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Cutting Holes in Drywall for Outlet Boxes

By HHr Staff ~ Colbyt

This is the most daunting task for the newbie. To do it and do it accurately without a RotoZip or drywall router is challenging. We will explain the basic steps for a couple of different methods and at the same time encourage you to rent or buy a RotoZip or drywall router also known as a cutout tool. Cutting the holes for any electrical or recessed fixture will involve the same basic steps whether the board is to be installed on the ceiling or walls.

The Hand Cut Methods:
There are two hand cut methods the first we will discuss is measuring and pre-cutting the hole. When using this method you measure carefully and precut the hole in the hopes the box will be there when you hang the board. This is a great method to use if you want to learn wallboard repair techniques while repairing the mistakes.

The second method that works somewhat better is float and locate. When using this method you determine where the center of the box should be when the panel is installed and mark that location on the drywall board. Then you float (hold) the panel on the wall or ceiling in the correct position and plunge your drywall saw through the panel on the mark you made. If you hit the inside of the box, you then use the saw to find the four corners, move the panel out from the wall or down from the ceiling, trace and cut the opening.

Drywall saws tend to leave fairly jagged edges that require additional prep work before finishing.

The Cutout Tool Method:
This is the preferred method and if you have more than a couple of outlets to cut, buying the tool will be the best move you have made in a while. With your approximate box locations pre-marked on your drywall you simply hang the drywall board and secure it enough to hold it in place. I prefer screws for this step since it is sometimes necessary to pull it back down. Go to the box location and press the board against the wall or ceiling, force the router bit into the drywall at what you think is the center of the box and move to the left or right until you encounter the edge of the box. Then you pull the bit out and move about 1/8" in the same direction and plunge it in again, move in the reverse direction until the box is encountered and simply follow the outline of the box around the perimeter. When completed the plug will pop out and the board will settle against the studs or ceiling joists. This method is also very effective for recessed lighting fixtures. Repeat that process for all outlets or openings in that board and then add all of the remaining screws or nails.

Since a sharp zip bit cuts a clean 1/8" line any minor mistakes can easily be filled with mud.

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