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The most difficult task I encounter when wiring switches or outlets is getting multiple devices within a multi-gang box to align properly so I can put the cover plate on.

What are some tips to get them lined up so all the cover plate screws will go in?

Note: I'm not talking about wiring the switches or outlets themselves, just getting the devices lined up within the box since the device mounting screw goes through a hole in the box, but a slot in the device. This makes it easy for the devices to not be perfectly vertical or for 2 devices to be too far apart or too close together to match up with the holes in the cover plate.


I know this is rather broad and there will likely not be a "best" answer. If there's support, I'll happily make this community wiki and would recommend the answers be made such, as well. Except that I don't see the "make wiki" check box that I thought I'd seen before.

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Vertical alignment is rarely an issue if you've installed your box level. There's not much play in the mounting holes of the devices. You can usually work a row of switches into a plate without a problem, for example.

To get them horizontally aligned:

  1. Always start by centering the mounting screws in their slots.
  2. Make adjustments if necessary.

Optionally leave the mounting screws just loose enough that you can slip the devices sideways as needed to fit the plate.

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    After I align the switches into position with the screws slightly loose and test-fit the plate, I'll pull the plate back out and tighten the screws once I have confirmed it looks correct
    – bigchief
    Nov 28 '20 at 17:09
  • @bigchief I don’t even bother doing that, because tightening the screws on the faceplate just right will generally pull everything up snug. Nov 28 '20 at 17:45
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    @J... Loose screws on an electrical connection are a very bad thing. But the screws holding outlets on boxes are meant to be an adjustment mechanism because running them down 100% tight doesn’t always result in a proper fit with the cover plate. My comment is completely unrelated to how long it takes to tighten the screws. I am meticulous about the quality of the work. Nov 29 '20 at 16:20
  • YES!! Center the mounting screws in their slots.
    – JACK
    Nov 29 '20 at 17:02
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There is an inexpensive little template made for just this purpose

Cooper device alignment tool

It's also possible to sacrifice a wall plate to use as a template, cut out a slot so you can get to the device mounting screws with the plate on, then remove the template-plate and put the real plate on.

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    I've never seen nor used one of these, nor have I ever felt a need to. It seems like a bit of a pain, to be honest, when the wall plate itself is already exactly the template you need. The real problem is when there's simply too much box fill and you're forced to wrestle everything into place. It's not that you need a template to tell you where to put things, it's just a game of getting everything packed away so that the devices will sit where you want.
    – J...
    Nov 29 '20 at 13:27
  • Maybe that's the question I should have asked, @J...
    – FreeMan
    Nov 29 '20 at 14:00
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    @FreeMan The answer to that question is to use a bigger box!
    – J...
    Nov 29 '20 at 15:03
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    @J... whoever invented this is a genius for managing to market and sell an unnecessary piece of gear for actual money. Haha Nov 29 '20 at 22:58

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