Installing a beautiful new backsplash can transform the look of your kitchen or bathroom. However, you may be wondering what to do about the existing outlets on your wall when adding the backsplash. Electrical outlets require some special consideration during backsplash installation. With proper planning and careful technique, you can incorporate the outlets seamlessly into your new backsplash design.
Prepare the Outlets Prior to Installation
Before beginning to set the backsplash tiles, you’ll want to make sure the outlets are ready. Here are a few tips to prep the outlets:
- Turn off power to the outlets. Shut off the breaker supplying power to the outlets to ensure they are not live when you work around them.
- Remove the outlet covers. Take off the switch plate and outlet covers so you can access the whole outlet box while tiling.
- Extend the boxes if needed. If the existing boxes are recessed deep into the wall, you may need to extend them closer to the wall surface so they will be flush with the new backsplash tile. You can use electrical box extenders for this.
- Protect outlets from debris. Cover the outlets loosely with plastic or paper to prevent tile adhesive and grout from getting into the electrical boxes.
Options for Outlets with Backsplash Tile
Once the outlets are prepped, you have a couple options for how to treat them when installing the backsplash:
Tile around the outlet box
The most straightforward option is to simply tile around the outlet box just as you would tile the rest of the wall. When tiling up to and around the box, take care not to bump or apply pressure to the box to avoid damaging the wiring inside. This option keeps the outlet flush with the new tile. Many backsplash designs can tile cleanly around outlets for a seamless look.
Install the backsplash first, then outlets on top
Alternatively, you can install the backsplash first without outlets, let the adhesive and grout fully cure and dry, then reinstall the outlet over the tiled wall. This involves disconnecting and removing the outlets prior to the backsplash installation. When finished with the backsplash, simply screw the outlet into place over the tile. This provides a neater appearance with the outlet completely on top of the backsplash.
Tips for Cutting and Placing Outlet Holes in Tile
Sometimes the best option is to cut tile pieces to fit neatly around the outlets. Here are some tips:
- Mark the outlet location accurately on the tile by holding the tile up to the wall.
- Use a tile cutter, wet saw or rotary tool to precisely cut openings for outlets.
- Cut tile openings just large enough for the outlet box and cover plate.
- Use small tile spacers around the outlet edges for consistent grout lines.
- Take time to get outlet tile cuts centered and tidy for the best appearance.
Grout and Seal the Outlets Carefully
Once the backsplash tile is installed, apply grout then seal around the outlets smoothly. Here’s how to do it right:
- Protect the outlet interiors from grout as you grout the backsplash.
- Use a grout sealer around the edges of the outlet to keep moisture out.
- Apply caulk between the outlet and tile if needed to close any cracks or gaps.
- Buff grout smooth and even across the outlet for a streamlined look.
- Remove any grout or caulk from the outlet box interior once dried.
- Reinstall the switch plates and outlet covers once sealing is complete.
Consulting an Electrician
If dealing with the outlets has you concerned, it’s always wise to consult a professional electrician. They can ensure proper preparation and installation around the outlets for a safe, code-compliant finished product. Consider hiring an electrician if:
- You need to replace, move or add any outlets or switches
- The existing wiring appears damaged or faulty
- You do not feel comfortable working around live electrical
- Local regulations require licensed electrician oversight
Hiring a pro can provide peace of mind that your new backsplash and outlets are safe and installed correctly.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I remove the outlets mounted in the wall?
First turn off the power supply to the outlets at the breaker box. Use a screwdriver to remove the cover plate screws then disconnect the wiring from the outlet. Finally remove the outlet mounting screws to take the outlet box out of the wall.
Should outlet boxes be anchored to the wall studs?
Yes, electrical code requires outlet boxes to be secured to studs for safety and stability. If the existing boxes are not anchored, you may want an electrician to re-mount them properly prior to backsplash installation.
What if my outlets are uneven and don’t line up with the backsplash?
If the outlets are at uneven heights or misaligned, you can install backsplash tile spacers or shims behind them to bring the outlets flush with the new backsplash surface and aligned horizontally. Consult an electrician if major repositioning is needed.
Should I remove GFCI and other specialty outlets before tiling a backsplash?
It’s best practice to remove and disconnect GFCI, arc-fault, tamper resistant, or other specialty outlets prior to backsplash installation to prevent any damage. Have a qualified electrician handle this for you.
How close can backsplash tile be installed around a power outlet?
Electrical code states tile should install no closer than 1/4 inch around the edges of the outlet box. Leave this space to prevent heat damage, shorts and electrocution risks.
Installing backsplash tile around existing outlets takes careful planning and technique but can create a seamless, integrated look. Preparing the outlets properly beforehand and protecting them during the installation process is key. Cutting outlet openings neatly and sealing well after grouting finishes the job in a professional manner. Consult a qualified electrician if you have any concerns working around outlets and wiring. With the right approach, your outlets can blend beautifully into your new backsplash design.