Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Painting 101: Do NOT paint electrical outlets!

    Growing up, my Mom always painted everything... in fact I don't know that I have ever seen my dad hold a paint brush (unless of course, it is his cooking paint brush to lather on some more of his marinade).  But as a result of my Mother's savy interior painting skills, I have learned a thing or two that I just assumed (which you know what they say about that) everyone knew... Yeah... Apparently not!  So in case you already know this important tip, bear with me!
     While I was painting my new place this weekend, we wanted to take the electrical plates off of the wall to make sure that we didn't get any paint on them... only to find out that every SINGLE one had been painted over... and I don't just mean one coat, I mean layers upon layers!  So much so, that some outlets couldn't even be used anymore because the plugs wouldn't fit!  My mom and I literally stared in disbelief!  How is this possible?!  So we had a choice to make, either paint over them again or replace them all... so we replaced them all.  Now some of you might not see why replacing them was really the only option... YOU NEVER EVER paint an electrical outlet... EVER!

     Here are a few of my personal reasons:
        1.  Paint is a conductor, therefore painting an outlet can cause a fire, very easily just based off of a spark!  Better have renter's and/or homeowner's insurance if you are going to paint over them!

        2.  If you ever have an electrical problem and need to replace the outlet for whatever reason, or check the wiring, you will have to ruin your paint job when you try to get the cover off the wall...

        3.  Just like the outlets in my condo, layers upon layers build up causing the outlet to become blocked, making it impossible to actually use the outlet.  What's the point in even having an outlet if you can't use it?  You would be better off taking it out and patching the hole!
        4.  It looks like Crap - honestly, it does!  The beauty of the cover plates is that you can hide the hole and the paint job behind them... it gives it such a cleaner look...

   Here are a few pics of the outlets, we were working with:

Exhibit A: This outlet, while it is white and the walls are painted purple, has in fact been painted over numerous times... Can you tell?

In order to get the outlets and the outlet covers off the wall and to replace them, we literally had to cut them off and chip away at the paint.  Even with the screw, that holds the outlet cover to the wall, removed the cover plate which should normally fall off the wall is still attached... My mom even ended up bending an old metal one...

Can you see the painted caked on?  Pretty Crazy!

Here is an outlet that we pried off the wall and that literally fell apart.  When we got the outlet over off, part of the outlet came with it because it was painted together... yet another example of why not to paint your electrical outlets!!!

   Lesson of the Day:  DO NOT paint electrical outlets!  It takes two seconds to unscrew an electrical cover and it could literally save your life!  Why not do the job the right way, the first time!? 

Rocking Out to: King of Anything by Sara Bareillis (I absolutely love it.... can't listen to it enough!)


  1. Could I make a pdf of this page for my website? I run into this all the time. I would also put a link to this post on my site.

  2. Sorry it has taken me a while to respond. But yes you may make a PDF of this and put it on your site! If you'd ever like me to guest blog or write something let me know! Thanks for your interest in my post!

  3. Thank you!
    It has been added along with a link to your site.

    Here is another reason that painting the receptacles is a bad idea. It is technically, a violation of the National Electric Code, and most likely, the local code.

    Here is the section:
    Section 110.12 Mechanical work:
    (C) Integrity of Electrical Equipment and Connections. Internal parts of electrical equipment, including busbars, wiring terminals, insulators, and other surfaces, shall not be damaged or contaminated by foreign materials such as paint, plaster, cleaners, abrasives, or corrosive residues. There shall be no damaged parts that may adversely affect safe operation or mechanical strength of the equipment such as parts that are broken; bent; cut; or deteriorated by corrosion, chemical action, or overheating.

    Thanks again!

  4. I had a professional painter cover over to my house because I wanted to get a faux finish on a wall in my house. She has done murals, painting and the like. She showed me her portfolio and one piece of work she did was painting the electrical outlet in the kitchen that was surrounded by basksplash. She painted it using the same design as the backspash. The outlet blended very well with the backsplash. It looked great. So it depends on how you paint the outlet. Don't just take a brush and paint over it. Use a small water color paint brush and be careful not to get the paint inside the sockets or ground. It can be done, just be patient.

    1. While I agree that it can be done properly by a professional, I still would not recommend painting the actual outlet. The outlet cover is fine, but it still is very dangerous to paint the outlet even with a small brush, etc. In addition to the fact that if you ever change that area, you will either need to scrape the paint off of the outlet or replace it completely if you dont use the same style. But the primary purpose of this blog post was to make people aware that it is very dangerous to just paint right over the outlets. Thank you for your example of how it can be done in an artistic and professional way!

  5. I couldn’t agree more with your #2 reason! We have experienced that before. It was annoying to see that you have to peel off some wall paint to remove the outlet so you can start replacing it with a new one. That’s a lesson we learned that time. After that, we have been really careful of not painting the electrical and cable outlets in our home.

    Margert Woodcock

  6. awesome! It's true haven't seen you put much painting up here in a while, but really sweet!
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  7. What you've said about having a renters or home insurance policy is so true. Many people don't realize it, but paint can be a conductor and painting over them can be a huge fire hazard.

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    Just my two cents!

  8. My outlets have so much more paint than the one in this photo. I cannot get enough paint off the edge area of the outlet to even try and pry the plate off. I was able to cut through the edge of the plate where it meets the wall but am at an impasse when it comes to the paint around the electrical outlet itself.

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