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Old 03-02-2011, 10:58 PM   #1
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Can I cover unwanted electrical boxes (ie switch box) with drywall??


We recently bought a 25 year'ish old house. The house has tons (and I mean tons) of electrical boxes on all walls throughout the house - some are for cablevision (like 2 per wall on average), some for phone jacks (at least 2 per wall), and others are 110V plugs and/or switches.

I do not need so many phone jacks and cablevision plugs - instead of just buying a typical plastic solid cover, can I cut out some drywall, cover it, patch it and paint it so it is completely gone??

As for the 110V, the house has many switches which seem to be disconnected as they do nothing. These switches do have wires in them - I have not tested to see if they are live. Either way, can I also cover these with drywall, and if so do I need to first ensure the wire is dead. If so, why? It is not against code to cover a live box with a typical plastic wall cover - why not with drywall?

Also, anyone have a magic trick on how to figure out what a switch is intended for? Perhaps if I could figure out what some of these switches are for I may want to keep them instead of covering them.

I also have some boxes currently covered with plastic covers. I've removed some of the covers and found some very unusual wiring inside some of them. In one, there are four 2-wire standard electrical extension cords (like you would buy at the dollar store) coming from the box, and then the ends are connected and twisted with a standard electrical twisty (forgot the name of those things) - so 4 wires are connected with twisties and the other 4 wires are connected with twisties. And yes the wires are hot. Anyone know what this would be intended for??? Even if someone ran out of proper wiring, why would there basically be 8 wires coming in and all connected?? Seen something similar in one of the other boxes, except this one just had one extension cord coming in and the two ends are not connected.

Lastly, for some dumb reason, many of my plugs are at switch level vs the typical 6" from ground. Was this ever common or popular, or was the builder of my house on weed when installing the plug boxes? What is your opinion - is it worth breaking up drywall and moving them to the proper position?

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Old 03-02-2011, 11:38 PM   #2
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Can I cover unwanted electrical boxes (ie switch box) with drywall??


Energized electrical wires must remain in permanently accessible junction boxes. They cannot be covered with drywall. The covers count as an accessible means. A buried splice would be very hard to troubleshoot.

Some of the switches may be for receptacles that are switched.

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Old 03-02-2011, 11:49 PM   #3
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Can I cover unwanted electrical boxes (ie switch box) with drywall??


so I assume drywalling over the phone and cablevision boxes would be fine regardless of they are connected, as these are not hot per say. As for 110v boxes, covering with drywall is only allowed if I disconnect wires from panel - right?
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Old 03-02-2011, 11:56 PM   #4
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Can I cover unwanted electrical boxes (ie switch box) with drywall??


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I've removed some of the covers and found some very unusual wiring inside some of them. In one, there are four 2-wire standard electrical extension cords (like you would buy at the dollar store) coming from the box, and then the ends are connected and twisted with a standard electrical twisty (forgot the name of those things)
Zip cord or lamp cord... used in the walls? That's not good. You should remove it and replace it with romex where it's actually being used. It's not rated to carry the same current as romex, so if it's connected in such a way that it could carry 10-15A you could wind up with a fire...

The twisty things are called wire nuts.
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Old 03-02-2011, 11:59 PM   #5
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Can I cover unwanted electrical boxes (ie switch box) with drywall??


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so I assume drywalling over the phone and cablevision boxes would be fine regardless of they are connected
The caution here would be that often phone and cable is setup with daisy chaining (connecting one jack to another in a row) or with splitters ... burying these connections in the wall will make it very difficult to diagnose problems in the future.

If it's a rental you're also creating a situation where your tenants may be either tacking new wires along the baseboards, or breaking your drywall to install new jacks... so if it's a rental, and they're connected, why not simply leave them?
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Old 03-03-2011, 12:02 AM   #6
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Can I cover unwanted electrical boxes (ie switch box) with drywall??


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These switches do have wires in them - I have not tested to see if they are live. Either way, can I also cover these with drywall, and if so do I need to first ensure the wire is dead. If so, why? It is not against code to cover a live box with a typical plastic wall cover - why not with drywall?
Your question, cover w/ plastic cover vs. drywall, what's the difference?

The difference is accessibility. A junction box covered by a plastic cover is considered identifiable and accessible. A junction box (or worse, a splice hanging in the wall) covered by drywall is not identifiable or accessible.

You should never bury a live wire, period.

If you're 100% certain a wire is dead, you should still tape up each conductor individually before burying just in case it is ever re-energized by accident....... leaving wire in the wall probably violates some code, but I'm not an electrician... I just practice common sense when dealing with these things.

BTW, you should absolutely have an AC detector pen... it might save your life.
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Old 03-03-2011, 09:16 AM   #7
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Can I cover unwanted electrical boxes (ie switch box) with drywall??


It would be a good idea to disconnect and decommission all of the lamp cord wiring in the walls right now.

Turn off the breaker(s) for those circuits. Undo the twisties (wire nuts) and separate all of the individual wires.

Using an ohmmeter or continuity tester, find both ends of each piece of wire. (A long single conductor #14 or #16 gauge wire that can stretch across the floor to the next room can come in handy.) After you identify both ends of a piece of wire, cut off those ends flush with the back of the respective outlet boxes. When a box has no more wires entering it, you may drywall over that box.
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Old 03-03-2011, 03:55 PM   #8
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Can I cover unwanted electrical boxes (ie switch box) with drywall??


Sometimes a person may replace a duplex receptacle that was split with one switched and one always on, and forget to remove the tab splitting the receptacles. This maked both parts of the duplex always on, and the switch always on.
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Old 03-03-2011, 04:57 PM   #9
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Can I cover unwanted electrical boxes (ie switch box) with drywall??


Well, the zip cord lamp cord wires depending on how your boxes are set up in the room could have been ment for speaker wiring. Your just gonna have to trace stuff out and definitely get a volt alert pen. And if you can figure out how to know for sure your tracing back the right wires to the beginning of the circuit know what or how many circuits you have that you are dealing with. You will be able to completely take out boxes and leave the dead wires in the wall with both ends being completely disconnected and cut. But you must be absolutely certain. You should do ohm test/continuity test to be sure. After doing that you can delete the extra boxes and pull them out of the wall you should always remove un used boxes before patching.
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Old 03-03-2011, 05:06 PM   #10
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Can I cover unwanted electrical boxes (ie switch box) with drywall??


Second thing is. Do you own a multimeter? Cuz this is easy to do if you have someone walk you through it. You'll need to test voltage on your lamp wires safely and like I said it may or may not be speaker wiring which would be a dc signal you would select on you meter after trying the ac voltage setting first. What your trying to do in order to get rid of boxes is trace back the circuit to the last point where the power is need and end it there. From that point forward you do what I said in the previous message.
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Old 03-03-2011, 05:13 PM   #11
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Can I cover unwanted electrical boxes (ie switch box) with drywall??


Last, you can abandon wires as long as you 100% no you have isolated both ends of the same wire from any termination points. And for safe keeping tape both ends nice and good. If you can take it one step further and write dead on it for future reasons for avoiding confusion. Final point is always remember if you are not experience with electrical fundamentals of how electric shock and arcing or ground faults occur. I suggest after being careful testing make note on note pad of what is what and don't work on it live.
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Old 03-03-2011, 05:18 PM   #12
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Can I cover unwanted electrical boxes (ie switch box) with drywall??


Oh one more from Mr. GIT the point if the covers and boxes that house electrical wiring is that they are fire rated to with stand fire and contain it in the box until the insulation burns away hopefully cause a short and trip a breaker and just for basic response time to put out before it gets out of control if caught soon enough. If you were to just cover up a box with mud you would loose that protection. And that's against code anyways. Code is designed to protect People First and Property Second. They go hand in hand.
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Old 03-06-2011, 11:03 PM   #13
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Can I cover unwanted electrical boxes (ie switch box) with drywall??


Ok, just finished replacing every switch and outlet in the unit, from ugly 90s style to modern Decora black with stainless covers. During the replacement I confirmed that every box had the proper wiring - none of this lamp cord used with the switches or outlets. I also replaced all the fixtures, or removed for paint, and same there too. So I have 4 boxes in the living room with these lamp cords (all connected to nothing - just the wire in the box with a flat plate over them) and then in the den I have one more box with 4 lamp cords coming in. I originaly thought they were all hot, as my pen no-contact tester beeped for all 5 of these boxes. But during the switch replacement I tested all 5 of these boxes and wires with my multimeter and confirmed they DO NOT have any VAC. After 100% confirming no VAC but no-contact tester beeping, I touched the ends and no shock, and even touching them together casued nothing - they are 100% dead but tester thinks they have power. So my questions:

1) why was my no contact tester falsing??? I notice that my no contact tester also beeps for cablevision wire. Is this normal?

2) any idea why someone did this wiring with the lamp cord. I suspect each of the 4 cords in the 4 boxes in the living area lead to the den where all 4 cords go into the one box there. What would be the purpose? Note that in the den, these 4 wires where joined, where one wire from each cord was joined to the next. What would this be for? Could it have been some stereo/speaker setup, where he had a stereo in trhe den and wanted to feed to 4 speakers in the living room? Could it have been some alarm thing?

3) being that they are not VAC, I guess I can cover them with drywall. Is this correct? Do I need to remove the box or can I just cover the box and go.

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Old 03-06-2011, 11:15 PM   #14
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Can I cover unwanted electrical boxes (ie switch box) with drywall??


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1) why was my no contact tester falsing??? I notice that my no contact tester also beeps for cablevision wire. Is this normal?
Those testers will beep for any AC voltage, even extremely low current or low voltage.

Telephone (ringing), door bell, etc, will all set it off. Those wires are either connected to something, or otherwise are running parallel to romex and so the pen is picking up induced currents.
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Old 03-07-2011, 03:57 AM   #15
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Can I cover unwanted electrical boxes (ie switch box) with drywall??


So Dan,

Yes the volt alert pen testers respond by picking up magnetic lines of flux, like blubber said. Which is just the magnetic field that the electricity puts off as it flows through the wire, as the hertz cycle rise's and drops. Point being is that induction from that magnetic field can be induced into the speaker wire from another live wire. Simply put. Just want blubber said. I do think that it sounds very reasonable about the previous guy running the wires from the den to the front room for speakers. Especially if it was back before smart phones and Internet radio on phones like now days. Most likely if the room is over your head you can climb in the attic to each room and follow the wire and see where it goes to and from. That's if it was ran after the house was already built and finished.if not it might be ran through the wall.

Those pen testers are just a quick reference and are useful. But for accurate testing a meter should always be used. A Mutlimeter again can tell you where a wire begin and ends through a continuity test. Although if it is junctioned some where in a buried box you won't know with just the meter alone. But you can definitely know and single out your wires. If you don't know how to do this. I can explain. But yeah. Sounds like you made it pretty far so far. Don't cover up a box. It's always best to remove it if it's not gonna be used. In my opinion.

Oh p.s sometimes depending on the battery life and condition of the pen tester. You can put it up to a wire and it not show any reaction and a person can think it's not live when it is. Keep that in mind for future tests.

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