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Based on the UPC code on the sticker, I have Raco 528 switch box that's been sitting in my spare electrical parts drawer for... ages...

It appears to have holes in the side through which I could drive nails or screws to hold it to the wall, but it doesn't come with nails or screws. Having only used plastic new-work boxes (that come with nails when you buy 'em) and metal boxes in old work, I'm not really sure how to attach it to the wall. There doesn't seem to be anything specified at the Hubbell web site (linked above) about how to attach it, so I'm sure this is just "common knowledge" for those who do it on a regular basis. I am, however at a minor loss at the moment.

Do I simply grab any pair of nails or screws and attach it to the wall, or are there special screws/nails I should use?

Since these boxes can be disassembled and made into gangs, I thought I could screw/nail one single side to the stud, then assemble the rest of the box to that side. Alternatively I could get longer screws/nails and run them through both sides of the box (this seems easier in the long run).

Is there any code reason not to use a long screw from the left side of the box, thorough the box, and out the other side to mount it to a stud on the right? I can see the possibility that the screw threads could damage the wire insulation...

Since we're at the "pouring rain prior to the next snowpocolypse" stage of weather, I'm not really looking forward to heading out to pick up something special, but will if I need to.

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    Think anything that will hold it to a stud should work. Wood screws should work better than nails. Think as long as they don't interfere with the electrics, it is good.
    – crip659
    Feb 2 at 19:58
  • If I remember right, one side has bigger holes to fit a screwdriver in. Opposite to the small holes.
    – crip659
    Feb 2 at 20:11
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    Be aware that the size of that box with a switch or receptacle will only legally permit a single #12 or #14 cable. Feb 2 at 20:27
  • For ones with the small ears (device mounting) I use kaddy clips mount the clip and press the box in. If there are small holes on top and bottom the “mud flange” stops the box from pushing in through a cut out hole and Battle ships , stamped metal plate that keeps the box from pulling out. Those boxes are listed for mounting on the back, don’t let an inspector catch you shooting screws in from the front. I once had to redo an entire DIY house the owner got a great buy on these boxes and did not know additional components were needed to side mount them.
    – Ed Beal
    Feb 2 at 20:28
  • @EdBeal. "Shooting screws in from the front" do you mean a screw through the back of the box into whatever's behind it? Also, if they're listed for back mounting, why did the inspector make them be redone (he asks rhetorically, not hoping for a long drawn out explanation involving a power trip)?
    – FreeMan
    Feb 2 at 20:42

4 Answers 4

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Just because you have a box doesn't mean you should use it. Sometimes boxes are specialty and not for general use. This particular one is a modular box designed to be taken apart and stacked to offer multiple "gangs". I would not use it except where the multi-gang ability was useful.

The building industry cares about one thing: assembly speed. The plastic boxes you are accustomed to are designed for very rapid installation when trying to wire 2 houses a day. The experienced installer goes Bap! Bap! Next! So they build mounting methods into them.

Further, plastic boxes are flimsy and just don't have the structural strength to be supported via arbitrary or improvised methods. They must be reinforced to be supported the one way they are designed.

Metal boxes are for higher quality work, which is often fairly custom. Versatility is prized over speed. (though you can get quickie metal box variants).

I don't know if I'd do it with this modular box, but welded or drawn metal boxes are plenty strong so you can improvise your own mounting scheme. Drill extra holes where you need them, put screws in where you please. That's what you're expected to do. Use your own screws.

And I like screws, because metal boxes (especially with metal conduit) are very durable and reusable. (have fun getting a nailed plastic box off a wall intact). Also, I like Torx head screws, which means with a side ratchet screwdriver, it's super easy to reach into the box and drive down a 1-1/4" long #8 deck screw.

But why even use junction boxes in the first place? Why not just have wire-nuts flapping in the breeze? Reasons. Many reasons. When you look at those reasons, metal boxes are superior for every one.

I don't even use plastic. My go-to is the 1-gang "Handy-Box" or 4x4 metal box with knockouts, and I just stick Romex cable clamps into the knockouts if I'm not using metal conduit.

For a 1-gang opening with plenty of cubic inches, I would go for a 4x4 box with a 1-gang mud ring the thickness of the drywall.

Remember every metal box has a hole tapped #10-32 for a ground screw. Every cable entering the box must be pigtailed to that ground screw. Upside: switches will pick up their grounding automagically, and so will any receptacle marked "Self-grounding". This is actually neater, since you get to push all the grounds into the back of the box and forget about them - no need bringing ground to a device.

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    @FreeMan like I say, metal boxes are plenty strong for that. Metal boxes are required to be the ground path; any metal box must be grounded (but fair exchange, that means switches and receptacles can self-ground via mounting screws, so you don't need to wire grounds to them). Neater installation since all grounds are pushed into the back of the box and never touched again. Feb 3 at 1:51
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    There are many things I might lose sleep about, that wouldn't be on my list. The disassembly could be a feature, if taking the box apart somewhat allows easier mounting. They're stiffer than plastic, but not as stiff as a drawn steel box. But I would pay close attention to Ed's advice also. Feb 3 at 2:06
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    @DigitalDevourer Shelly, Sonoff etc. are illegal here because they painted themselves into a corner with a rushed design which totally ignored safety codes (UL "White Book"). One question UL would make them answer is how they plan to get signal out of a metal box LOL. This is why virtually every approved smart switch uses Decora (large opening). If I was designing, I'd do that, or stick an antenna out a knockout hole; that's what the competent home energy monitors do (Sense, Emporia etc.) Feb 6 at 20:16
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    @Harper-ReinstateMonica unless it's been faked, Shelly does have some devices that are UL approved. I've installed one and have plans for others. Hadn't thought about the reception inside metal boxen, though.
    – FreeMan
    Feb 7 at 13:59
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    @DigitalDevourer I recently installed a (UL Listed) Shelly1 in a steel box. As I was doing it, I had a concern about WiFi reception, especially since it's getting close to where my crappy WiFi range ends. I've had no problems with reception.
    – FreeMan
    Jun 27 at 19:13
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As far as I know (I've only installed a few similar boxes, and have one sitting on my basement floor for me to get around to it...) any screws/nails that will securely fasten it to studs/joists/walls/etc. I highly recommend screws rather than nails because it is a lot easier to get a screw out from inside a box if you need to move or replace it than it is to get a nail out (sometimes that means pry the box off with the nails inside, which can be a little destructive).

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    Those boxes are usually not straight after removing the nails. Been there, done that.
    – crip659
    Feb 2 at 20:08
  • If I had to remove the box, I'd replace it with a bigger one. This was purchased when I was a raw DIY recruit and thought I was "saving money" by spending 10¢ less per box by getting the smallest ones available. I had no concept about "box fill" or simply "making work easier". We were all n00bs once...
    – FreeMan
    Feb 2 at 23:12
  • Yeah. In my pile of unfinished projects, I have at least one plastic box that, as I hear more from Harper and from my actual real-life electrician, I know I will never use (except for low voltage stuff - network/telco). Feb 2 at 23:13
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If I understand the question correctly, I am sure you could not attach this with a long screw that went all the way through both sides, thereby obstructing the interior of the box.

You would hold a 1" or 3/4" screw in the hole at bottom and top and drive it with a screwdriver going through the hole on the opposite side. A Phillips screwdriver should fit through the hole on the opposite side. Maybe a small right angle ratchet would work.

Since you want to mount the box to a stud on its right, you would have to be able to use a screwdriver with your left hand. A manual ratchet screwdriver would be a big help or an electric driver with a long, small diameter driver.

EDIT

The OP's idea, expressed in a comment, is surely what to do: remove the side of the Raco 528 box and screw it to the stud, then reassemble. The side comes off and girs back on easily and quickly by loosening a screw.

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    To get around all the long screwdriver bits, I was thinking of just disassembling the box, attaching the side to the stud, then screwing the box back together. Not sure how well that would work, though, and it got too cold to mess with it any more. (This outlet is for the blower motor on a new NG heater that's installed and about to have the gas hooked up.)
    – FreeMan
    Feb 2 at 23:05
  • Evidently the side of the box comes off very easily with just loosening a screw so that may be a simple and straightforward way to mount this box. One would think that the mfgr would have published directions. Feb 3 at 2:28
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If you're not going to gang it, which would make getting a driver in at an angle a no brainer, then it's a smold work box and you need to make it work by drilling some holes in it closer to the front. Don't forget that this box includes a mud ring and needs to be proud of the wall the thickness of your drywall.

IIRC there's a Q about what screws for mounting boxes and the answer was "in a workmanship like fashion". I use exterior screws for everything. Combination Square Drive Phillips (fake) Deck Mates (because they only sell the stupid Star Drive now).

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  • You say "includes a mud ring". TBH, it's been 2+ decades since I bought it, but I certainly don't recall it "including" a mud ring at purchase. Since it's designed to come apart to be ganged together, how would they know what size mud ring to include? Also, I don't have a collection of randomly sized mud rings in my drawer of bits from the other boxes that I assembled as old-work all those years ago. Or am I misunderstanding your use of "include"?
    – FreeMan
    Feb 7 at 14:02
  • @FreeMan - sorry, meaning it doesn't need one, 'effectively includes'. I, of course, have never had to remount a box because of this ;)
    – Mazura
    Feb 7 at 18:27
  • Ah. That makes more sense. Thanks
    – FreeMan
    Feb 7 at 19:20

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