How to Install an Outlet in Lath & Plaster

Written by angela roe
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Installing an outlet in plaster and lathe walls can prove challenging, as the plaster will often crack and break if vibrated or moved too much. Using painter's tape will help you stabilise the plaster, reducing the vibration and helping minimise the amount of cracking when cutting the plaster and the lathe behind it. Try to avoid the use of saws when cutting the lathe, as the back-and-forth cutting motion increases the likelihood of damaged plaster.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Stud finder
  • Outlet box
  • Low-tack painter's tape
  • 1/4-inch masonry bit
  • 12-gauge wire
  • Utility knife
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Screws
  • Drill
  • Face plate
  • Screwdriver

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  1. 1

    Locate the studs behind the lathe and plaster with a stud finder. Find a location for your outlet next to a stud.

  2. 2

    Place an outlet box on the wall, and trace it out. Place painter's tape on the wall around the box outline to help minimise chipping. Drill a small hole in the centre of the box with a 1/4-inch masonry bit. Bend a piece of 12-gauge wire, and thread it through the hole. Turn the wire in a full circle to detect any obstacles behind the plaster. If you find obstacles, patch the hole and move to a new location. If not, proceed.

  3. 3

    Score the plaster on your drawn lines with a sharp utility knife several times until you've cut through the plaster. Cut the lathe with needle-nose pliers, and remove it.

  4. 4

    Fish an electrical wire through the wall and to your new outlet box; if possible, enlist the help of a friend. Find an electrical junction either above or below your outlet. If it's above, have your friend feed it down the wall while you watch for it and pull it out to wire your outlet. If it's below, feed 12-gauge wire through the outlet opening and downward while your friend watches for it and twists it around the electrical wire. Pull the wire back up and out so you can wire your outlet box.

  5. 5

    Wire your outlet. Connect the ground wire to the bonding screw, usually located on the side or the bottom of the outlet box. Hook up the neutral or light-coloured wires next. They connect to the long silver prongs on the face of the outlet. Hook up the hot wires last. They connect to the short silver prongs on the face of the outlet.

  6. 6

    Set your outlet box into position, and screw it to the stud with mounting screws and a drill. Mount the face place to the outlet by screwing the face plate to the box using a screwdriver. Don't use a drill to mount the face plate, as it could crack the face plate.

Tips and warnings

  • Turn off all the electricity to the area before installing an outlet.
  • Hire a professional electrician to wire your outlet box. A incorrectly wired outlet can be a fire hazard.

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