View Full Version : Wainscot design that incorporates vents & outlets?

06-22-2008, 03:26 PM
Has anyone designed wainscoting that incorporated things like outlets and cold air return vents in the design? I have a wall that I'd like to do wainscoting on but there is a cold air return duct and several outlets on that wall.

I'm looking for ideas to integrate them as part of the design instead of having them interrupt the flow.

Gary Campbell
06-22-2008, 03:35 PM
I have done this in the past. It involves either a layout that incorporates the existing spacing of those items or moving them to match the panel layout. Then we made a recess for the outlets and grilles about a 1/4" deep if I remember correctly. We then set Decora type recepts and plates flush into the recess. The grilles were custom made and treated the same. Not an inexpensive solution, but elegant. BTW this was a raised panel, style and rail system with a chair rail cap.

06-22-2008, 03:54 PM
I just finished a cherry office with raised panel wainscot panels
surrounding the room.I centered the outlets by removing the electrical boxes and relocating them.The air return was centered also with in the raised section of panel.Since the wall will be covered,I was able to cut the sheetrock to make the


06-22-2008, 09:13 PM
Here are some pics of the waincoting i did. In pic 334 I had 2 outlets and a cold air return. So what i did was cut the wall so i could route the wire from the outlet out to the end of the paneling.
The reason for that was that outlet was controlled by a switch at the door for a floor lamp. I ran the wire up and put in a light at the end of a column.





For the cold air return I made a square box toolpath but routed it with a large roundover bit.

06-22-2008, 11:42 PM
Jack, Truly great work! Do you have any close up pictures of the outlets you would share? I am still in the framing process on our house and this has given me a whole new direction to consider for the main room. I especially like the lamp built into the column, very creative on your part.


06-23-2008, 12:53 AM
In the first picture I had 2 outlets on that wall. The furthest one away I just eliminated and covered up because it was in an area where a cord would cause a tripping hazard.

Originally a door was not there, i put that in for access to the laundry room from downstairs for a shared utility room with washer and dryer.

So I really don't have any outlets on that wall.
However if I was going to put any in I would do it in the area in the picture here.


If you look at the second picture above you'll notice that the bottom rail is 3" tall and the main piece of mdf combined are 1.5" thick. They make shallow electrical boxes that you could mount in that 1.5" depth in the 3" height and by having it down there it doesn't interfere with your design or intrude on your pattern anywhere.

You will have to do a little create carving of your bottom wall plate (2x4) to be able to run your wire but in the end it will look so much better if you do it that way.

06-28-2008, 07:08 PM
Be aware that if you cover an existing electrical box that still has wires in it you will be violating the electrical code, especially if you use the box to splice a longer wire in to reach an alternate location. Splices must be in boxes which must be accessible for future troubleshooting. Also most walls are required to have electrical outlets every 12 feet maximum; the actual requirement is that no spot on a wall can be more than 6 feet from a receptacle unless the wall is less than 2 feet wide. There are exceptions for hallways and there are other requirements as well so don't quote me but if you are going to move or cover outlets you might want to consult a knowledgeable electrician or you local building inspector.

Gary Campbell
06-28-2008, 07:47 PM
To add onto what David says above, I have done some of these projects where the outlets were place "sideways" in the baseboard. This has caused major concern with some inspectors due to the close proximity with the floor and mops etc. To comply, the baseboard height was increased to 8".

Some code juridictions have a minimum distance to the bottom of the outlet along with the spacing. Also, many of the shallow boxes do not include enough volume to be legal for a feed thru duplex outlet.

That is one of my pet peeves with the big box stores... they just sell stuff, even if it's not legal to install it.

06-29-2008, 03:38 AM
rules....we don't need no stinking rules!

The wire was pigtailed, wirenutted, electrical tape then covered with a junction box cover. The wire was routed thru a knockout with a "wire protector". Its been working fine for a year or two.

06-29-2008, 08:21 AM
Wow Jack! I would not take electrical code violations so lightly.

Not to mention the possible loss of life, if a subsequent fire investigation found such a code violation, especially if it was the cause of the fire, you could find yourself in a position to be held liable. Also, your insurance company could possibly deny the claim.

Not sure that is a position you want to be in.

Regarding time, a "year or two" is short compared to the normal life of a residential electrical system. Many electrical code rules are designed to ensure long term safety.

Gary Campbell
06-29-2008, 12:11 PM
The situation that you describe is EXACTLY the reason for the code required access to connections. The newspapers are full of stories of "electrical" fires that are caused by connections that deteriorated, caused heat and resulted in a fire.

An electrical inspector once gave me an analogy about a similar situation: a Jbox is covered up illegally as yours is above. The house is sold. Some 15-20 years later the owners grandchild and family buys the house because of sentimental reasons. A fire resulting from the illegal connection occurs and is found to be the cause.

Even tho we might want to "fudge" some of the code violations in our own homes and justify it by the fact that "it is working fine", you cannot predict the long term implications nor the impact it could have on you personally. The story above is true.

If one is to circumvent the distance rule, please run a new wire, without connections, between junction boxes. At least then an unsafe condition is not built in.

Rules? We do need rules as they are there for a very good reason. You have posted a nice project that you should be proud of. You should post the disclaimer on the electrical work so that someone wanting to do this for themselves will not build in an unsafe condition. Randall's original post asked for ways to incorporate the required elements into the design, hopefully we have not swayed him away from a prudent decision.

06-29-2008, 12:16 PM
The more likely problem is that in 10 or 15 years when the splice fails and you are no longer around to know where to look for it it will be impossible for an electrician to find and correct the fault. The wall will have to be ripped up to find and replace the wire.

I have stopped doing any electrical or plumbing work in any of my clients homes for just those liability reasons and because I know just enough to be dangerous but not enough to really be sure I have covered all the bases. I still do the work in my own home but I try never to cut cut corners with fire or water.

06-29-2008, 05:22 PM
I was being sarcastic...I will change it so as to put it to rest. Thanks for the information.

06-29-2008, 05:28 PM
I would have to agree with following the rules when it comes to electrial work. I also do all of my own, and in the rural area there are no building inspectors to deal with. I am thinking of piping to all of the boxes I will put in the new house. I did it for the shop and it didn't raise the cost that much more.