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I'm the new owner of a 1956 Southern California home and discovered this curious plate on the stucco exterior: plate screwed into the stucco

It's above, and to the left of the front door. There is a working sconce mounted above the same door.

location photo

Removing it revealed that there are wires inside, which makes me think that it's a junction box (just a guess - I'm not sure of its purpose). Regardless, I think it should have a weatherproof cover (the hole in this one is concerning) that can easily be removed & replaced in the event that electricians ever need access (this one was siliconed around the edges to seal it)

behind the plate

The box is round has 2 screw holes, presumably for attaching a cover, that are approximately 2-3/4" spacing. I searched for round junction box covers and they all seem to be 4" diameter these days. What's the proper way to cover this?

measurement of distance between screw holes

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    Looking at the new picture, it appears that that was the original porch light and someone used it as a J-box to fish cable to the location of that light above the door. If you want to know for sure, those wires would be live with the light switched on and dead with it switched off. A cheap non-contact voltage detector would verify that without the risk of shocking yourself.
    – Chris O
    Dec 1, 2023 at 19:09
  • If there's a switch that controls said sconce above the door, I'd bet you anything you could install (covered, outdoor-rated) outlets into that box and have a switched exterior power outlet — you know, for holiday lights and the like. If that struck your fancy. (IOW, I am 99.99% sure that ChrisO is correct, and your current light fixture was fished from its predecessor's location at that box.)
    – FeRD
    Dec 2, 2023 at 16:57
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    So... in the first photo, I see three screws, in a roughly triangular formation. Were none of those actually screwed into the screwholes on the box itself? What, were they just buried in the stucco? Because, if that "cover plate's" mounting was that improvised, it's possible that it was actually the baseplate of the previous sconce, removed and repurposed as some sort of jerry-rigged cover. (The hole would've been where the wires originally exited to the fixture itself.)
    – FeRD
    Dec 2, 2023 at 17:18

3 Answers 3

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Looks like a 4" square box with a mud-ring for a lighting fixture (thus the 2-3/4" spacing.) So if you chisel away the stucco at the corners there will be two more screws, and a normal 4" square blank cover should fit (box does not LOOK like it's a 4-11/16" square, but that's the other common square size.)

As is fairly common, it's an interior-type box buried in the wall, ("so it's technically inside"...) not an exterior/weatherproof box.

The other approach (but stucco damage has already been achieved to get the old "cover" off) is to mount a light fixture on it as a "cover" or perhaps as a light fixture, too.

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  • Thanks! Am I correct in assuming that I need a weatherproof cover?
    – swrobel
    Dec 1, 2023 at 17:57
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    Should be, though how "weatherproof" the whole setup will be is debateable, given that the box is not. Machavity's caulk approach is a good call on that
    – Ecnerwal
    Dec 1, 2023 at 19:14
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    "it's an interior-type box buried in the wall, ("so it's technically inside"...) not an exterior/weatherproof box." In fairness, it's also SoCal, where weather does not exist.
    – FeRD
    Dec 2, 2023 at 17:01
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    I hear that it never rains, but it pours, man it pours. And then there are mudslides and debris flows to offer some variety from the wildfires and earthquakes.
    – Ecnerwal
    Dec 2, 2023 at 17:03
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    Truth. I lived there for 9 months in 1995. It rained once, the entire time. ...For four days.
    – FeRD
    Dec 2, 2023 at 17:08
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If you're not interested in fiddling with stucco, you can buy 3" weatherproof covers (example) that should do the trick.

Just be sure the cover says "weatherproof" on it. There are some normal ceiling covers that won't suffice here.

I would caulk the top edge as well, to limit water intrusion. Don't caulk the bottom half so the box can still breathe.

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  • Thanks for the suggestion! I definitely would prefer not to mess with stucco, but finding a cover that will definitely fit without requiring any drilling (and potentially compromising the weatherproofing) is proving difficult. Case in point, the data sheet for the cover you linked to lists the outer diameter as 5-3/32" with 3-1/2" spacing between the screw holes.
    – swrobel
    Dec 1, 2023 at 20:10
  • What you can do is drill your own holes in the plastic cover, and then caulk the unused holes
    – Machavity
    Dec 6, 2023 at 16:49
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That is the original junction box for the exterior light at that door. You can see that someone along the line has used an S.O. type cord to move the light to it's current location above the door.

Best way to seal the box is to use a 5" round bell box cover. The gasket will cover your entire opening, using a couple plastic anchors to attach cover securely to stucco. If you're not a fan of the plastic anchors (it appears your stucco is older-generation and quite thick, so these should work great,) then a couple 1/8" X 3" toggle (butterfly) bolts will do the job.

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  • Is S.O. cord legal for this purpose in California ?
    – Criggie
    Dec 2, 2023 at 21:07
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    No. It's not legal in any state. There is an NEC code (I don't have time to look up right now) that specifically forbids using flexible cords for any permanent building wiring.
    – Keith
    Dec 2, 2023 at 21:21

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