book cases in front of outlets?

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Forum topic by jbmaine posted 09-22-2020 02:14 PM 351 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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135 posts in 353 days

09-22-2020 02:14 PM

Hi all, I’m getting ready to build a series of floor to ceiling book cases for my better half. I’m planning to have backs on them out of 1/2 ply, for rigidity and to secure them to the wall. My question is what to do about the electrical outlets. I don’t want to cover them all up. Is the best way to cut an opening in the back for access? Have any of you run across this? And if so what did you do? Thanks, Jim

10 replies so far

View John Smith's profile

John Smith

2726 posts in 1046 days

#1 posted 09-22-2020 02:20 PM

Jim – in two cases like that, I modified the cabinet back to allow access
to the outlets to be used – not hidden. you never know when you may
need to use that particular outlet. design the shelf where the outlet will be
just under the shelf – but not obstructed. it will be out of sight.


-- there is no educational alternative to having a front row seat in the School of Hard Knocks. --

View Robert's profile


4051 posts in 2364 days

#2 posted 09-22-2020 02:21 PM

One way is to use a box extension.

Best to remove the baseboards and make the base of the book shelf high enough to carry the baseboard around it. Really makes a nice job of it.

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View controlfreak's profile


1296 posts in 484 days

#3 posted 09-22-2020 02:30 PM

I would cut in an extension to the box in the back of the book case so the outlet will be in the book case. Of course this means that it may interfere with shelf locations. It is never a good idea to cover an outlet or remove and wire nut the wires. Both would be code violations too. You may find these outlet(s) handy to have there too. Not sure if the 1/2” back requires an extension ring or if you can just make the opening sized to catch the existing receptacle tabs. I would do that but I will let electrical code guys chime in on that. While at it if they are old I would replace with new and maybe a color change to blend in with the bookcase.

View Loren's profile


10712 posts in 4531 days

#4 posted 09-22-2020 02:33 PM

You can try using a plumb bob and story sticks to accurately gauge where your outlets will be on the back. This is one of those installation things I don’t have figured out perfectly. Of course if you’re doing it at home you can take your time and do something fancy but on an installation job working out of a truck at the end of a day this is a task I don’t like doing.

The reason for the plumb bob is if you measure from the wall down low at the corner the wall might be out of plumb enough to throw off your measurements. Levels aren’t as accurate imo.

View AndyJ1s's profile


462 posts in 638 days

#5 posted 09-22-2020 03:23 PM

Rather than enclosing the entire back, why not leave open the backs of the bottom shelf(s), so that the outlets are still exposed? No finicky marking and cutting an outlet opening in the back. And especially so if your bottom shelf(s) have doors.

If the shelves are structurally sound without securing them to the wall with a few screws, then I doubt it is a violation to have the shelves covering the outlets. Otherwise, securing that chest of drawers to a wall in a child’s room that just happens to cover an outlet would also be a violation, and they don’t want to be in a position of prohibiting solutions to a more serious safety problem.

But if you remove the baseboard behind the shelves, or worse, wrap the baseboard around the base of the shelves, that is a permanent installation, and would violate code if it blocked a junction box, outlets or not.

-- Andy - Arlington TX

View Sparks500's profile


279 posts in 1214 days

#6 posted 09-22-2020 05:04 PM

Probably not a popular suggestion, but i’d move the outlet.

-- A good day is any day that you're alive....

View Bill1974's profile


149 posts in 3868 days

#7 posted 09-22-2020 05:23 PM

I would leave an opening so the outlet could be accessed.

Also I might change the outlet to a recessed one so that if a plug is in that it does not stick out to far. I would also leave the baseboard in place and place the bookcase so that a plug and cord could be snaked behind the bookshelf after it’s in place.

If going got the built in look I might leave the outlet and add one on both sides it depending if there would ever be a need to leave something plugged in on the bookcase.

View Jared_S's profile (online now)


401 posts in 842 days

#8 posted 09-22-2020 05:24 PM

Pull the electrical box and install a remodeling /old work box in the bookshelf back.

View Robert's profile


4051 posts in 2364 days

#9 posted 09-22-2020 05:49 PM

Pull the electrical box and install a remodeling /old work box in the bookshelf back.

- Jared_S

I pronounce this the best answer :-D)))

-- Everything is a prototype thats why its one of a kind!!

View jbmaine's profile


135 posts in 353 days

#10 posted 09-22-2020 07:33 PM

Thanks for the replies and good ideas everyone. I’ll be removing the baseboard and making cutouts for the outlets.

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