Adding a backsplash to your kitchen can help protect your walls from splashes and stains while also providing an opportunity to add visual interest. However, you may run into some challenges if you have existing outlets located where you want to install the backsplash. Raising outlets so they sit flush with the front of the backsplash involves some electrical work, but it’s a project a skilled DIYer can tackle. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to raise outlets for backsplash installation.
Assessing Your Outlets and Planning the Project
Before you begin raising outlets, take some time to assess your current situation and plan the project. Here are some important steps:
- Identify outlets to raise – Examine all your outlets located in the backsplash area and decide which ones need to be raised. Make sure to look at outlets on both the wall and any over-counter locations.
- Gather tools and materials – You’ll need basic electrical supplies like wire strippers, a voltage tester, wire nuts, and electrical tape. You’ll also need replacement outlets, extension rings, and possibly extra wire. Make a list of all needed supplies before starting.
- Turn off power – Locate the circuit breaker for the kitchen outlets and shut off power before doing any work. Use a voltage tester to be absolutely sure power is off.
- Take pictures – Photograph the outlets and wires before you remove any devices so you have reference photos to consult. Label photos to keep outlets organized.
- Consider hiring an electrician – If you’re uncomfortable doing electrical work yourself, hire a professional. Raising outlets requires working inside junction boxes, so experience is needed.
Proper planning and preparation will make raising outlets much smoother. Don’t forget safety gear like gloves and eye protection too.
Removing the Existing Outlet
Once you’re ready to start, the first step is removing the existing outlets to expose the wiring. Here’s how:
- Unscrew and remove cover plate – Use a screwdriver to remove the screw(s) holding the cover plate in place. Set it aside carefully.
- Unscrew outlet screws – Use a screwdriver to loosen the two screws holding the outlet in its box. Carefully remove them completely.
- Pull outlet from box – Wiggle the outlet gently from side to side while pulling outward. Be careful not to touch wires.
- Inspect box and wires – Look at the condition of the box and the outlet wires going into it. Make repairs if needed.
- Label wires – Use masking tape to label wires as you disconnect them so you can easily reconnect them correctly later.
Take your time and be cautious when removing outlets. The wiring can be delicate, especially in older boxes. Setting outlets aside carefully will allow for reuse.
Preparing the Box for New Outlet Height
With the outlet removed, the box will now be open exposing the drywall behind it. Some preparation is needed to get it ready for the new raised outlet:
- Remove old drywall anchors – Take out any remaining drywall screws or anchors so the box is loose.
- Cut back excess drywall – Trim away drywall inside the box flush with the front edge. This allows the box to recess.
- Extend wires – Loosen any wire clamps and pull existing wires toward the front of the box. Add extensions if needed.
- Measure for extension ring – Determine the thickness of the backsplash tile and measure for a ring that will extend the box enough.
- Attach extension ring – Secure the proper extension ring using included screws. Multiple rings can stack.
- Test fit outlet – Temporarily place the outlet in the extended box as a test fit. Adjust box or trim drywall as needed.
Prepping the box properly will ensure your outlet sits perfectly flush with the new backsplash once installed. Take exact tile thickness measurements so the box extension is just right.
Installing the New Raised Outlet
Once the box is prepped, it’s time to wire up and install the new outlet in its elevated position. Follow these steps closely:
- Connect wires – Attach the outlet wires to the extended existing wires using twist-on connectors. Follow any labeling.
- Mount outlet – Carefully push wires into box and mount the outlet flush to extension ring lip using long screws.
- Test snug fit – Verify the outlet fits snugly against the drywall with no gaps. Add spacers if needed for a flush fit.
- Check wire slack – Confirm you left enough extra wire to make connections. There should be no tension or pulling.
- Attach cover plate – Install the outlet cover plate using the included long screws that accommodate the extension ring depth.
- Restore power and test – Turn the circuit back on at the breaker. Plug in a lamp or tester appliance to verify proper function.
- Caulk around box – Once working, apply flexible caulk around the extended box edges to seal gaps before tiling.
Be methodical when wiring and double check connections before restoring power. If the outlet doesn’t function properly, recheck wiring alignments.
Installing the Backsplash Tile
Once all outlets are raised properly, you can move onto the backsplash installation. The key steps include:
- Prep the wall surface – Make sure the wall area under the backsplash is in good condition for tiles to adhere properly.
- Dry fit tiles – Arrange tiles on the wall without actually setting them to ensure they fit around outlets cleanly.
- Mix adhesive and grout – Prepare the amount of tile adhesive and grout needed according to product instructions.
- Apply adhesive – Spread adhesive evenly on the wall surface using a notched trowel held at a 45-degree angle.
- Set tiles – Firmly press tiles into the adhesive working outward from raised outlets. Use spacers to ensure even gaps.
- Grout tile joints – After the adhesive cures per product directions, mix grout and apply smoothly between all tile joints.
- Clean tiles – Once grout begins to firm up, wipe tiles thoroughly with a damp sponge in a circular motion to remove excess.
- Seal grout – After 72 hours, apply a penetrating grout sealer to prevent staining and increase water resistance.
Taking care to properly install the backsplash ensures your raised outlets remain seamlessly integrated for years to come.
Troubleshooting Common Issues
Despite best efforts, you may encounter some problems when raising outlets. Here are some common issues and fixes:
Outlet box is recessed behind drywall
- Add an extension ring sized for the backsplash depth to bring flush
Outlet doesn’t grasp extension ring
- Install longer outlet screws through ring into the existing box
Outlet sits crooked or loose
- Shim sides of box with wooden spacers to stabilize and fill gaps
Wires are pulled tight
- Extend wires entering box so they are loose inside and move freely
Outlet or switch doesn’t function
- Carefully check all wire connections match their terminals
Lights dim or flicker
- A different or dedicated circuit may be needed to support added outlets
Gaps show around outlet after tiling
- Apply flexible caulk in thin layers to seal openings once materials cure
Following basic electrical safety and seeking advice when needed will help you successfully troubleshoot any issues that arise.
Hiring a Professional Electrician
While a skilled DIYer can potentially raise outlets on their own, it’s always smart to consider hiring a professional electrician. Here are some benefits:
- Experience and expertise – They have extensive knowledge of home electrical systems and codes.
- Efficiency – They have the right tools and workflow to complete the job much faster.
- Finding issues – They can diagnose underlying problems like underpowered circuits.
- Permits – If needed, they can obtain required permits for the work being done.
- Safe practices – They follow established methods to ensure safety for you and themselves.
- Warranties – Reputable electricians provide warranties on parts and labor.
- Peace of mind – They handle the challenging work while giving you confidence it’s done properly.
Though hiring an electrician adds cost, it comes with several perks that may be worth the expense, especially if electrical work makes you uneasy.
Installing a stylish backsplash can take your kitchen up a notch, but only if the outlets sunk behind it are handled properly. With adequate planning and preparation, raising outlets is a very doable weekend project for a handy homeowner. Carefully follow electrical safety procedures and don’t be afraid to call in a professional if needed. Once it’s done correctly, you’ll have outlets that seamlessly blend into your new backsplash for years of safe function.
Common Questions about Raising Outlets for Backsplash
Raising outlets so they’ll be flush with a new backsplash is a major part of the installation process. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
How much does it cost to raise outlets for backsplash?
The cost to raise outlets depends on how many need adjusting, how accessible they are, and whether you do it yourself or hire an electrician. DIY costs can range from $5-20 per outlet. Hiring an electrician averages $150 per outlet raised.
Can I install a backsplash without raising outlets?
It’s possible but not recommended. Leaving outlets recessed behind backsplash tiles leaves gaps that allow moisture intrusion and don’t look very attractive. It’s best practice to adjust them flush with the new surface.
What if my wires are too short to raise outlets?
If slack in the existing wires prevents raising them enough, you can splice in new longer wire extensions using wire nuts. This provides the extra length needed.
How do I raise outlets on outside walls?
The process is largely the same. Ensure the box extensions and drywall build-out keep the insulation value intact, and use exterior-rated outlet covers. A vapor barrier around the box is a good idea too.
Can I convert old two-prong outlets to three-prong when raising them?
Yes, as long as there is sufficient grounding in place as required by code for three-prong outlets. An electrician can best determine if converting is feasible.
Do new outlets for backsplash need GFCI protection?
Outlets in the backsplash zone within 6 feet of a sink require GFCI outlets. These will trip and cut power if they detect a current leak of 5 milliamps or more.
How can I hide raised outlet seams after tiling?
Caulking around the raised box edge with a flexible, paintable silicone caulk matching the tile color is the best way to conceal seams between outlets and backsplash.
What about raising outlets under upper cabinets?
The process is essentially the same, though you may need shorter extension rings to avoid hitting cabinet bottoms. Wiring accessibility is also trickier through cabinet backs.
Carefully considering how each outlet will be raised and blending with your particular backsplash design will result in a seamless look.
Installing and Working With Backsplashes
Backsplashes serve both form and function in a kitchen. Here is a comprehensive guide on selecting, installing, and living with this important design element.
Choosing a Backsplash Style
Many materials can provide an attractive, protective backsplash. Consider these popular options:
Tile: Provides endless pattern, color, and texture options. Can be ceramic, porcelain, or stone. Grout requires sealing.
Glass tile: Adds shine and depth. Typically made of machine cut, smooth glass pieces in sheets. Durability varies.
Stainless steel: A modern look, resistant to heat, stains, and moisture. Can show water spots and fingerprints. Easy DIY install.
Tin tile: Retro pennies or nickel sizes. Durable tin-plated sheets with self-stick backing for easy install. Darkens from patina over time.
Subway tile: Classic 3×6” glossy ceramic rectangles create vintage appeal. Beveled edges add depth. White most common, but colors offered too.
Peel-and-stick: Thin materials like vinyl with adhesive backing create faux looks while allowing easy, damage-free removal. Many patterns available.
Stone slabs: Granite, marble, travertine, etc. provide natural beauty but require intensive install. Sealing needed to protect from stains and etching.
Wood plank: Horizontal planks offer warmth. Best used away from water. Can be easily cut and installed. Ideal for rustic or cottage looks.
Keep your style, skill level, and budget in mind when selecting materials.
Preparing Walls and Planning Layout
Proper planning and wall prep are key to a successful project. Consider these steps:
- Remove existing backsplash if present and remediate walls as needed. Fill any holes and touch up paint.
- Clean walls thoroughly to remove grease, soap scum, and debris so tiles adhere well. Rinse cleaned areas.
- Gather all materials and tools needed for install, like tile adhesive, grout, spacers, trowels, and buckets or mixing mortar. Have extras on hand.
- Measure the space and create a layout plan accounting for focal points, outlets, and appliances. Avoid narrow slivers of tile.
- Identify tile cutting needs and outlet height adjustments early. This will inform outlet moving and drywall work.
- Consider hiring a professional installer if you lack tiling experience. Backsplashes require careful tile cutting.
A well-prepped and organized workspace makes installation much easier. Address issues ahead of time.
Installation Tips by Material
The backsplash installation process varies slightly depending on material type:
Ceramic or Porcelain Tile:
- Use a notched trowel to create even adhesive lines on the wall. Spread only small areas to avoid drying.
- Cut tiles with score and snap tile cutter for straight cuts and tile nippers on curves. Use a wet saw for specialty shapes.
- Set tiles in a staggered brick-like pattern starting center and level using plastic spacers for grout lines.
- Once adhesive cures per directions, mix grout and apply over joints. Wipe gently diagonally when firm.
- Seal grout lines after they fully cure with a penetrating sealer to prevent staining.
- Ensure surface is clean. Cut pieces to shape and dry fit before peeling off backing.
- Slowly peel off adhesive backing and carefully press onto wall. Smooth entire piece so it adheres evenly with no bubbles.
- Use a grout pen or caulk between seams for a grout line look. Apply gently to prevent bleeding under material.
- If removing, heat pieces with a hair dryer or heat gun to soften adhesive. Peel off slowly.
- Condition planks by letting them acclimate to your home’s humidity for 72 hours to prevent buckling or gapping later.
- Use a combination of construction adhesive and finishing nails to adhere pieces to the wall. Nail through tongue so holes don’t show.
- Cut planks with a miter saw allowing for staggered ends like a hardwood floor. Leave 1/8” gaps between.
- Fill nail holes with putty. Sand any rough edges. Finish with water-resistant polyurethane.
- Offset rows for a running bond pattern. Cut border tiles carefully for clean edges.
- Use spacers to maintain even grout line width. Ensure tiles align across rows.
- Use premixed grout for convenience. Wipe diagonally across tiles before it hardens.
- Seal grout after curing to allow easy cleaning of tile surface. Buff with cloth for any haze.
Following best practices tailored to your material type will ensure proper adhesion and appearance. Don’t rush the steps.
Caring for and Cleaning Backsplashes
With proper ongoing care, your backsplash will maintain its beauty and function. Here are some tips:
- Seal natural stone materials annually to guard against stains. Use a penetrating or enhancing sealer appropriate for the stone.
- Re-apply grout sealer every 2-3 years for easiest stain removal and cleanup of grout lines.
- For tile, use pH neutral daily cleaner concentrated on grout lines. Rinse thoroughly with clear water.
- Clean metal backsplashes like stainless steel using a microfiber cloth with mild dish soap and water. Rinse and dry immediately to avoid streaks.
- Dust wall surfaces above the backsplash frequently to prevent grease buildup that can stain from dripping.
- Address spills, stains, or soap scum immediately for best results removing them. Don’t let them sit.
- Check for loose tiles, cracks, or damage periodically. Repair issues promptly to prevent moisture intrusion.
- Avoid abrasive cleaning pads or products that can scratch, dull, or etch surfaces. Use soft cloth or non-abrasive scrub sponges only.
Protect your investment with gentle but regular cleaning tailored to your specific backsplash material needs.
When to Consider a Professional
While many homeowners can install their own backsplash, certain situations call for seeking professional help:
- Large or intricate tile patterns requiring extensive shaping and cutting
- Natural stone installation like granite slab that requires special skills
- Electrical work like raising outlets to accomodate backsplash
- Removal of previous backsplash attached with mortar, adhesive, or thinset
- Concerns about wall soundness; underlying moisture issues or repairs needed
- Desire for a completely perfect, upscale result; intolerant of imperfections
- Unsure about proper selection of tiles, tools, preparation, layout, etc.
- Limited time; professionals work much faster than DIY pace
Though hiring out adds cost, professionals bring experience, the right tools, and a practiced workflow to achieve high-quality results and save you headaches.
When to Replace or Remove Backsplash
If your backsplash becomes damaged or you want a new