Switchplate Covering

This page covers the guidelines for covering switchplates. The materials and techniques discussed, work on most types of switchplates. Certain switchplates require specialized techniques and may require the services of a wallcovering specialist.

The starting point is a typical switchplate cover.  In this case, it is the light/fan control in a bathroom.

1. You start with a switchplate over the bare outlet. Your first step is to find a scrap piece of wallpaper that will match the existing pattern. Some wallpapers do not have a match, in that case, any piece will do.

2. You will then rough cut the scrap piece and match it up to the switchplate cover. You will want a piece that is roughly 2 inches bigger than the switchplate. Apply wallpaper paste to the scrap piece and let it rest the same amount of time the original wallpaper did. This will ensure that the scrap contracts/expands the same as the original paper, ensuring the pattern will match as close as possible. Position it over the switchplate. Carefully match the wallpaper pattern at the top and left of the switchplate. You will then press flat the top and left portions (protrusion of the light switches prevent matching of more than two sides). Reach behind the wallpaper and carefully remove the switchplate and wallpaper together. Wipe down the area to remove any paste left on the wall. Some professionals use 3M 77 spray adhesive instead of wallpaper paste.

3. Place the wallpaper/faceplate face down. Trim the wallpaper with scissors 1 to 1 and 1/2 inches past the size of the switchplate. Then, make diagonal cuts on the corners. The area between the corner of the switchplate and the edge of the wallpaper should be about 1/8".

4. Fold over the top and bottom edges.

5. Pinch the corners of the switchplate as you fold over the left and right edges. This will create a sharp, hospital corner edge.

6. At this point, take it back to the switch, line it up, verify your alignment, and make adjustments if necessary. Some professionals take the additional precaution of taping the flaps to the back of the switchplate cover as well.

7. Cut the opening out with a quality razor knife. Back the switchplate up on firm surface while cutting, otherwise, you will tear the wallpaper as opposed to cutting it. A spare piece of ceramic tile works great for this. Some professionals cut the long sides of the opening and then cut horizontally across the gap. This creates an "H" cut. The two flaps are then folded into the backside of the switchplate.

8. Cut a small "X" into each screw hole of the switchplate.

9. During installation, apply pressure near the screw hole while putting in the screw. Once you get close to where you think it will stop, proceed carefully. Once the screw wants to stop, do not continue or the screw head will tear the paper in the vicinity of the screw hole. Applying pressure allows you to flex in the switchplate so that you can stop near the stop point. When you release pressure, the switchplate will flex out and grab the screw.

10. For a more professional appearance, align the screw heads vertically.  Some professionals take the additional step of painting the screws to make them disappear. Another method is to cut a vertical slit 1/2" over the screw holes in the switchplate. This allows you to drive in the screw and once you are near the paper surface, tuck the screw behind the wallpaper via the slit. Once the screw it fully in, you remove the screwdriver and smooth over the slit area. Now your screws are hidden behind the wallpaper.