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  1. #1
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    Apr 2012
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    Question How to remove an OLD switch box?

    I am in the middle of running all new wiring from my lighting to the wall switches. The house was built in the late 40's/early 50's. The switch boxes are NOT nailed to the studs so I can't cut anything. I can't even get a saw blade in there. It almost looks like the switch boxes are two pieces that maybe snap together, is that possible? Anyone ever remove one of these OLD style boxes? I will try to post a picture soon so you can see what I mean better....

  2. #2
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    Apr 2012
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    Default Re: How to remove an OLD switch box?

    It looks like the red circled area is how it mounts, but there obviously not nails...




  3. #3
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    Default Re: How to remove an OLD switch box?

    Betcha it's nailed to a stud somewhere, what is that brown that I see peeking through the knockouts at the back of the box?

    Older boxes like this usually have a plate that is mounted to the left or right side of the box. Those tangs you see are likely where the tang is locked into and welded to the box. Carefully carve the plaster from the side of the box, you'll probably see the plate. You have two options, either remove the plaster and pull the nails or cut the plate off the box with a keyhole saw or sawzall.

    If you're removing the box, then you're going to be repairing the hole in the wall anyway, so a little more carefully removed plaster isn't going to harm anything. One note, make sure the wires have been terminated properly. If the wires are still live, then you have to leave the box and put a blank cover over it.
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

  4. #4
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    Post Re: How to remove an OLD switch box?

    Quote Originally Posted by A. Spruce View Post
    what is that brown that I see peeking through the knockouts at the back of the box?
    That is the stud.

    Carefully carve the plaster from the side of the box, you'll probably see the plate. You have two options, either remove the plaster and pull the nails or cut the plate off the box with a keyhole saw or sawzall.
    I'm not sure if this is what you meant by 'plate' or not. There is a piece of metal that runs the full length of the box going up and down. You couldn't cut it because it blocks the saw blade. The one thing that I did notice on all of these boxes is that the center section is separate from the sides, almost like it's an early version of a ganged box. If anyone has any ideas on how to remove this center section that would help greatly....



  5. #5
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    Default Re: How to remove an OLD switch box?

    That is the flange I was talking about. It is face nailed behind the plaster into the stud. You can cut it with a sawzall, but you're likely going to do significant damage to the plaster and wall by doing so. It will be easiest to carefully remove the plaster over the plate, remove the nails and the box, then repair the wall.

    As I said earlier, you're going to be patching the hole in the wall anyway, a slightly larger hole that was carefully made isn't going to be a big deal. Your only other option would be to just use a hammer and beat the box into the wall enough to do the repair without its removal. IMHO, that would still be harder than to just carefully remove the plaster and the box.
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

  6. #6
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    Default Re: How to remove an OLD switch box?

    Great, sounds like a perfect job for my Rockwell VersaCut with plunge cut....

  7. #7
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    Default Re: How to remove an OLD switch box?

    Let us know how it goes.
    I suffer from CDO ... Its like OCD, but in alphabetical order, LIKE IT SHOULD BE!!!

  8. #8
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    May 2008
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    Default Re: How to remove an OLD switch box?

    There's another thing I'm seeing here... it looks like you have knob-and-tube wiring (individual conductors mounted on insulators, rather than bound in a cable with an overall jacket).

    There are special considerations when working with knob-and-tube. It sounds like you might be replacing it all anyway, but if there's some you aren't be very careful working with it. Try not to disturb it, because the insulation can be very brittle. I've protected this type of wiring with heat shrink tubing when I've disturbed it.
    The "Senior Member" designation under my name doesn't mean I know a lot, it just means I talk a lot.I've been a DIYer since I was 12 (thanks, Dad!). I have read several books on various home improvement topics. I do not have any current code books I can refer to. I was an apprentice plumber for two years.

  9. #9
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    Apr 2012
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    Smile Re: How to remove an OLD switch box?

    The one main black feed wire is still being used and that's a great idea to use heat shrink over it. I think I will use heat shrink at the lightbox also even if the wire looks good... Thanks for the tip

  10. #10
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    Apr 2012
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    Smile Re: How to remove an OLD switch box?

    Quote Originally Posted by A. Spruce View Post
    Let us know how it goes.
    Apparently back then they were afraid of light switches falling off the wall.... Each box was nailed like 4 different times I am replastering now and then I'll install the new boxes

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