current box
    – lucasvw
    Mar 22 '20 at 12:36
  • I assume it was you who just now down voted both of my questions on the site. I would be happy to upvote your answer if you update it to address the question. I don't need yokes or switches, just a way for new switches to run up and down. Maybe the only way to do that is replace the box
    – lucasvw
    Mar 22 '20 at 12:46

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