Electrical question.

Our very old house has already undergone some renovations and is undergoing some more.

When we moved in we took down a wall between two small bedrooms to make one large room. There was a switch for on outlet on the wall. When the wall came down the contractor we were working with insisted we tuck the wire down into the basement (duly coiled etc) and wouldn’t hear or me taking out the switch. Also, on another wall, we removed two very old wall lights, which also left a switch of no use beside the other doorway.

So now I have a lovely big livingroom with two entry doors from the diningroom, each with a useless switch directly beside them at about 4’ high. Not very attractive.
I am currently covering the walls with a coat of drywall compound as needed beneath where the ancient wallpaper was removed.

So what do I need to do to lose these to switch plates?

I’m guessing removing the cover plates, unwire the boxes and remove.

Maybe maurets over the exposed wire ends? Then cover with mesh tape and drywall compound over and sand till all trace of their existence disappears.

How about it? Am I in danger of causing any electrical problems with this approach?
Anything else I need to know? Any advice for an amateur?

Thanks for your time! :slight_smile:

I’m not an electrician but …

Generally speaking any connection in an energized circuit must be accessible. That is you can’t plaster it in.

So, if power is applied to your switches you can’t cover them with anything but a switch plate.

You would be well advised to have an electrician come out and find out just what the hell your previous contractor did.

I think the first question is…how comfortable are you with working with electrical wiring?

So if I understand this correctly…
The first switch, that controls the outlet (right), you want to always be “on.” Assuming that’s the case, the way I see it you have some options…
The easiest way would be to jump the wires (so it’s like the switch being in the on position) that is, remove the switch and connect the two wire together with a wire nut, cover the box with a plate and drywall over it. Though that may not be up to code (since you have to be able to easily get at junction boxes, you’d technically have to cover it with a blank plate), that’s the easiest. The ‘real’ way (I assume, not knowing every line of the NEC) would be to pull the wires and box out and wire the outlet properly, which still shouldn’t be a huge deal, if it’s wired such that the hot and neutral come into the outlet box and then the hot goes out to the switch. If it’s wired that way, you could also rewire it at the outlet and ‘abandon’ the other wiring.
Can you tell us how it’s wired?

As for the lights, I think I’d want to know what was done with the previous wiring before I made a suggestion, but I can say that if you’d EVER want to put any lights back in, or anything on a switch in the immidate area (like an outlet) and the wiring is still in the walls (ie the switch is hot) I would either leave the switch or safely tape/wirenut the wires so they don’t short and put a blank plate over it.
Oh and BTW if you don’t own a voltage tester/multimeter, find someone who knows what their doing so you don’t kill/zap yourself, Electricty is a nasty thing if you don’t know what you’re doing.

So really, before I/we can answre any question we’d have to know the condition of the wiring, what’s still in place, what’s hot and the route the wiring takes. Without these it’s somewhat difficult to answer specifically what to do. If you don’t know how to answer these it might not be something you should be messing with.

At least in the US I don’t think that it “may” not be up to code, it’s “definitely” not up to code - all junctions have to remain accessible, you cannot permanently cover the covers. Dunno if they do things differently in Canada though.

To the OP, can you just use a blank box cover? It’s like a light switch cover only there is no opening, used for just this sort of thing. They are paintable, so you can remove the switch, handle the wiring appropriately in the box, texture your walls, put the blank cover plate on, then paint the room. I helped a friend rewire his house recently and we had to do this in a couple of places, after painting you barely notice the plates.

The right thing to do there would be to remove the switch wiring entirely, and re-wire that outlet. But the contractor refused to do that, in favor of doing the easy thing. Given that the contractor took that attitude there, he probably took it elsewhere, as well. Which means you need to get a professional electrician, and an ethical one, to take a good look at that wiring before you try anything with it. Amateur DIY electrical work can be very dangerous, if things were wired sloppily.

Several observations. Since this is an ordinary dwelling space room, it must have either (a) a lighting fixture controlled by a switch, or (b) a receptacle outlet within said room controlled by a switch. Don’t know if your renovations run afoul of said requirement.

As noted, any junctions or connections must be accessible.

I apologize for not making myself clearer.

None of these wires are live. In both cases they were disconnected from that which they worked. (In one case removed wall lights, and in the other a wall outlet from a wall which disappeared.)

In both instances the contractor insisted on leaving the wall switches. I believe, because he was convinced we would find, during the course of further on going renovation, a need for a switch for perhaps overhead lighting etc. He pulled the ends down into the rafters in the basement, coiled etc.

I could be wrong, of course, but my understanding of the fire code prohibits just attaching some other connection to those ends as then there would be a split/mend, a big no no.

I assumed, at the time, his interest was that if I should need to install something else that needed a switch I wouldn’t have to make holes in the wall to accommodate it. I could use the old wiring to pull through new wiring connected to new appliances. But I don’t want to do that.

I knew then that I was certain not to need them but I didn’t feel like forcing the issue so I just left them. Now I am at the time and simply want to cover over them and paint and am interested in knowing what’s required.

Again, I apologize for not being clearer, thanks for your input!

if the wires have been disconnected then they are no longer part of the wiring. Just make sure that they have been disconnected. Then you can plaster over, board up, or do anything else that you want with the switch boxes.

Thanks David!

Any ideas how I would check? I mean, I’m almost 100% positive, but it was few years ago.

Some kind of meter I’m thinking, I’m off to look about and see if we own such a thing!
Thanks again!

Bt the way, when I said disconnected I meant disconnected from the power source. Disconnecting the line from the switch to the lighting or wall outlet does notdisconnect the switch from the power source.

If there are wires still connected to the switch you need to get a meter and measure whether or not there is any power to the switch. It would also be a good idea to find out where the other end of the switch wiring is and make sure that the line from that point to the switch has been disconnected and cut off close to where it enters the junction box.

If there are no wires to the switches then you can cover the wall opening any way you like.

If you aren’t knowledgable about house wiring, it still would be a good idea to have an electrician check it out.

This is the statement that worries me. If your not sure how to check if the wires are live, you probably shouldn’t be doing electrical work yourself. Your best bet would be to call a friend who knows what their doing.
This is easy work, but still, even if you can physically see the wires dangling in the basement and your 99.9% sure the switch isn’t live, you still ALWAYS test them before you touch them.

I vote for having someone else pull the wires out for you.

I’m guessing that the switch is still going to have a hot wire attached to it.
Unless the switch was merely a switch loop that interrupted the nearest outlet in which case you’d just have a dead loop there instead of a hot.
It’s hard to explain, but sometimes we wire homes so that only one outlet is switched so all you need to do to switch that outlet is splice the hot from the outlet straight through to the switch and bring the switch leg back to the outlet. In that case the hot going to the switch would be the white wire of the romex or bx cable and the black wire would be the switchleg coming back to the outlet. So in that case if the outlet was disconnected then there would not be hot in the switch. The switch would effectively be “dead” and could be covered up. Just mark the cabling in the basement as such and leav it at that.
The best way to determine if this is the case is to remove the cover plate on the switch and look inside the box with a flashlight, there will only be one cable entering the box and the switch will have a white wire on the top and a black wire on the bottom, or vice versa. If there are any more wires or splices in the box then I’m afraid that you will have a live circuit in there.

A live circuit may be able to be cut in the attic (is this a ranch home?) and terminated in a simple junction box, thereby removing power from the switch.
Not a very difficult task.