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Stripped or damaged plastic wall boxes #167834 08/21/07 10:54 AM
Joined: Aug 2007
Posts: 6
michaelpwalton1 Offline OP
New Member
How often do you get a service call for a stripped or damaged Plastic wall case / box ? How do you make the repair and how long does it take? Is this a common problem with plastic boxes? I find that most have been caused by the installer using a drywall screw instead of a 6-32 or the plastic becoming brittle and breaking at the support hub.

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Re: Stripped or damaged plastic wall boxes [Re: michaelpwalton1] #167845 08/21/07 01:48 PM
Joined: Oct 2006
Posts: 745
EV607797 Offline
Most of the failures that I encounter are the boxes that have a spring clip so that the screw is pushed in instead of screwed. They fail a lot. The drywall screw thing is also pretty common in these parts.

I've encountered ceiling boxes where someone tapped them for a larger screw size and then they want a regular fixture put in it's place. The cheapo imported screws that come with most light fixtures or devices barely fit well in a good 6/32 or 8/32 hole anyway.


"But the guy at Home Depot said it would work."
Re: Stripped or damaged plastic wall boxes [Re: EV607797] #167873 08/21/07 10:19 PM
Joined: Feb 2006
Posts: 138
PE&Master Offline
I'm very familiar with what your taking about. Usually happens when the handyman or tile guy puts in the drywall screw that's too long.

It happens especially with the fibre type of box. I've been somewhat successfull with quick set epoxy. The stuff that comes in a tube and you roll it around in your fingers to mix it up. Mold it around the missing/broken drill hole and it'll harden in a couple of minutes. You can drill out a new hole then.

Of course you can always replace the box. Then install a Jumbo wallplate cover. hehe.

Re: Stripped or damaged plastic wall boxes [Re: PE&Master] #167879 08/22/07 12:55 AM
Joined: Sep 2002
Posts: 908
NORCAL Offline
If the screws are stripped, use a Heli-Coil® insert, have used them even on those POS "Quik-Clik®" boxes it sure beats drywall or sheet metal screws or worse, replacing the box.

Re: Stripped or damaged plastic wall boxes [Re: PE&Master] #167895 08/22/07 11:04 AM
Joined: Aug 2007
Posts: 6
michaelpwalton1 Offline OP
New Member
How often do you get service calls for this type of problem? Is there a rule of thumb or price range for these repairs.

Re: Stripped or damaged plastic wall boxes [Re: michaelpwalton1] #167899 08/22/07 12:01 PM
Joined: May 2005
Posts: 167
brianl703 Offline
If the box is just cracked at the screw hole I've used PVC cement to repair it. (Plastic boxes are made of PVC). If plastic is missing/broken off I've torn the box out of the wall and replaced it with a Smartbox.

It takes a little bit of practice to get a damaged box out of the wall without damaging the drywall but it can be done. The important thing is to get the nails off the box while it's still in the wall--a long screwdriver is useful for that, just push them out and let them drop back in the wall.

Sometimes with the Smartboxes the sheath on the romex cable is too short to reach the box due to it's design--I apply heat-shrink tubing to the romex to replace the sheath. Not sure what else I can do?

Re: Stripped or damaged plastic wall boxes [Re: brianl703] #167928 08/23/07 10:19 AM
Joined: Oct 2002
Posts: 482
Zapped Offline
Typically, I don't really get "calls" for this problem. I usually discover the problem while performing other work, like installing a new fixture or ceiling fan or a device change-out.

The epoxy works well, although sometimes getting it to stick to an old box requires some clean-up on the old box, such as course filing or sanding and blowing it out to give the epoxy a foothold. If it's a box that's accessible from the attic, i.e. for a ceiling fan, I'll change it out with a fan hanger and a metal box.

As for the charge, handle it like any other service:

Inspect and come up with a plan

Show it to the client and explain the work required

Estimate the cost and receive approval (CHANGE ORDER)

Perform the work on a T & M basis, never charging more than estimated

Of course, if it broke when you touched it, you're probably working for free for about a half hour or more... Nature of the business...

Good Luck!

Re: Stripped or damaged plastic wall boxes [Re: michaelpwalton1] #167978 08/24/07 01:45 PM
Joined: May 2002
Posts: 10
Belgariad Offline
New Member
I’ve found that it’s a lot easier just to take my sawzall carefully down the side of the box and cut the nails off even with the studs. Then you can just pull the box straight out of the wall without damage to the sheetrock.


Re: Stripped or damaged plastic wall boxes [Re: Belgariad] #167982 08/24/07 04:38 PM
Joined: May 2007
Posts: 169
ChicoC10 Offline
I've never had a call for that problem but have popped a lot of plastic boxes out for various reasons. Adding a plug, a switch,a phone, a TV, a cable for fan switching or other lighting , and my personal favorite, replacing a damaged cable. 99% of the time by another trade. I use P&S gray plastic boxes exclusively because they are the easiest to remove after finish.

My technique is to chamfer the inside of the outer (not stud side) edge of the gypsum a bit, if necessary, to allow me the drive that side of the box into the wall a bit using my hammer and phillips in the screw holes. Then I can use my flat blade to pry the box away from the stud and into the wall enough to cut the nails close to the box with my diags. Needle nose pop the nail tips free to fall into the wall and the box is free.

Sometimes I open the hole up to fit a multi gang, after probing the space I'm about to cut (wobbly works great) to insure there would be no obstruction to installing the larger box. (Nothing quite like pulling that freshly sawed piece of drywall out only to find a vent pipe taking up an inch of YOUR space!!!)
This makes the problem of wrangling the wires while trying to turn the box just so to get the nail supports out of the hole, without blowing out the hole, a lot easier.

Getting the new one in (one the nails have been removed and the nail supports trimmed off) can be challenging if the wires come from both up and down but patience and needle nose pliers will prevail. The issue about the sheathing not reaching into the box? Is heat shrink or tape legal for this? I've been able to arrange the wires to reach so far.
Usually the box will be the same size of a little bit shorter which works well for getting sheathing into the box.

When removing older metal boxes it can be trickier. Some of the old boxes had the nails running through the device space. While that makes getting some devices in impossible it makes removing the box very easy. Put your diags on the nail and hammer away from the stud. The box comes right off and once the nails are out it comes right out of the hole.
The metal boxes with mounting straps almost always require the sawzall.Especially if the original installer was diligent enough to fill all of the nail holes. The sawzall will do it without over cutting the drywall if you have a steady hand but I have had one case where the OI (original installer) ran cable through the stud right above thr bracket and I ended up cutting it. $()!#$%&^$ %$## #@2&&%$% ##%^##
After I calmed down I figured out where the cable came from and went to and found a suitable repair. (Time to calm down = 1/2 hour, time to repair = 1 hour)

Now if they used a 4S and a mud ring tell your client to schedule a good tape and texture/painter behind you.

Changing a P&S 18CU for another P&S 18CU with circuit dead I could probably do in 15 about minutes without any damage.
The more gangs, cables, or differences between boxes the longer it would take and there just may be some repair to be done behind me.

Last edited by ChicoC10; 08/24/07 04:40 PM.
Re: Stripped or damaged plastic wall boxes [Re: ChicoC10] #167996 08/25/07 01:41 AM
Joined: Aug 2007
Posts: 6
michaelpwalton1 Offline OP
New Member
Thank you Chiocio for your tips. Out of curiosity, what is the average rate for residential repairs in CA? I try to get $60 service call + first 15 min. then $60 per hour (God willing).

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