What We Cover in This Article:

  • Different Types of Residential Electrical Boxes

Different Types of Residential Electrical Boxes

In this article, I will cover a bunch of common residential electrical boxes.

Keep in mind, this article will probably get out-dated pretty quick, as the industry has constantly been changing the way things are done in Canada, especially when it comes to outside walls and outside ceilings.

For the most part, all this information should be relatively useful on-going in your career.

Single Gang Electrical Boxes

Single gang boxes are our most common electrical box as electricians.

They are installed on the INSIDE WALLS of your building/home and are typically used for switches and plugs.

I’ve seen them come in a variety of colors, but mostly grey and yellow in my area.

We usually install them with 1″ wood screws, as that will hold best in the long-term. However, in my earlier years, I’ve installed these with nails, too. (I’d recommend screws, personally. It’s quicker and quieter.)

This is a single gang electrical box which is installed on inside walls. It’s our most common box for single switches or plugs.
Image from Hubbell.com

Double Gang Electrical Boxes

Double gang boxes are also super common.

Sometimes you can have both a plug and switch installed, too!

A common technique I’ve seen if you’re pulling two different lighting circuits to this box from the same panel is to draw a line with a permanent marker indicating there are two different circuits.

This is just good for communication to let the next electrician know there is more than one circuit in that box. Otherwise, down the road, someone may use the neutral of different circuits without realizing it! (Remember, our neutrals aren’t protected by a circuit breaker, so the last thing we want to do is overload a neutral!)

Two important things I’d like to mention when dealing with light switches in double gang electrical boxes:

  • Make sure you install the correct switch in its proper order – In other words, if the kitchen is on the left and the living room is on the right, make sure to install these switches in their right order! This is an annoying task to change (especially if in condos.)
  • Install the plug so it’s not in the way of the switch – If you have both a plug and switch in the same box, think about what side the switch should be on, as you don’t want to have to reach over any cords plugged in to turn on/off the switch.

Double gang electrical boxes install two devices. This can be two switches, two plugs, or even a plug and switch!
Make sure to install your switches in the right order to the room layout!
Image from Hubbell.com

Triple Gang + Four Gang Boxes

These are exactly what you’d think; same box, just more places for devices.

The most important thing to mention is anything three gang or larger needs to be supported on both sides of the box.

So, whatever the size of the wall is, let’s say 2x6, you’ve have to cut a 2x6 scab and screw it on the opposite side of the box. This is for when drywall is installed, the scab is sandwiched in between the drywall giving it strength. (Or, if the drywallers screw into the scab, too!)

Electrical boxes with three-gang or more need to be supported on both sides of the box for support! Image from Hubbell.com

Octagon boxes (Lighting)

In a residential atmosphere, almost all lights use octagon boxes.

Octagons are our most common box we install for our lights in a residential setting.
Image from Hubbell.com

It’s important to note that you shouldn’t use these octagons for ceiling fans. Actual ceiling fan boxes are available and are built for the vibrations and weight of an actual ceiling fan!

Another box we use for lights is called a pancake box.

We use pancake boxes when we can’t get a light center with a regular box. It’s important to know you are restricted to only one wire in a pancake box.

We use pancake boxes when we can’t get center with a regular box. An important thing to mention is you’re only allowed one wire in a pancake box. (No splices to be made, but a 14/3 is allowed.)

Vapor Barrier Boxes

As mentioned, things change fast in the electrical industry.

Before, we used to use regular boxes, which above I said were to be installed only on inside walls, and put a vapor bag over the boxes installed on outside walls.

We used to put vapor bags around boxes on the exterior/outside walls. (They’d then spray-foam inside these bags for extra sealing.)

The current trend (writing this as of May 2018) is vapor barrier boxes.

In my opinion, I do like the vapor-barrier boxes more just because of speed/convenience.

Again, these vapor barrier boxes are to be installed on outside walls so the insulators can seal their ploy around the box, creating a vapor barrier inside the building from the outside weather.

The boxes are typically the exact same, except they have a outer foam on the front, and a foam cover where you insert your wires on the back.

Other Common Boxes Residential Electricians Use

I will quickly cover some other common boxes residential electricians use:

E-Z Boxes:

An easy box (sometimes called a rework device box) allows us to install plugs/switches after the fact of drywall being installed. We also use them for other purposes too, like island plugs in cabinetry.

A really common box we use are called E-Z Boxes (sometimes called a Rework Device Box).

We typically use E-Z boxes if we’ve forgot to install a box in the rough-in stage.

Hence the name for being easy, they are a super quick install if you just want a plug somewhere on a wall. They tension fit onto the drywall and you can install your plug/cover plate. It’s really quick and you’d never know an E-Z box was used!

Aside from being used when a box was forgotten, or someone wanted to add a plug after drywall was installed, is if we’re installing a plug in the island cabinetry.

Another popular use of E-Z boxes as of late are big media panel boxes. We install these E-Z boxes at the bottom of those media panels for the plug.

Data Rings:

Data rings are used for low-voltage.

The picture below is for an existing wall where you’d cut the drywall and insert this data ring.

In a brand-new build, there are data rings which actually screw to the stud. Some job sites don’t like data rings, so they require you to just install a regular single gang box like shown above.

These data rings are used for low-voltage wiring such as telephone, coax or fiber.

Conclusion / Wrap-Up

So that’s a little overview of residential boxes we electricians use.

In other words, we use these boxes in wood frame construction.

This is not to say you can’t use metal boxes in wood frame, but these plastic ones are less expensive and are meant for wood frame.

In a commercial setting, we use metal commercial electrical boxes.

Hope this one gives you a solid basic overview 🙂