reducing wall bank of switches

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Jun 21, 2013
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I recently converted a switched outlet to always live (did the bypass inthe attic, taped off the dead leads in the hallway box and removed the switch).

Went from a bank of 4 to 3.

I can replace the cover with a 3 switch but that leaves the hole where the 4th was.

the switches are in a single horizontal metal gang box (1960s). I really don't want to mess with digging into the wall and the attendant wiring to swap the 4box for a 3box.

I've been pushing off the issue for a while now. I took the 4-plate off to have a more critical look.

I suppose I could treat it like any other wall hole patch and mud in a piece of drywall.

And I can tell me myself all sorts of things that will make the patch worthwhile:
The wall is already slated for new baseboard and painting rehab.
Use thinner drywall for sure because of the box, but that box will provide push-in support on three sides.
The new 3-switch cover's left edge will protect the 4th side of the patch to some extent.

So, you folks have any better diy solutions? btw, I presume our electric code would have _something_ in it that i'd violate with my idea. Anybody have any idea what that might be?

I still might have an electrician in for this. But my "official"-E retired. Dark day. Always great work without abusing my wallet. I'm already old, It seems like there's nobody - Dentists? Electricians? Roofers? that are younger than I am.

thanks much.
Thanks S, yeah that did cross my radar, but still wanted to "reduce". I might be a bit of a packrat, but I don't like clutter.

Blank(s) might bump higher if I could find one in "X 0 0 0" and then not in "tract house" plastic.
-- think it was the menards that had a "X 0 0"

Hah! did find one: in Metal! -- but unfortunately the blank is on the right side...
MULBERRY has all metal as well as stainless.

XOOO, Rotated it 180 degrees is OOOX.
If you can't find a plate to suit, Home Depot sells Pick-And-Choose plates. You buy the sections individually & stick the together. Then name of them, I don't know. Just noticed them one day in metal & in plastic (yuck!)

I don't know if either of these are acceptable for your style choice, but:

A solution to make the large box look "On Purpose" is to install a night light in the unused gang.
I know made are Decora style 120 volt LED nightlights, so you could get a 4-gang switch plate in Decora style. (Or 3 standard & a Decora, or whatever you desire) Some are cool looking, such as a flat face that softly illuminates.

Or- USB charging port? (if there is a neutral in the box)

Another plan is to install an occupancy sensor in the unused gang. Let it control something you want to be automatic. They, too, come in Deocra style.

New Box?
Don't cover the unused space with drywall as many people do. Any fire will escape into the wall.

You mentioned 1960's house. There is a really good chance that the box was nailed to a stud. An oscillating tool can sneak in and cut the nails off. Then you will patch the hole and re-cut for a 3-gang old-work box or 3 ganged Gem Boxes with Madison supports.

If the old box is an add-on, it most likely is built from 4 Gem boxes ganged and installed with Madison Supports. Then your job is easy- simply bend the tabs on the Madison Supports & pull the box out of the wall. (Look on the vertical edges of the box for 1/2" wide metal tabs folded over the edge of the box. Those are the Madison Supports. There will be 2 tabs on each side.)

@rokosz - Snoonyb suggested the most obvious solution to the blank being on the wrong side.
Turn the plate around 180 degrees so the blank is on the opposite side. The screw holes will still line up.
Can't ya just flip the house upside down? (Or move it to the other hemisphere where it'll be upside down.)
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So, of the alternatives offered, please keep the community updated on your progress.
I’m more concerned on what took place in the attic with the “bypass”. If you had an outlet that was split and half was on a switched leg there were a few ways to convert it to both outlets on. The switch could have been removed and the two wires connected together with a wire nut where the switch was. You could have removed the switch and killed the wire to the outlet and then at the outlet made a jumper wire to replace the removed jumper strip or just simply put in a new outlet. I don’t see any need to do anything in the attic.

I guess I don’t understand the aversion to a switched outlet most people would like one to be able to turn a lamp on and off. And its simple enough to just leave it on if it always wants power. If I wanted to make it always on for some reason I would have wired the legs together and just left the switch in that location as a dead switch. To me that looks better than a cover with a blank space and down the road if the next owner wanted a switched outlet it would be simple to reattach. If I do something like that I write with a sharpie on the back of the switch plate what I did for the next guy.
Bud16145 brought up good points!

To Keep In Mind:
According to NFPA 70, the National Electrical Code in the United States, if the room doesn't have a permanent light fixture that is operated by a switch (such as a ceiling light, sconce or similar), a switched outlet must be present in the room.

Side Note: NFPA 70 requires certain locations to have a switched light- not a switched outlet (or in addition to a switched outlet). If my memory is correct (fat chance!), these are listed at 210.70 (A)(1) and 210.70(A)(2)

And, just to complicate things, if the conductor that was disconnected to get rid of the switch formerly passed un-broken through the box, it now changes the Box Fill calculations required by code. It could throw the box over the limit. (If it's a surface mounted box in an attic, an extension ring is a quick solution.) See: NFPA 70 314.16 & 314.16(B)(1)

210.70 (A) (1)
2020 Code Language:

210.70(A)(1) Habitable Rooms.
At least one lighting outlet controlled by a listed wall-mounted control device shall be installed in every habitable room, kitchen, and bathroom. The wall-mounted control device shall be located near an entrance to the room on a wall.

Exception No. 1: In other than kitchens and bathrooms, one or more receptacles controlled by a listed wall-mounted control deviceshall be permitted in lieu of lighting outlets.

Exception No. 2: Lighting outlets shall be permitted to be controlled by occupancy sensors that are (1) in addition to listed wall-mounted control devices or (2) located at a customary wall switch location and equipped with a manual override that will allow the sensor to function as a wall switch.

In CA, when introduced, the requirement was that an illuminating device must be able to be activated within 6' of the entrance of a space, which was often interpreted to be a lamp mounted on a table.
Around here quite a few people have made their homes non compliant by removing their bedroom and living room ceiling lights and putting in ceiling fans. I wonder if any home inspectors ever catch that.
Most have an light fixture compatibility, so, how it's presented, during the inspection, is a choice, and if the inspector addresses that, is the key.

Home inspections, and that industry, is an interesting evolutionary study.
To all: thanks, I'd kinda forgotten about my request with lots of bs pushing its way between my ears. Came to the 21st century's idea of a one-eyed monster to catch up on email and oh yeah, work that doesn't really need people ... This is a nice break.
so I'll try to move chronologically: 1960's house -- one single 4-gang metal box. Be great if it was boxcarred. I've got some metal cutting tools that might get in there -- but I was already not inclined to mess with pulling all the wires. Maybe if the switches (big dark brown noisy) weren't all in great shape.

Although, were I to dig, as an aside, I'd probably have a better chance of finding the doorbell transformer. Just not much oomph from that for at least the last 15 years and I presume its buried somewhere int he same wall

I like the idea of re-use with a flatface! nightlight or somesuch. This is a Raised Ranch (yes capitalized) the bank is at the top of the main stairs at the beginning of the hallway. What was the front living room is now the dining room (we expanded out the back some years ago). Room never had buiiltin lighting -- hence the code kick-in req'ing a switch outlet. Interesting tid-bit that code

I'm not an electrician, but the layout was pretty straightforward, found the Jx in the attic, re-wired it to continue, unimpeded, to the outlet., Opened up the wall and put a switch above the outlet, extended the romex to the switch and then extended the power to a lo-v transfr. and then to 12 cans. I'd bet I'm not all to code. (That switch might be considered too far into the room). But in some ways I went overboard - every wiring to a can has its own metal box. Overkill maybe, No one will mistake it for pro. Its that sloppy-ish ness

Bud you mention the wiring of the un-switched half. When I dug into the outlet I do remember some strange wiring -- If I remember correctly the unswitched half was wired by a different circuit-- I know I did ultimately nut-off a separate line/circuit - but whether it was just wild in the wall or it had been also attachd to the gang I don't recall.
No particular aversion to switched outlets -- generally like them, they're handy. The code makes sense. Not all regs are a plot to subjugate puppies. It was more bringing the control closer to its effect -- and not messing with that nest of 4 switches as well.
I am curious about the "box fill calculations". The switch-line was the only thing in the box in the attic and there's only one more outlet beyond (my new switch is between them). Since cans are about 120w total I discounted its chance of overweighting.

This new fangled electric science is a "mmmhuh" moment. A month or so ago my trouble and strife's Subaru decided to start dying for no good reason. Ok, old/bad batt, replace it I did. 3 or 4 days later same thing. SOB! I jumped it with plain old cables from my Jetta. Took it to my man who said it was a bad relay. We talked and I mentioned my jump -- he was not greatly pleased. Said the system you jump _from_ these days can be problematic, besides traditional jumping itself as well. We never got to how to properly get your butt moving again now-a-days. My point is: gone are the days of: I got a common, neutral, everything is good. Makes me wonder if folks a hundred years ago got steamed because they had to work with 50% more wires now (the ground). Hmmmm, Steamed has various meanings.

as far as X000 everything was better when I stood on my head, but you'all knew that. I don't recall taking many pictures (I was trying to get it functional before Thanksgiving). If I got 'em, they're on my camera and I misplaced my chip adapter/receiver to get it into the 1-eyed monster.
Around here quite a few people have made their homes non compliant by removing their bedroom and living room ceiling lights and putting in ceiling fans. I wonder if any home inspectors ever catch that.
Back in 2016 I did a complete rewire of a 3 story, 5 bedroom house (by myself). I was lucky; well it was the owner (flipper) who was lucky. I advised the owner that each room needs a switch to either energize a receptacle or turn on a ceiling light. Good thing the owner listened to me as the electrical inspector specifically tested each room for that.