Fixing my unsafe recessed-into-the-wall electrical panel

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Topic by srzsrz posted 06-05-2013 04:23 PM 64844 views 0 times favorited 35 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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6 posts in 1968 days

06-05-2013 04:23 PM

The previous owner of my house had a sound studio in the garage, leaving me with a wall that, from the studs on in, is (roughly) 1/2” drywall, then 1/2” homasote, then resilient channel, and then another layer of 1/2” drywall. The electrical panel for the house was installed back when the wall was simply 1/2” drywall and nothing else, so now it’s about 1” recessed into the wall. See here the result.

FYI, “resilient channel” is a stamped sheet metal profile that is used for sound insulation. It provides a spacer between two layers of wall.

Anyway, the upshot of all this is that the panel is now recessed about 1” from the wall surface, meaning that you could stick your fingers in the holes around the breakers and hit the bus bars. I hear inspectors discourage that.

So here’s the plan:

I enlarge the rectangular opening in the extra layers of wall to be sized just a tiny bit larger than the original panel cover. Hopefully, I’ll manage to make the cut so that I spare the original layer of drywall, but if not, not. Then I attach the panel cover in the rightful original location. Any exposed gaps and edges and such will be “nicely” covered up with drywall spackle and/or Great Stuff.

But how do I make the cut given that there’s all this sheet metal embedded in the wall? If there weren’t any metal, I’d think this would be a job for my little battery-powered circ saw, which has a plungy mechanism of sorts with a depth stop. Of course the circular shape of the blade would mean that the cuts would end up a little long, but as I said, this is a garage. But can I really just buy a $10 “sheet metal” circ saw blade at HD and expect this to work?

Any completely different suggestions?

View J's profile


70 posts in 2283 days

06-06-2013 05:26 AM

Sounds like you have a good plan for what you want to do. Cut the drywall with a razor knife, Cut the sheet metal with a 3-1/4” thin kerf grinder, or buy a metal or masonry blade for your circular saw and just plunge through the drywall and the sheet metal. There are many ways to take on this task, but you will end up with more dust and clean up if you choose to cut the wall out in fewer stages. The $10 abrasive “blade” will cut right through the sheet metal and the drywall, but might burn at the OSB layer. Don’t fear this job, it’s really only going to be about cleaning up the mess. I build sound studios and have never seen sheet metal used between walls. It is always a rubber matting and it is glued/caulked to the substrate, most often with another layer of soundboard or drywall glued (never screwed) over top of that.

-- I found the board stretcher... finally!

View srzsrz's profile


6 posts in 1968 days

06-06-2013 04:34 PM

J, rubber matting probably is a better idea if you ever plan to make modifications! This most definitely was stamped sheet metal. I did some more research and found out it’s called RC-1. Here’s a nice glamor shot from the manufacturer:

I ended up using the oscillating tool that came with my Ryobi 18V kit. The tool came with adaptor doohickeys for various brands of blades, so I went to HD and got what looked like the sturdiest blade marked “metal”. It worked, but I’m sure a grinder would have been faster. I ended up just taking out the drywall and channel and leaving the fiberboard in place because. (It’s not actually OSB, it’s this really messy mushy stuff.)

The electrical panel cover seems to be designed to actually absorb some slight differences in how far the panel is recessed; there are two metal bits connected with screws and you can vary the distance. I put in longer screws and stabilized the whole business with redwood shims.

Believe it or not, when the inspector came this morning and I showed him my handiwork, he nodded his head and said: “yup, seems a whole lot safer than before.”

I’d been made very nervous by the horror stories I had heard from other people about self-important and/or nitpicking building inspectors. That, and lots of frowny looks on the faces of contractors coming to do bids as they examined various details. Turns out that the building department in this town (a small, low-income suburb) consists pretty much entirely of a mild-mannered and very reasonable guy named Greg who took about 5 minutes to notice that my AC was competently installed and sign the card. I think next time I’ll make him coffee.

View dbray45's profile


158 posts in 1642 days

02-10-2015 12:54 PM

Funny thing about most inspectors, most them just want things to be safe. Went to a Home Depot once – building a new ramp for my daughter – and was speaking with an employee about the best way to rebuild it. He gave me a bunch of ideas. When I asked him about codes because I am from a different state, he told me that he would stop by and take a look at it in a few days. Turns out he was one of the building inspectors and did this job to make sure people did things right and in a safe manner. He told my daughter that it was better than what he expected.

Not all are like this but many are.

-- Love woodworking and fixing most anything

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