Electrical box for dimmer switch is too small.

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  #1  
Old 02-13-11, 11:17 AM
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Red face Electrical box for dimmer switch is too small.

Hi!
I am installing a dimmer switch on a light switch that has two switches on it (2 gang?). I'm putting the dimmer on just one of them - not both, but after I got it hooked up, I couldn't make it fit into the electrical box because there's no room! There are too many wires in there. I've tried pushing them all over and out of the way but it just isn't happening. I have no idea what all those wires are for but appently they serve a purpose or they wouldn't be there. Can I get a larger, or deeper box and change it out without any problems? And another thing -- the one that's in there is plastic. Is metal better?

Thanks.

Happy Valentines Day! :loveu:
 
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Old 02-13-11, 12:21 PM
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Metal is not better than plastic. In most cases you can get a larger one in plastic.

Yes, you can change out the box. Without issues? Maybe. You will have to cut the old box free from the stud it is attached to if it is not a remodel box (If it is original then I doubt it is) Depending on the box you might be able to just break it or if it is a blue one, which are hard to break, you will have to cut the nails with a hacksaw blade.

How many wire do you have. Even with a deeper box you may still be over filled. To figure box fill take:
1 for the wires coming into the box
1 for all the grounds
2 per device (you have 2)
1 per inside clamps
multiply total by 2 for #14 and 2.25 for #12

So if you have 5 #14/2 NM cables in your box tor total would be:
10 for each wire
1 for the grounds
4 for the devices
0 for clamps
total = 15 x 2 = 30 cubic inch box is required.

unless it is a "standard" size box the Cu In should should be marked in the box.
 
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Old 02-13-11, 12:39 PM
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You should be able to install a backless surface mount box from a company like Wiremold. The look may not please you, but it is an option.
 
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Old 02-13-11, 01:01 PM
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I used one of those in a box where I needed to change to a 2 gang box for a separate fan control, but the wall construction coupled with the fact that conduit was used makes it near impossible to change without major repair work. Trust me, will do the job, but it is ugly in a house setting. In an office, whatever, but not in the living room. If there was another way, I'd do it in a second.

A good way to remove a nail-on plastic box is to stick a reciprocating saw's blade between the box and stud, and go up, then go down to cut the nails. Then use a remodel box for your new one (if you can't get a bigger two gang than what you have, you may need to go 3 gang and get a plate with a blank space. This will look a whole lot nicer than a Wiremold wart sticking out of the wall). Then all you have to repair is the saw tracks.
 
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Old 02-13-11, 06:39 PM
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OK, I got the wires all shoved in that box. There were three big wires coming down into the box with several strands coming out of each of them, then there were big wire nuts everywhere. The box itself wasn't attached to anything - that was part of the problem. I couldn't get it to come forward far enough to get the screws in. The 3 big wires coming down into the box were on the side where I was trying to put the dimmer so I just put the dimmer on the other side where there was more room. Once I rearranged the wires a time or two and got the dimmer in there, I pulled the box up close to the wall and held it with a pair of pliers while I got a screw in far enough to hold it there so I could get the others in.

I could have used a couple more hands and the fact that it was dark in there didn't help any-- held a flash light under my chin! Anyway, everything works and the lights are on - and one of them is blissfully more subtle and dim! With the switches changed to the opposite sides, I wonder how many times I'll turn on the wrong one first!

Thanks so much for all your responses and suggestions.

Micha

P.S. I messed up the wall a little bit while fighting with that box! Know where I can get an oversized switch plate???
 
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Old 02-13-11, 07:11 PM
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Glad you got it. Thanks for letting us know.

Just a note for next time:
There were three big wires coming down into the box with several strands coming out of each of them,
Those weren't wires, they were cables. Those weren't strands, they were wires. The sheathing on the cables should have been removed to within a half inch or three quarters of an inch of the box clamp leaving just the wires to deal with. If the wires were longer then six inches they could have been cut shorter where practical. Some wires can be pushed to the back before putting in the switch some can be pre-folded like an accordion.
 
  #7  
Old 02-13-11, 11:28 PM
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Red face

I knew that! I was just testing you….

Seriously, thanks for enlightening me. I’ll try to remember that. I just thought the whole thing was referred to as “wiring” so they’re all just wires to me. I suppose using the correct terms in a post would make it more understandable though. I’m just glad there’s someone like you out there with electrical know-how so you can help me out when I’m in a fix.

Thanks again!

Micha.
 
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Old 02-14-11, 09:07 AM
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Have a happy next project.
 
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Old 02-14-11, 07:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Micha View Post
P.S. I messed up the wall a little bit while fighting with that box! Know where I can get an oversized switch plate???
We call them apprentice plates. You can find them at most home centers. Just ask for a jumbo plate. Might look a little odd but easier then fixing the wall. Fix the wall next time you paint.
 
  #10  
Old 02-14-11, 11:04 PM
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Smile

An apprentice plate? In my choice of beautiful beige plastic I presume. Perhaps I should just go ahead and fix the wall. I recently wallpapered so "next time I paint" isn't going to be anytime soon. Maybe I could just frame it with some fancy little wood molding and call it a designer plate!
Gee Willikers - seems like its just one thing after another! So point me in the direction of the forum on wall repair? I hope the folks over there are as friendly as they are here! Thanks tons you guys!

Micha
 
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Old 02-15-11, 07:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Micha View Post
Gee Willikers - seems like its just one thing after another! So point me in the direction of the forum on wall repair? I hope the folks over there are as friendly as they are here! Thanks tons you guys!
Here ya go! --> Patching and Plastering - DoItYourself.com Community Forums
 
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