What Are Surface Mounted Electrical Outlets?

The traditional way of adding electrical outlets requires cutting into walls and ceilings. This can be time- and labor-intensive. But it’s not the only way to perform a retrofit. You can use surface-mounted electrical outlets and wiring if you need to add more receptacles or light fixtures. This requires adding surface-mounted wiring, which we’ll also explain.

To add a surface mount outlet, wires must be run from an existing electrical outlet. Surface-mounted wiring, also referred to as an electrical raceway, runs across walls within metal or plastic channels. It provides a connection between an existing outlet or electrical box and one or more surface-mounted electrical outlets.

Installing a Surface Mount Outlet

Although it’s recommended you have a licensed electrical contractor do the work, installing a surface mount outlet isn’t too complicated. You don’t even have to paint the parts if you don’t want to. They can be mounted low and hidden behind furniture. But you will need some understanding of electrical wiring. A permit and electrical inspection are also required.

To install the outlet and wiring, follow these steps:

  • Mount the Base: A base needs to be mounted at the existing electrical box. Before starting, turn off the power at the service panel and use a voltage detector to verify no electricity is flowing to that location. After removing the old outlet, use a utility knife to remove the back panel of an electrical box base. Then screw it into the junction box. Using a stud finder, locate the wall studs and use masking tape to mark them.
  • Run the Channel: Run a plastic or metal channel along the wall from the box to the first outlet location. Some channels are flexible and can be fit into corners. If not, use a hacksaw to cut the channel to length. Drill holes (⅛ inch) in the channel so you can screw it to the studs, or use drywall anchors. Holes must be at least ½ inch from the ends of the channel. Using a power miter saw, adjoin ends to corners at a 45-degree angle
  • Set Up the Wiring: Surface wiring must match the size of existing wiring, but can be installed in several different ways. Extending from the junction box, it can run in one direction, two or three directions, around corners, or up and down walls. When connecting the wires, join all hot wires together, neutral wires together, and ground wires together with wire connectors. Then use pigtail wires to connect each wire to the appropriate terminals on the surface-mounted electrical outlet.

When to Call an Electrician

The installation process may seem simple, and surface-mounted outlets are a fairly straightforward idea. But you shouldn’t proceed with any task unless you’re fully comfortable with it. It’s also important you know everything the job entails. Another issue is if the bare wire ends from the old outlet are gray (modern ones are a dull brown). If the wire ends are gray, they are made of aluminum. Connecting these to copper wires can be complex and risky if you don’t know what you’re doing, so call a licensed electrician for wiring help.

Contact Express Electrical Services

If you run into any trouble with a surface-mounted electrical outlet or need more outlets installed, Express Electrical Services can help. Our licensed electricians are skilled at properly installing outlets and switches while ensuring they meet the latest performance and safety standards. When you’re considering adding outlets or electrical capacity, allow us to inspect your home to find the best suited and safest solutions. We’re also available 24/7 for emergency repairs. To schedule service in your Southern California home, call Express Electrical Services at 323-727-7799 today.