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How to install wall tile around electrical socket

Updated February 21, 2017

One of the biggest differences in installing wall tiles versus floor tiles is the placement of electrical sockets on the wall. Light switches, disposal unit switches and sockets can all be found in the kitchen backsplash or bathroom walls where tile is typically placed. Careful layouts of the tile beforehand and notching of the tiles to fit around the boxes will ensure that the wall tile pattern is not interrupted by the placement of a socket box.

Measure the wall where the tiles will be installed. Take into account the placement of the sockets, both their height from the worktop or floor and the distance from the nearest wall to the socket. Locate the centre point of each wall to be tiled and draw a pencil line down the centre.

Recreate the size and shape of the wall, complete with the locations of the sockets, on the floor nearby. Find the centre point of the wall layout on the floor and lay the first tile at the bottom of this spot so the pencil mark would bisect it. Lay out the rest of the wall tiles, radiating up and out from this first tile.

Notice which tiles come in contact with the socket boxes. Rearrange borders and decorative tiles so they fall above or below the socket for the best appearance. Mark the tiles that will go around the outlet and set them aside. Cut the edge tiles to fit the rest of the wall -- using a wet saw -- before beginning, but don't notch the tiles for the sockets yet.

Spread mortar onto the wall with a trowel and begin laying the wall tiles in the same pattern you determined on the floor. Tile up to the areas around the sockets and leave these areas bare until the rest of the tiles are up.

Hold a tile over the socket and trace the outlet onto the tile where the cuts must be made. Make your pencil lines as straight and accurate as possible.

Notch the tiles to fit around the outlet with a tile wet saw. Make "L" shaped cuts in the corners of a tile by running the tile into the wet saw until it touches the corner of the notch. Remove the tile, turn it and run it through again until it just touches the first cut made. Lift the corner of the piece to be removed to break it free.

Cut a notch from the side of the tile by making two parallel cuts where the edges of the socket will be. Make several more cuts between these two lines to the depth of the socket so the tile appears to have fingers or keys cut into its side. Use tile nippers to break or cut off these fingers, creating the area for the socket.

Spread mortar directly onto the back of the tile to fit around the socket and slide it into place, pressing for a good bond. Allow all the tiles to dry for 24 to 48 hours and grout all the tiles at once, using a grout float to push the grout between them and a sponge to clean the surface of the tiles. After the tiles dry completely, buff off the grout haze with a dry cloth. Screw the outlet covers on after the grout has dried to cover the cut edges of the tile.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil
  • Tile saw
  • Trowel
  • Mortar
  • Tile nippers
  • Grout
  • Grout float
  • Sponge
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About the Author

Sarabeth Asaff has worked in and has written about the home improvement industry since 1995. She has written numerous articles on art, interior design and home improvements, specializing in kitchen and bathroom design. A member in good standing with the National Kitchen and Bath Association, Asaff has working knowledge of all areas of home design.