Types of Wall Plates
Wall plates, also known as switch plates, cover your home’s outlets and light switches, keeping wires out of sight and away from fingers. With a wide variety of colors and materials to choose from, wall plates can complement the decor of any room. Change your wall plates for a subtle and affordable upgrade to your home.
This guide explains how to find the right wall plate for every outlet, switch and phone or data jack in your home. This guide explains how to find the right wall plate for every outlet, switch and phone or data jack in your home.
Wall plates have many different configurations. To find the right one for your needs, consider where it will be used and the number of switch/outlet openings.
Also, consider the number of gangs in a wall plate. Gangs refer to the number of side-by-side elements, which isn’t always the same as the number of openings. For example, a two-gang duplex outlet plate has two side-by-side duplex openings, giving it a total of four openings.
Some switch, outlet and wall jack designs eliminate the need for a separate wall plate. The plate and device are either a single unit, or the device comes packaged with a specialty plate.
For example, in many electronic dimmer designs, the cover plate is part of the switch housing. Home theater connections, like HDMI or component video, typically do not require a separate wall plate.
The most common outlet wall plates are duplex outlet plates. A duplex outlet plate has two openings for outlets, stacked vertically. It works as a wall plate for conventional duplex outlets and combination switches.
A single outlet plate has one opening designed for 230- to 240-volt appliance outlets. Appliance outlets are usually used for large household appliances like stoves and dryers.
Toggle wall plates are the standard wall plate used for light switches. It works with both toggle light switches and rotary dimmer switches.
Decorator or rocker wall plates have a large opening designed for rocker switches, dimmer switches (including rocker dimmers, slide dimmers, tap dimmers and scene selector dimmers), GFCI outlets and phone or data jacks.
Coax plates are wall plates for cable TV or satellite coaxial cable jacks.
A phone jack plate is specially designed for phone jacks.
Use a blank plate to cover an empty electrical box or an electrical box with disconnected wires no longer in use.
A push button plate works only with push button switches. Push button switches are typically used in industrial applications, rather than in the home.
Each side-by-side element in an electrical box is called a gang.
- The standard household outlet is a single-gang duplex receptacle, meaning it has two outlets total.
- Two-gang duplex outlets are also common.
- Household switch plates are typically single-gang, two-gang, three-gang or four-gang.
- Commercial buildings often include switch plates with five or more gangs.
If you have an electrical box with more than one type of switch, outlet or wall jack, you need a combination wall plate. For example, one common combination wall plate includes openings for a duplex outlet and a single light switch.
You can also find combination wall plates for multiple switches and outlets, multiple switch types and multiple data line types.
Wall plates fall into two main categories: basic thermoplastic plates, sometimes called contractor plates, and decorative plates.
Thermoplastic Wall Plates
- The most popular and cost-effective wall plate material is thermoplastic. These wall plates are lightweight, sturdy and easy to clean.
- Nylon is an especially sturdy type of thermoplastic material that can withstand rough use without cracking.
- You can buy single thermoplastic plates, or you can buy them in packs. Typically, outlet plates and switch plates are sold in packs of ten.
- The standard colors are white, brown, black and various off-white shades, but more vibrant options are available as well.
Decorative wall plates are made from a wide range of materials and can do a lot to enhance a room’s decor.
- Popular materials include copper, brass, brushed nickel, pewter, chrome, stainless steel, stone, ceramic, wood and bamboo.
- In bathrooms and kitchens, metal wall plates are a nice complement to fixtures and cabinet hardware. Or find ceramic plates that match your tile.
- For living rooms, dens, and bedrooms, look for materials that match furniture, wall finish or wall hangings.
- Another option is a specialty thermoplastic plate with a slot for a small section of wallpaper. Match the paper in the plate with the paper on the walls, and your outlets and switches will blend in seamlessly.
Conventional vs. Screwless
Conventional wall plates are a single unit that you attach directly to the switch, outlet or jack with a matching screw.
If you don’t want a visible screw on your wall plate, choose a screwless plate, also called a hidden screw plate. In this design, the wall plate comes with two pieces. You tighten a screw to attach the wall plate adapter to the switch, outlet or jack, and then snap the wall plate to this adapter.
There are three common wall plate sizes: standard, midsize/midway and jumbo.
- When selecting a size, the plate should completely cover the electrical box opening. If the opening is oversized, you may need a jumbo plate to conceal it.
- Measure the opening to figure out the exact minimum height and width for your plate.
- For electrical boxes crowded with wires, you may want a wall plate with greater depth. This will provide extra room for the wires, making installation easier.
Tip: Despard wall plates, also known as interchangeable wall plates or stacked wall plates, are a type of space-saving wall plate popular in homes built pre-1950. A Despard wall plate has two or three openings stacked vertically for sideways switches or outlets.
- Standard: 2.75-inches wide, 4.5-inches tall
- Midsize/Midway: 3.13-inches wide, 4.88-inches tall
- Jumbo: 3.5-inches wide, 5.25-inches tall
- Standard: 4.56-inches wide, 4.5-inches tall
- Midsize/Midway: 4.49-inches wide, 4.88-inches tall
- Jumbo: 5.31-inches wide, 5.25-inches tall
- Standard: 6.38-inches wide, 4.5-inches tall
- Midsize/Midway: 6.75-inches wide, 4.88-inches tall
- Jumbo: 7.5-inches wide, 5.5-inches tall
- Standard: 8.19-inches wide, 4.5-inches tall
- Midsize/Midway: 8.5-inches wide, 4.88-inches tall
- Jumbo: 9.5-inches wide, 5.5-inches tall
Keep wires out of sight and add to your home’s decor with the perfect wall plates for each room. Quickly find the right wall plates for you with image search in The Home Depot Mobile App. Snap a picture of a wall plate you like and we'll show you similar products.