Wall plates are a type of building material used to cover electrical wiring and devices. Different types of wall plates can be used with light switches, power receptacles, audio cables and even dimmer switches. These plates help to create a finished look for these devices, and also hide wires and cables to help to reduce the risk of electrical shock.
Most wall plates are chosen based on the type of device they are concealing. Light switch covers, or switch plates, are used with both large and small light switches. They may have a narrow hole in the center to accommodate a traditional light switch, or a large rectangular hole to accommodate large, flat switches. A plate designed for use with two switches may be known as a dual wall plate, and other multi-hole plates can accommodate three or more switches. Some combination units may include holes for light switches and other devices, including dimmer switches or power receptacles.
Receptacle plates are used to cover electrical outlets at various wall locations. They are designed to fit over a standard outlet, and are available in single, double or four-way units. Many receptacle cover plates are designed for ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets, and have built-in buttons for testing and resetting the outlet.
Some specialty wall plates are available for use with audio wires, cables and telephone wires. These plates typically have a small hole that's designed to fit around the cable. Some are even available with a split-face design, which means that the top and bottom halves of the plate are installed separately to fit around an existing cable.
Blank wall plates have no holes at all, and are used to conceal wires for future devices. They may also be used to cover old, inoperative outlets or switches. If a new receptacle or switch is added, the blank plate is removed and replaced by an appropriate wall plate.
Wall plates come with pre-drilled holes so they can be screwed directly into the wall framing, or to the electrical device they are concealing. These plates are available in many different finishes, including aluminum, stainless steel, wood and many types of plastic. They are often selected to complement the room's decor, and typically will match other hardware or finish items in the home. These plates can often be painted over to blend in with existing walls. Clear wall plates are available for use with wallpaper, which allows the design of the paper to show through the plate.