Most plastic home improvement store electrical, single gang cut-in boxes seem to have little plastic tabs / bumps which if used, will set the box 3/8s inch off the studs. We are doing 1/2" drywall on the walls for sure (except on firewall of course). Most of the boxes are already nailed to the walls at the 3/8s" mark.

Our electrician is doing all the work on this house, minus placing the boxes. Is it considered rather shady / done wrong, if I'm 1/8" short of the drywall vs. level with it? In the past, i've done mostly remodel work and I don't generally move boxes. But, when I do, I've tried to get it close. To be honest, on a remodel I pay less attention to how perfect it is. This is my first 100% new construction and I find myself caring more. Is it a big deal or am I stressing about nothing?

I understand that adjusting the receptacle out is no big deal so long as the drywall is cut close to the box. The receptacle tabs should be firm on the drywall and everything should be tight. If this was a professional job, would they care and make someone re-mount these boxes? Or is this typical?

2 Answers 2


IMHO, a truly professional job won't be using plastic boxes.

I don't think the 1/8" is a problem - and it keeps from having the boxes proud of the surface, which IS a problem.

  • Good point, being proud of the boxes is the big issue. On the metal, I guess I always thought it was more personal preference. I don't really like the idea of metal near my receptacle posts. I have remodeled lots of areas and seen metal burns on the box, but I guess that's mostly from bad installs / loose receptacles. I guess the only time I really appreciate metal is when i'm drywalling because I can smack the drywall and get a nice imprint of the box for me to cut out. Doesn't work that great with plastic.
    – maplemale
    Oct 15, 2020 at 22:18
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    By proud of the surface, Ecnerwal means proud as in not flush or recessed; like a nail that didn't go all the way in. Regarding finding the plastic boxes after drywall is hung, I bought a tool called Blind Mark which can be a time-saver. It comes with magnetic pieces you temporarily snap into the box right before hanging the drywall. After hanging, you use the other part, also magnetic, to find the then-hidden boxes and trace their outline. Then cut where you traced. Here's a video from the mfr youtube.com/watch?v=AgNaWe0pWLI Oct 15, 2020 at 22:46
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    @JeffWheeler Yes, I understand what he meant. Oh man! That thing is amazing! I'm so buying that asap. My wife does all the mud, I do the drywalling. She'll be a lot happier if i've got perfect cuts. lol
    – maplemale
    Oct 15, 2020 at 22:50
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    I personally don't see boxes being proud of the surface as a major issue, but I'm not nearly as aesthetically minded as most of those folks who ooh and aah over every last detail of a "finished look" then forget to leave any room for the mechanical closet :P Oct 16, 2020 at 0:01
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    Buy a good supply of those plastic electrical shims and give them to the finish electricians. That way you won't have either recessed or springy receptacles. Oct 16, 2020 at 1:32

It is certainly acceptable for the boxes to sit back a little; NEC 314.20 allows a flush mount box to be up to 1/4" back in a non-combustible material like drywall. (See below.) But without a doubt it makes installing the devices (switches and receptacles) more of a pain.

There are plastic boxes that work fine with 5/8" drywall. You can nail on a nail-on box where ever you want. There are nail-on boxes that have alignment tabs for 1/2" and 5/8" drywall. There are also adjustable depth plastic boxes such as the Carlon Adjust-A-Box. These have a screw adjustment to get the box exactly where you want it.

With metal boxes, you mount the box flush with the face of the stud, and buy mud rings to match the depth of the finish. There are 5/8" mud rings for 5/8" drywall, readily available any electrical supply. This makes installing the drywall easier too.

314.20 In Wall or Ceiling. In walls or ceilings with a surface of concrete, tile, gypsum, plaster, or other noncombustible material, boxes employing a flush-type cover or faceplate shall be installed so that the front edge of the box, plaster ring, extension ring, or listed extender will not be set back of the finished surface more than 6 mm (1⁄4 in.).

In walls and ceilings constructed of wood or other combustible surface material, boxes, plaster rings, extension rings, or listed extenders shall be flush with the finished surface or project therefrom.

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