My house came with a light switch installed on a concrete wall in the basement using a metal conduit, and a 1-gang metal box. Unfortunately, the light switch plate sticks out and it's easy to get caught on it. The previous owner installed some padding that looks hideous. How can I improve this?

light switch here

I've looked for better plates and couldn't find any. The conduit just goes to the underfloor of the main floor (it's not connected to anything else), and I could switch for something else. I was considering Wiremold light switches & raceways, but they don't look too good either. If possible, I'd prefer to keep the 1-gang metal box as it already has anchors drilled into the wall.


  • 19
    A true professional would have used traditional gray duct tape to blend in with the meal and smoothed it out for that high craftsman German engineered look. Oct 3, 2021 at 4:47
  • 2
    Steal a plastic "tupperware" type box from the kitchen - cut a hole for the switch and that will save you clothes...
    – Solar Mike
    Oct 3, 2021 at 10:27
  • 3
    The switch itself looks like something out of a horror movie that takes place in an abandoned mental asylum. Why don't you simply get a nice new switch that is intended for surface mounting? Like this (first result off of Google: media.cablematic.com/__sized__/images_1000/…). They're cheap and installation is simple.
    – Vilx-
    Oct 4, 2021 at 20:46
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    @DMoore - WTF? That's a normal switch... Is this one of those USA-Europe things where each side of the ocean does things differently?
    – Vilx-
    Oct 4, 2021 at 22:14
  • 4
    @DMoore Those US metal switchboxes (and metal conduit) give me the creeps. I'm always afraid some live wire is connected to the metal. That picture from Vilx is a bog-standard ip65 rated outdoor use switch that is used in most parts of Europe. All plastic on the outside. No chance of getting electrocuted. US electrical is VERY weird to most of us in the rest of the world.
    – Tonny
    Oct 5, 2021 at 13:37

7 Answers 7


The problem is, the last guy used a cover plate intended for flush mount boxes that are buried in drywall. Probably because they are mind-controlled into only shopping at big-box stores.

You need a cover plate intended for surface mount metal Handy-Boxes.

Talk to a real electrical supply, they will have it, and will know what you want.

  • 9
    Hmm, my local Home Depot has the correct plates for this purpose, I just bought one a few months ago..
    – element11
    Oct 3, 2021 at 15:58
  • 6
    I think this is what you want: homedepot.com/p/1-Gang-Toggle-Switch-Handy-Box-Cover-865/…
    – DaveM
    Oct 3, 2021 at 16:35
  • 1
    Odds are good that if you look, even the big-box stores will have them. Though, I fully support shopping at your local electrical supply places.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 4, 2021 at 11:55
  • 1
    @DaveM the cover in your link is exactly what OP already has. The edges overhang the sides of the box just slightly.
    – jay613
    Oct 4, 2021 at 12:07
  • @element11 can you post a picture of your cover installed?
    – jay613
    Oct 4, 2021 at 12:17

Easiest, if you can find it, is a proper sized plate, as Harper suggests. "I've looked for better plates and couldn't find any." - that is likely true at the big box (Home Depot/Lowes), simply because they only stock the higher-volume items. Every city - even those a bit too small for a big box store - has an electrical supply house. These places sell to electricians, contractors, etc. But almost all will sell to homeowners, at least for simple stuff. (They may, legitimately, be reluctant to sell a clearly amateur homeowner a full panel out of fear of liability and/or returns. Not an issue for a simple cover plate.) Even if they charge double for walk-in business, that's $ 2 instead of $ 1, so not a big deal.

Or just swap it for a bigger box. The knockout sizes are standard, so it should be no problem finding a match at any electrical supply house or big box and get a cover plate to match.

What you do not want to do is to switch to a plastic box (doesn't work so easily with conduit, and just doesn't make sense) or replace "everything". Wiremold/etc. is great for new installation, but all you need to replace here is the box and cover.

  • 2
    Note that a plastic box & cover, while potentially nicer to clothes, will be more susceptible to damage from heavy objects that may hit it. In addition to the fact that they don't work well/at all with conduit.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 4, 2021 at 11:57

Could you go for something wider, get round edges, and place for an outlet: Thomas & Betts RS18CC This is a combination GFI toggle plate.

  • 1
    Actually, it is a combination Decora /toggle plate. It happens to be that standard GFCI receptacles use the same form factor as Decora receptacles and Decora switches. Yes, the location likely requires GFCI, but not necessarily, and GFCI could be provided in the breaker panel instead of at the receptacle. Oct 3, 2021 at 4:30
  • These "crushed corner" covers come in all configurations including just a light switch. To my knowledge there are no one-gang versions. And importantly, they also have a bit of an overhang. Not as snaggy as OP's cover but not totally smooth either.
    – jay613
    Oct 4, 2021 at 15:30
  • @jay613 You could fill in the smaller gap with silicone bead or something - might even be a good idea if this location is exposed to moisture. This would prevent both snagging and water leaking in, while still allowing the plate to be easily removed later if needed. (Unlike epoxy or other strong glue - which would also fix the snagging problem but leave future owners cursing your name for sealing it shut.) Oct 5, 2021 at 13:32

Presumably it's about upper arm/shoulder height. By shortening the conduit, and thus moving the switch higher, it won't catch on anything. You'll get used to its new position after a few fumbled attempts to find its new position!

  • Great idea - but it does depend what local code requires - some don't specify a height, some do. A switch at face height could be awful confusing in the dark.
    – Criggie
    Oct 6, 2021 at 9:18
  • 1
    @Criggie - I just assumed that it would only be very few people who would be using a basement light switch - which actually would be better placed by the stairs down to the basement.
    – Tim
    Oct 6, 2021 at 9:47
  • you're right, but code is code. If OP's location is not up to code then it should be relocated at this time.
    – Criggie
    Oct 6, 2021 at 21:42

Out of the box idea - add some shelving in addition to replacing the plate.
It's a basement/garage/storage area. Some shallow shelves can hold things like cans of paint or food or jars, and will move you away from the wall while passing.
Only downside is if this is a hallway where there is already limited space to the right of the photo.

It may be possible to buy a "shallower" switch and therefore a shallower surface mount box - really depends what's inside the box and whether it needs to be that deep. A pushbutton or capacitive switch would lose the toggle lever itself, every little bit helps.

Last resort might be to relocate the whole switch to somewhere with more space while remaining close to the entrance doorway (necessary to comply with code in many areas)
Depending on height above the floor, you might raise or lower the switch a bit too. Again height could be mandated by your local building codes.

If you know how thick the concrete wall is, it may be possible to carve out a recess and perhaps even flush mount a switch plate. If its an internal wall, cut a rectangular recess through and have a framed area, and the other room could have the same fix. If its an exterior wall, don't go through!
Risk here is exposing any reinforcing inside the wall, and the potential for shorting.

Or sidestep the problem completely and redo the lighting in the room using 12V LEDs. I've put a 12V light sensor system in one room and its marvellous, the lights even come on automatically on movement.

  • 1
    Strictly speaking that's an "in-the-box" solution in the first paragraph.
    – RedSonja
    Oct 6, 2021 at 8:37

Out of the box idea - replace the whole switch and conduit with an EnOcean wireless, batteryless switch.

Paired with a receiver in the underfloor of the main floor would allow a clean look, without needing to cut into the wall.

The benefit of EnOcean is that the wireless switch does not require batteries as it uses the kinetic energy of the switch being pressed to transmit the signal.


I wouldn't replace the cover plate. Id bury the entire switch in the wall. Concrete is not difficult to drill, and breaks quite easily after being drillled enough. You only need an inch deep for a light switch and backbox. Replace this monstrosity with an ordinary flush surface switch.


A comment asks what about risk of impacting integrity, especially as its a basement.It also asks about making a trench for the cable too. I'll comment on this below.

Good question but almost guaranteed zero risk.

It may be structural but that wall appears to be concrete block. Or if not, then it surely will be 100-150mm (4 - 6 inch) thickness, maybe more. In either case a 25mm (1 inch) backbox, will be no problem at all. There (probably) isnt such a thing as a concrete wall of this kind for a basement/cellar, where a backbox cutout or shallower conduit cutout would compromise waterproofing or structural strength. It's virtually impossible to imagine that being the case.

  1. Because it would imply a shockingly thin wall under 50mm thick, below ground. Which would crack and leak, and not be sufficient anyway.
  2. Because being an internal wall the design must anticipate screws and plastic plugs for them (or other wall fixings) being drilled/cutout anywhere, up to 50mm (2 inches) deep, already, as part of the design. One example being the hidden screws almost certainly holding the existing monstrosity to the wall....... :)

As for the cable, personally I'd bury it, but surface mount is an option.

If the OP is still truly nervous, one could bury the backbox and surface conduit the cable, or get a low profile surface box instead.

For burying, I'd suggest thin stainless steel tube/box section 15x8mm with 0.5-1mm wall off EBay (or shower rail tube from local shop!), as conduit, and a thin cement/mortar cover, to match rest of wall and protect the shallow buried cable. Stainless as below ground. Take care to seal any embedded electrics well on all sides, with a builders low modulus silicone mastic against water intrusion reaching the conduit and/or backbox, as it's below ground,if there is any risk. Or if not, surface mount a cable or low profile conduit, and a shallow surface mounted box.

But that monstrosity is better replaced than fixed, and probably cheaper to do so as well.

  • 1
    Updating answer with comment on this..
    – Stilez
    Oct 4, 2021 at 8:25
  • 6
    Rent a concrete saw, disassemble the conduit & box, pull the cable out of the way, make a huge mess cutting concrete, potentially open the ceiling to adjust where the cable comes down from the ceiling, clean up massive concrete dust mess, move the box in the ceiling where wiring transitions to conduit/extend ceiling conduit to the new location in the wall, pull new wire because the existing wire is now too short to make the additional run, install conduit & box in the wall, patch concrete. OR buy a new cover plate designed for a Handy Box. Hmmm...
    – FreeMan
    Oct 4, 2021 at 12:01
  • 5
    For a new install? Yes, 100%, put the conduit & boxes in the walls. For a retrofit for an average DIYer? Not so much.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 4, 2021 at 12:01
  • 8
    Downvoting because chasing boxes and conduit into concrete in an unfinished residential basement as a way of achieving minor aesthetic improvement is A) not answering the Question, and B) a monumental waste of effort.
    – jay613
    Oct 4, 2021 at 12:15
  • 4
    From the original question: "If possible, I'd prefer to keep the 1-gang metal box as it already has anchors drilled into the wall." The OP doesn't want to do more work than necessary. Also, from my reading of the question, the OP doesn't seem to be the most highly skilled DIYer (apologies if incorrect, that's just my impression). I've done a ton of work on my house, including building an attached garage (from the concrete up). I don't think this is something I'd attempt, so I don't consider it a "beginner to intermediate" DIY job.
    – FreeMan
    Oct 4, 2021 at 16:21

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