What Are Surface-Mounted Electrical Outlets?

Surface-mounted outlets use the same general set-up as flush-mount or recessed electrical outlets, except the housing sits on the wall rather than in it. They’re a common choice when you don’t have access to the inside of the wall and can’t run wire through it. Like all home system components, there are positives and negatives to this type of outlet. Read on to learn more about surface-mounted electrical outlets.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Surface-Mounted 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


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. This method means you don’t have to cut open walls or ceilings and run wire through them to get power to your outlet.

Surface wiring is easier to relocate and reposition. Surface-mounted wiring accessories and outlets are also easier to repair and update when needed, like when you’re adding a dimmer switch or USB receptacle.


It’s important to note the disadvantages in the argument over surface-mounted vs. recessed outlets. Surface-mounted outlets are more vulnerable to physical damage and dust accumulation because they’re exposed. There are also aesthetic concerns because they’re difficult to hide.

When To Use Surface-Mounted Outlets

Use a surface-mounted outlet when you don’t have access to the interior of a wall or ceiling or can’t cut into the surface. It’s easier to run the wiring along a sealed wall rather than inside it, making an exposed wiring outlet the obvious choice for brick and cement walls. 

How To Install Surface-Mounted Outlets (DIY or Hire a Pro?)

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. However, you’ll need some understanding of electrical wiring, and a permit and electrical inspection are also required in LA.

To install the outlet and wiring, follow these steps:

  • Turn off the power: Before starting any electrical work, turn off the power at the service panel and use a voltage detector to verify no electricity is flowing to that location. 
  • Mount the base: Mount the base at the existing electrical box. After removing the old outlet, use a utility knife to remove the back panel of the 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 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 or U-straps. 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 you can install it 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. Use pigtail wires to connect each wire to the appropriate terminals on the surface-mounted electrical outlet.
  • Connect and test the outlet: Secure the outlet box to the wall and run the wires into it. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to install your plug-in receptacle, wall switch, or light receptacle. Test the receptacle by turning the power back on and using a voltage meter. If it’s a light, ensure the switch is off before twisting in the bulb. If you’ve installed a GFCI receptacle, use the test button to confirm your receptacle is operational.

When To Call an Electrician

Even though this process may seem simple, many factors require experience to troubleshoot. Don’t proceed with a task unless you’re fully comfortable with it. At Express Electrical, we take your safety seriously. That’s why we’re the top choice for homeowners in LA and the surrounding areas. Before you undertake any electrical task, consult with a licensed electrician who can advise you about the risks.

Safety Tips for Surface-Mounted Wiring

There are a few safety considerations for surface-mounted wiring. It’s easy to damage the wiring or dislodge the outlet, so it’s important to be careful about where you position appliances and furniture. They should never be in direct contact with any active outlet or in a position where they can accidentally bump the plugs and receptacles. 

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, or wiring and rewiring, 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, contact us online or call (888) 350-7869 today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are surface-mounted outlets good for outdoor use?

Yes, surface-mounted external electrical outlets are a good choice. They allow you to run power to your outdoor areas without disrupting your home’s envelope or insulation.