Tech Talk – Wallplates, More Than Meets the Eye

Wallplates, More Than Meets the Eye

Generally speaking, most people don’t pay much attention to their wallplates until it’s time to replace a device or paint a room. But the truth is wallplates are required for safety reasons by the National Electrical Code ® to protect people from any exposed area of an installed device and should be selected with care. They also add a finishing touch so switches, outlets and lighting controls can seamlessly blend in with the room or accent decor. In some cases wallplates are packaged with the device, but typically they are sold separately giving homeowners the opportunity to put some thought into appearance of their electrical devices.

Wallplates are available in a broad selection of configurations from single to multi-gang, as well as in the form of outdoor weather resistant covers. They are generally constructed of plastic, unbreakable thermoplastic or stainless steel and are available in Standard, Midway and Jumbo sizes.

Wallplate Materials

Wallplates are available in different materials to withstand various usage patterns. The most common materials and their applications are outline below:

Thermoset (Plastic)

Thermoset wallplates are suitable for most household applications. They are designed to resist fading, discoloration, grease, oil, organic solvents, moisture and scratches.

Thermoplastic (Nylon)

Thermoplastic wallplates are molded from engineering grade polymers for maximum resistance to impact. They are unbreakable and their added durability makes them ideal for high traffic areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, family rooms and children’s bedrooms.


Metal wallplates stand up to heavy use, are easy to clean and their corners have rounded edges to help prevent injury and wall damage. Metal wallplates are available in a wide variety of metals including stainless steel, polished brass, brushed brass, chrome and aluminum. They are ideal for basements, garages, workshops and utility rooms.

Antimicrobial Treated Wallplates

To combat the spread of germs, Leviton has developed antimicrobial treated wallplates that work to reduce the growth of bacteria. These wallplates are protected with a polyurethane powder coating that is embedded with a silver ion additive. The powder coating resists development of mold, mildew, fungi and other odor-causing bacteria as well as fingerprints and scuffing. Created with healthcare, childcare, foodservice, and hospitality applications in mind, they are also beneficial in home environments.

Wallplate Sizes

As with wallplate materials, wallplates come in various sizes to accommodate different needs. The size of the opening for the switch or outlet is always the same; the surrounding area is what varies.

Standard is the most popular size for general use.

Midway is slightly larger on all sides to help cover wall imperfections.

Jumbo is notably larger on all sides to help cover more significant wall imperfections.

And if you have multi-gang installations simply add 1.81” (46.00mm) to the length of the wallplate for each additional gang.

Leviton Wallplate Sizes

Wallplate Configurations

You may be surprised to see the sheer number of wallplates in the electrical aisle and as you browse through them you suddenly realize that not all outlets are created equal. There are wallplates for single and multi-gang switches, combination outlets and switches, phone and cable outlets and even decorative outlets such as the Leviton Decora® line of devices, lighting controls and GFCI/AFCIs. Illustrated below are some common configurations found in today’s homes.

Leviton Wallplate Configurations

Extra Protection

Outdoor devices require extra protection and that’s where Weather-Resistant Outlet Covers and Extra Duty While-in-Use Covers come into play. Weather-Resistant Outlet Covers protect outdoor wiring devices from inclement elements. They are designed to close securely over the outlet and to be lifted up when the outlet is needed for use. Leviton Extra Duty While-in-Use Covers comply with the 2014 National Electrical Code® for “extra duty” application hoods for outlets in damp or wet locations. They also protect outdoor outlets from the elements but allow the outlets to remain covered while being used through built-in circular cord openings.


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