Wall plates may seem like a small detail in the grand scheme of things. But once you see them as more than just a way to cover electrical boxes, you’ve unlocked a new home décor accent. Think of it this way: if your kitchen has oil rubbed bronze accents (like the faucet or cabinet hardware), do you want basic white switch plate covers to stick out like a sore thumb?
Replacing wall plates is one of the easiest ways to create a cohesive look throughout your home—and all you need is a screwdriver and a few hours of your time.
This guide will help break down industry lingo and explain the basics to help you decide which wall plate best suits your needs.
Wall Plate Configurations
Toggle switch plates are the basic wall plates that are used to cover traditional light switches. Whether you need to cover one switch or four, toggle plates come in a variety of lengths to cover the amount you need.
Rocker wall plates fit rectangular devices and offer a more modern look than toggles. You may have heard this type of plate referred to as a GFCI rocker, Decora rocker or paddle rocker. GFCIs (ground fault circuit interrupters) are used to reduce the risk of electric shock.
Rockers also offer another bonus: wall insert capability. If you need to add extra functionality like coaxial cables, phone jacks, or data jacks, you can buy those separately and use a rocker wall plate to house them.
Duplex wall plates feature two stacked openings for electrical outlets. A single duplex is one pair of stacked openings and a double duplex is two pairs (for a total of four openings).
If you plan on using different devices in one electrical box, you’ll need a combination plate. These are self-explanatory as they combine toggles, duplexes and rockers in different configurations on one plate.
Blank wall plates are used to cover unused outlets or electrical boxes. As a safety precaution, it’s important to note that outlets need to be deactivated with wire nuts before installing a blank wall plate.
A gang refers to each side-by-side element within an electrical box. What it doesn’t mean is the number of openings in a plate. The width is the constant when determining the number of gangs.
For example, let’s take a look at a 3 toggle wall plate and a 2 toggle 1 duplex wall plate. The three toggle plate has 3 openings and the latter has 4, but they’re both 3-gang wall plates.
From ornate floral details to the trendy shiplap look, manufacturers are turning wall plates into statement pieces. No matter what your vision is, it’s highly likely there’s a wall plate to match.
The quality of wall plates has improved as well. With options like solid metal and wood plates, the days of sticking to basic builder-grade plastic are soon to be gone.
Replacing your old wall plates is an easy afternoon project that’ll tie your home’s décor together. Industry jargon can be tricky when it comes to buying new wall switch plates, but if you know the configurations you need, shopping should be a breeze.