Screwless Cover Plates, Are They Worth It?

Wall plates, also sometimes called switch plates or outlet covers, are the plastic frames found around light switches and wall outlets. Many people never give wall plates a second thought, but changing this simple detail can make a big difference to the overall appearance of a room. Upgrading to screwless wall plates, for example, is an easy and affordable way to improve both safety and aesthetics. 

Screwless wall plates offer a clean, seamless look and a professional appearance. This combination makes them a great choice for a high-end commercial business as well as the home. Not only that, but screwless wall plates are also child-safe by design. Installing a screwless wall plate may seem difficult to DIY-ers of any age, but this attractive upgrade is actually much easier to install than you might think. Typically priced just a few dollars more than their boring, screwed counterparts, screwless wall plates are worth every penny for the style and safety they bring to virtually any location.

How do Screwless Wall Plates Work?

First of all, how does a wall plate work without screws? How is it mounted? And what exactly makes it “child-safe?” The high-profile aesthetic may give the impression of a professional installation, but installing a screwless wall plate actually isn’t any harder than screwing in a traditional one. Regardless of whether you are installing a duplex, toggle, or decorator style wall plate, the cover will come in two pieces. The subplate fits around the wall switch or receptacle and is screwed into place much like a traditional wall plate would be. Then the screwless cover simply snaps into place for a quick, seamless finish! In addition to an upscaled appearance, screwless wall plates are also child-safe by design. This is because the cover cannot be so easily removed--most curious children can unscrew a traditional wall plate with ease, but figuring out the unique mechanics of a screwless wall plate is highly unlikely for your little ones. Each wall plate features hidden notches at the top and bottom, which must be popped out with a flathead screwdriver in order to remove the wall plate.  This is also a great feature to have in commercial locations, such an office, hotel, or shopping mall. The design prevents tampering of virtually any kind, which is perfect for protecting both your wiring and your guests.

How to Choose the Right Screwless Wall Plate

So once you have decided to go with a screwless wall plate, there are a few things to consider to ensure you choose the right kind for your application. Screwless wall plates come in a wide variety of options, with different sizes, styles, colors, and finishes. While some of these characteristics are purely aesthetic, a wall plate of the wrong size or style could be completely incompatible for your application. Here are the important details to be aware of:

  • Number of Gangs - Gangs refer to the number of devices (i.e. light switches or electrical outlets) that will share the same wall plate. In most cases, you will probably just need a 1-gang screwless wall plate, but 2-, 3-, and even 4-gang options are also available for configurations that utilize multiple switches or receptacles.
  • Standard or Mid-Size - Screwless wall plates are available in either standard or mid-sized dimensions. Mid-sized wall plates cover a little bit more wall space around the outlet than standard size ones do. While this could be an aesthetic choice, mid-sized wall plates are most commonly used to cover damage to the wall around the outlet. If your walls suffered some bumps and dings during renovations, a mid-sized screwless wall plate could make it look as if it never happened.
  • Style - Wall plates come in different styles, and sometimes even a combination of styles to suit unique outlet configurations. Knowing the correct style for your application is key because using a wall plate of the wrong style simply will not fit and you will have to buy a new one. There are three styles of wall plates to be aware of:
    • Toggle - Toggle wall plates are meant to fit traditional toggle light switches that flipi up and down. This style of screwless wall plate is compatible with any standard toggle switch and most rotary dimmer knobs, as well.
    • Duplex - Duplex wall plates have two openings on top of one another because they are designed to fit classic figure-eight-shaped electrical outlets. Duplex wall plates are also compatible with combination devices that utilize both an outlet receptacle and toggle switch.
    • Decorator - Decorator wall plates, sometimes also referred to as “Decora,” or “designer” wall plates, are the industry standard these days, and undoubtedly the most common style of wall plate that you are used to seeing. A decorator wall plate features a single rectangular opening, which is compatible with decorator outlets, GFCI receptacles, and paddle rocker light switches. Most unique in-wall devices also fit into decorator wall plates, such as in-wall timers, dimmers, motion sensors, smart switches, and select combination devices.

Screwless Wall Plate Colors and Finishes

Since the attractive appearance is a large draw to screwless wall plates, it is only natural that a wide variety of colors and finishes are available, too. No matter the aesthetic of your home or business, you can find a screwless wall plate to match. Wall plates can be found in traditional home decor colors like black, white, and ivory, as well as more high-end metallic colors such as silver, gold, and dark bronze. In most cases, light switches and outlet receptacles can be purchased in matching colors for a truly luxurious, cohesive look.

  • Matte Finish - Traditionally, screwless wall plates are made from hard plastic with a smooth, glossy finish. More recently, the Rêve Collection from Enerlites has introduced a special matte finish for wall plates, switches, and outlet receptacles. The flat, matte finish has a softer, modern look that is present in the entire collection--this means that every switch, outlet, and wall plate of the same color will always be a perfect match. The matte finish has a softer look and more textured feel that adds a refined touch to any location, be it a home or business. 

When it comes to picking out screwless wall plates, the possibilities are truly endless. In addition to matte and glossy finishes, some wall plates feature a special brushed texture finish. Between all of the unique finishes and the seemingly endless amount of colors available, customizing the look and feel of your space is easier than ever before. Whether you’re decorating a modern home or upgrading a proud business, the safe and stylish finishing touch of screwless wall plates just cannot be beat.

Author: Amanda Ader, 08/23/2021

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