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I recently replaced 2 rocker switches in an existing electrical box and they are both crooked (inward) and look like garbage. They also don't feel that nice as they are indented and not flush, so honestly they don't function all that great either. It's a problem specific to this electrical switch outlet box. I've tried every adjustment I can think of, but nothing has worked. I tried:

  • Making sure the copper wiring attached wasn't pulling the switch to 1 side
  • Making sure the screws mounting the switch were tight but not over-tightened
  • Checked both switches to make sure tabs were flat and not bent

I did notice the electrical box is loose in the wall and torqued a bit and not flush with the wall. The system of tightening the switches which pulls on the drywall and should pull the box forward isn't quite working well either. The drywall starts to press in and almost get destroyed before the electrical box pulls flush. The box is the type mounted with nails on the top and bottom (I can see them and a little rusted). I can move the box around say 1/4 to 1/2" with my fingers.

I would guess that people that do this type of work as a trade have specific practices on the 'right' way to fix this and something that doesn't break code. Here are the things I'm guessing might fix it:

  • Add some type of shim behind the light switch flanges to help make the mount truly flush as maybe the drywall is soft and from the pictures a bit worn away
  • Use spacers like washers behind the switch to pull it out and more flush (I'm not sure if that's a bad practice or against code)
  • Call a drywall and electrical contractor to cut open the drywall, remove and replace with a new electrical box, and repair the drywall (I really hope not as that's expensive, but if that's the only way to fix, then that's what will have to be done).
  • Some other proper way to fix I haven't considered

How can I get these switches to mount flush and protrude correctly from the light switch cover please?

EDIT: The 1st picture shows the torqued switches fully tightened and installed. The 2nd picture was taken after I had loosed the screws on the switches. I probably should have used a different picture or clarified. That picture is to show the drywall to electrical box condition for helping show the bare parts. When fully installed those switch mount screws are fully tightened and pressed on the drywall.

enter image description here

  • Is there excess wire between the two outlets, or a pile of wire behind them that they are sitting against? – tahwos Jun 18 at 22:20
  • @tahwos - no as mentioned throughout this thread I've made sure multiple times the wires aren't pulling it one way or obstructing anything because of too many or too much wire behind it. It's a physical issue with that box not pulling flush with the wall when tightening. – atconway Jun 19 at 16:00
  • But in your final picture, that's exactly what we see... glad you found a result that you're happy with. – tahwos Jun 28 at 21:06
  • @tahwos - that picture is 2D and doesn't articulate well the space behind the switches and the wires in the box. The problem was 100% with the drywall and box integrity (or lack thereof with the drywall) and installation and caused the alignment issues. The spacers worked well to correct, but the best solution was probably an installation of a new box or at least one not installed crooked in reference to the stud it was mounted to. – atconway Jun 29 at 18:41
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OK, Those tabs are not up against the drywall. Press the switches in hard until the tabs are against the drywall and then tighten the screws. Then get a two gang switch cover with the four screws that will aid in getting the switches lined up correctly. You can loosen the screws holding the switches to the box a bit if it helps line them up with the new cover. That cover plate you have is useless.

enter image description here

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    Well it was not bad for a snap on cover but jack is correct a decora cover plate will help here pay a few cents more and get the unbreakable one they still van crack but not as easily. – Ed Beal Jun 17 at 22:32
  • Don't the "screwless" look covers have a screw on plate underneath, then the outer shell that snaps on without screws? The inner plate should have the screw holes to help line up the two switches. – FreeMan Jun 18 at 13:26
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    Also, the cover plate isn't the issue - the switches are clearly misaligned prior to putting on the coverplate. The picture might not show it, but the root issue is the mount to the electrical box even before I install the coverplate. – atconway Jun 18 at 14:29
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    They make shims that can be used to move the switches out but support them better. idealind.com/shop/772453.html – DaveM Jun 18 at 15:38
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    @JACK - I apologize I see where your suggestion came from based on Picture #2 in my OP. I just added an edit for clarification because in that picture the screws were loosened already; that picture was meant to show the bare switches, drywall condition and outline of the box. – atconway Jun 19 at 16:16
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Per the commented suggestion from @DaveM, there are rubber shims/spacers that can be used for worn out, abused, maligned, damaged, or non-flush electrical outlets where getting the electrical switches to pull flush and level upon tightening isn't possible. I used the following pack from Lowe's which was less then $10:

https://www.lowes.com/pd/Gardner-Bender-24-Pack-0-75-in-W-x-4-in-L-Yellow-Plastic-Wall-Plate-Spacer/4573784

They are quite flexible in use and can be stacked, used individually, or used on 1-corner to do whatever is needed to bring the outlet flush. I was able to cut and stack these behind the switch where the drywall was chewed up and the outlet box wasn't flush to correct the problem. This seems to be the safe and proper way as opposed to stacking metal washers, or a bigger solution to replace or re-install a box. I have the switches about 95% better and the end result is flush and aligned with the outlet cover.

enter image description here

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    Looks good! Thanks for coming back to post & accept your final solution. – FreeMan Jun 23 at 12:38
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What I've found, when I have switches that are twisted like that is that I've done a poor job of packing the wiring behind the switches and into the box.

After turning off the power at the breaker pull the switches back out of the wall just enough to see behind them. Have a look at where the wiring is behind them and rearrange just a bit - based on what I see, you've probably got a wire nut on each side of the box that's sticking out just far enough that the back of the switch is hitting it and doesn't want to go any further back into the box. Rearranging the wiring so the nuts will go against the back of the box will help immensely.

Once you've tidied up a bit behind, if they still won't sit flat, I will twist the switch slightly against its mounting tabs so that it's even from side to side. The electricians here will probably scream at me that this is dangerous and that I shouldn't do it (and I'm fine with being corrected on this point), but it's worked for me so far.

If, as it appears, the box has been installed a little too deep, you can put some washers on the switch mounting screws to bring them further out from the wall so they sit flush with the cover plate. Of course, your "screwless" cover plate is probably a bit thicker than a standard cover plate, so that's probably why this is a problem now when it was never a problem in the past.

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  • Yeah per my OP I've tried 4-5x to Making sure the copper wiring attached wasn't pulling the switch to 1 side as you've suggested. It's not pushing or pulling. It's hard without a video to show but that electrical box isn't flush with the drywall. I think it may have been installed crooked to begin with and the old toggle switches didn't expose the issue as prominently as the rocker ones do. – atconway Jun 18 at 14:32
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    The misalignment happens when tightening the screws on the switches (especially the right one). As it pulls in and tightens, it begins to torque to the inside left. I think it's a combination of soft drywall and an old slightly warped electrical box that's a bit crooked inside the wall. – atconway Jun 18 at 14:32
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Loosen the screws that attach the switches to the box, and use the cover plate screws to "pull" the switches into alignment against the back of the cover plate as they are tightened.

This will only work (reiterating FreeMan's answer) if the switches are not bound up by the way that the wires are packed into the box and if the wires are not pushing the switch to one side or the other.

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  • I did try this and as mentioned in my OP, and the drywall begins to press in (and start to get damaged) by the tabs pressing so hard, before that box aligns inside. This didn't work for me. That's the way it's supposed to work; screws pull that box forward flush. I tightened them so hard trying to pull that box flush that the drywall started to press in from the tabs and I was about to damage it permanently, so I backed them back out. – atconway Jun 19 at 15:59
  • No, you're not trying to pull the box flush, you're using the screws in the cover plate to pull the switches flush against the back side of the cover plate. The box is not going to move. You want to loosen the screws that are holding the switches into the box so that the cover plate screws can pull the switches out of the box very slightly. The "tabs" should be coming away from the drywall a little bit. – Greg Nickoloff Jun 19 at 21:22
  • This switch uses a Leviton decora screwless plate (see picture 1). The screws on the backing plate are like 1/8" long and do absolutely nothing to reposition the actual switches. They act more as a mounting method to then snap on the cover plate. A traditional wall plate's screws do a better job of what you're explaining, but I have a different setup. I'm going to get the spacers recommended in another post to attempt to help bring the switches flush with the switch. – atconway Jun 19 at 22:18

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