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Cutting drywall to fit outlets

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  • Cutting drywall to fit outlets

    I have a room to drywall, and therefore need to do some outlet and switch cutouts. I've not had complete success in the past using the X-Y measurement method, so I'm thinking of using the Arc Mark magnet system (see ) to pinpoint the cutout positions. Anyone care to report on their success using it on metal boxes?

    That leaves the question of what device to use for cutting. I have a little hand drywall saw, but I'm a bit nervous about the possibility of cutting my wiring with it. And I'm reluctant to buy a Dremel or other brand rotary saw, as it's pretty much a one-trick pony.

    Is it possible to use a regular Dremel tool, with or without the flexible shaft extension, and a "saw" bit on it to do a decent job on this kind of project, with less risk of nicking my wiring? Or a Bosch Colt laminate router, perhaps in an oversized template "frame"?

    Or should I be doing the drywall cutouts before doing the wiring hookups, then do my insulation and drywall hanging? In which case the hand saw is probably sufficient for the quantity I'm doing on this particular project.
    - David

    “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” -- Oscar Wilde

  • #2
    in my experience, the outlet boxes should always be flush with the room side of the drywall, so you can't cut the openings after you've installed the drywall, you have to cut them first and then install the drywall.

    otherwise the "ears" of the outlets and switches rests on the edge of the drywall and can crumbel the edges, or if the opening is a little big, the outlets sink into the wall and the covers don't fit flush. By having the face of the box flush with the wall then the ears are supported by something solid.

    Cutting before also avoids cutting into the wiring.
    Last edited by LCHIEN; 09-22-2008, 03:51 PM.
    Loring in Katy, TX USA
    If your only tool is a hammer, you tend to treat all problems as if they were nails.
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    • #3
      Put lipstick on the edge of the boxes. Put the drywall in place. Remove and cut on the line.
      spellling champion Lexington region 1982


      • #4
        I have seen DW contractors cut the electrical box openings after the stuff is installed. It always looks ragged and messy, they seem to miss a few and cut some that are not there. Often the electrician will have to use over sized plates to cover the over sized opening. I am sure that some do an excellent job and only the bad ones did I see and remember.

        That said, they do make a thing that fits on the box and when you press the drywall in place it marks the back side and then you set it aside and cut the opening. The Sheetrock saw does this fine.

        I agree, the X Y method seems only to work on the last sheet and almost never with paneling.

        Bill, been there, done that, did it again, and again and then chose the one closest.

        Dang, lipstick, what a great idea. I do have to remember to check again before I post my reply.


        • #5
          While I haven't installed a bunch of drywall... I watched the guys do mine.

          They measured to the middle of the box, put a small "x" in that spot on the drywall.

          Then they put it up, secured parts of it and then took a rotozip-like tool with a drywall bit in it, and punched it through the "x", then moved it over to the edge of the box and just followed it around the inside of the box.

          Then pushed the drywall over the box and added the rest of the screws.

          All the holes were pretty nice.

          There was a couple that they missed the edge of the box and made one "slot" a but too long. Easy fix.


          • #6
            You could try one of these.

            I haven't used one, but it seems to make sense. Dryfit the gypsum without the outlet boxes cut, apply the Handymark to the box, push the gypsum against the outlet and its marked. After drywalling a new cabin, I realized that my girlfriends dad had purchased one of these and hadn't told me until I was done. I used the x-y method and it went well.

            For cutting, it's a utility knife when possible and a jigsaw with a wood blade for interior cuts. Make sure its cleaned out once in a while to prevent it from gumming up. A bit messy, but very functional. The only hard part is getting the blade into the board, I was able to push through the 3/8 drywall quite easily.


            • #7
              I have hung a lot of drywall. I've used both the lipstick method and the rotozip method. I prefer the rotozip method. If you use the lipstick method it helps to put some reference marks on your drywall so it goes back in exactly the same place. The rotozip method eliminatest that problem and minimizes handling the material since you can put it up and then cut the opening as opposed to puttig it up marking for the box then taking it down to do the cut.

              For doing the box cuts in the drywall, nothing beats my rotozip.

              The chief cause of failure in this life is giving up what you want most for what you want at the moment.


              • #8
                Originally posted by chrisk View Post
                You could try one of these.
                I've used the HandyMark. Works great. Before they were around, I used to put toothpicks in the small screw holes of the outlet box, and then would trace the punctures in the drywall using a cardboard template. Similar principle.


                • #9
                  I think the lipstick idea would be great, or you could try to just push the drywall onto the box hard enough to leave an impression.


                  • #10
                    In addition to the lipstick, you can also use chalk from a chalk box. Same principle as the lipstick but you need to wet the edge of the box. You can pick up a HandyMark at Lowes. The RotoZip is the best alternative in my opinion. Word of advice with the Rotozip & drywall; have a ShopVac turned on & a hose in the general vicinity when you are cutting drywall. A Rotozip & drywall makes a dusty mess but not when you have a ShopVac hose at the business end of that RotoZip.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by chrisk View Post
                      You could try one of these.

                      I haven't used one, but it seems to make sense. Dryfit the gypsum without the outlet boxes cut, apply the Handymark to the box, push the gypsum against the outlet and its marked.

                      That is pretty cool. I like it.


                      • #12
                        I've tried both X-Y and lipstick. Thank the heavens for oversize outlet covers. 'Nuff said.
                        - Chris.


                        • #13
                          I just measure and cut, usually with a utility knife. It really helps me to angle the cut so that the opening on the finish side of the drywall is significantly smaller than on the back side. I have to go back to each opening and trim it a little but I end up with a visible opening that fits the box well much more consistently. I've used drywall saws too but they make a pretty ragged cut.

                          I have used a spiral cutting bit in an old J. C. Penney router motor but I did not care for it. Routers are very noisy and this one is not a very nice router. Maybe if I had a better tool I would like the approach better.

                          I have not tried the "put it in place once to mark then take it down and cut" approach other than just to tap on the drywall to make an indentation of the box. I never liked lifting drywall into position twice, however, so I doubt I would like the expensive bits of plastic you guys illustrate.

                          I have wasted a few sheets of drywall finishing a couple basements plus more minor projects but I have pretty much decided a knife and a saw and a t-square are all you need to put up drywall (although a lift is also very nice to have).



                          • #14
                            I bought a set of the "BlindMark" magnetic doohickeys when they were clearanced at Lowe's for $5. I found it to be no less work than any other method I've used. You stick one of the lil' magnets in each box, hang up the drywall, then run the "finder" over and it snaps to the magnets. It's pretty accurate, but there were a couple of problems. First, the markers fill the whole box, so there's very little room to cut around them inside the box, and cutting the stud side of the box on the outside is a PITA, since the saw can't go very deep. Second, they fit very tightly in the (plastic) boxes I had, so I had to pry them back out, doing a little damage to the drywall around the box. In the end, I found it didn't really save me any time or labor than using other methods, and I'm glad the kit only cost me $5.


                            • #15
                              xy method

                              I've tried a bunch of ways, but end up using the x y method with trial and error cutting by saw.

                              Lipstick/chalk works, but only in a general sense. When you put up the sheet of rock, invariably it moves, or it hits the box (and hence lipstick imprint) before you get it truely seated in its place (seam to seam), so thus the mark is either off a bit, or there are multiple marks.

                              I've tried x y method and cut with rotozip, but often its too big or off by a bit.

                              So, now I xy the center of the box and use either a rotozip or simply drywall saw (often easier to use since it can fit in pocket, than picking up the rotozip, dealing with elec. or battery, and using). However, I only cut a small hole and then place the sheet. I then see how it sits on the box and enlarge the hole, again usually with the drywall saw. When I get close, I use a dryall sander. Not sandpaper or the mesh grill sanding sheets, but the small , handheld cheese grater type things. Removes drywall pretty quickly, but not too quickly. ANyway, that gets the tight fit.

                              However, for round holes for recessed lighting, I only use the rotozip type tool with the circular guide attachment. Just make sure your xy on that is triple checked.
                              A Man is incomplete until he gets married ... then he's FINISHED!!!