You’ve only read about them, or you may have seen mud rings and not known what they are used for. Before drywall was the industry standard, plaster was the common pre-paint lining for walls. Electricians used a mud ring to protect electrical wiring boxes and blend them into the plaster. Often, they were tapered and meant to go under three layers of plaster—a base or brown layer, a scratch layer, and then a white layer. Though most walls now use gypsum board or drywall, the mud rings’ standards have not changed with the times. They are a safety feature that goes around an electrical box or socket. You won’t always see them in modern homes, but when they’re installed right, you don’t see them at all anyhow. I’ll explain everything you need to know about mud rings, so you understand how to install them. Always check your local building codes first, and never omit something that is required. Otherwise, you could find yourself in a world of trouble if there’s a fire or inspection.
What are mud rings used for? Mud rings are used to cover metal electrical boxes. You often find these in commercial settings, but builders can also use them in residential buildings. When a box is mounted, and before the drywall goes up, your mud ring is placed, and it allows you to mount switches or other receptacles.
How Do You Install A Mud Ring
Mud rings allow you to mount receptacles and electrical boxes, so you might expect that mounting them is a professional electrician’s job. Fortunately, in most areas, if you are a homeowner, you can mount your own mud rings. I will explain how below. First, you’ll need some materials.
I recommend wearing clothing you don’t mind getting plaster dust on. More importantly, always wear eye protection and a mask when cutting into your walls. Additionally, you may want to grab some painter’s tape and a drop cloth to cover the area immediately below where you plan to work. This makes cleanup faster.
Installing A Mud Ring Step-By-Step
To install your mud ring, you will need a mud ring, a drywall ax, a receptacle or plate cover, a stud finder, and a pencil. Make sure your drop cloth and safety equipment are in place before you begin. Using the steps below, you will find that this is a quick and straightforward process. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes plus cleanup.
- Move any furniture away from the area where you plan to work and gather your tools and materials.
- Check for studs. You don’t want to cut into a wall stud, so it’s important to check and verify that your placement is between them. Typically wall studs are either sixteen or twenty-four inches apart.
- Place your mud ring on the wall between studs and mark each corner with a pencil.
- Next, you need to grab your drywall cutting tool and cut a rectangle (or circle in some cases) slightly larger than the marks you put on the wall. You don’t want to leave very much of a gap, just barely enough to place the mud ring inside the hole you’ve left.
- Find the ‘ears’ on your mud ring. The ears are two tabs that spin out and lock your ring in place. Make sure the ears are closed and facing inward, toward the wall.
- Place your mud ring in the drywall and spin the ear tabs to lock it in place. Terminate your cable.
- Place your switch or receptacle cover plate over the opening.
- Stand back and admire your work.
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How To Install Plastic Mud Rings
A plastic mud ring is a mud ring. You don’t need any additional steps or special equipment to install it. Use your plastic mud ring the same as you would use a metal alternative. Always check your building code or consult a professional to determine which is best for your project.
Do You Need To Ground Metal Mud Rings
Whenever you install metal and electricity, asking where it’s grounded is a wise query. Fortunately, in the case of metal mud rings, there’s no need for extra grounding. As it meets the electrical box, the metal ring is automatically grounded.
How To Cut Drywall Correctly Around Mud Rings
Cutting drywall to fit a mud ring can be tricky. When you’ve never used a mud ring before, you may not know how it mounts. Hopefully, I already cleared that up, but how do you get a hole that is exactly right?
The answer is that a good drywall cutting tool should take care of it for you. If you cut to the exact points, you drew at the corners of your mud ring, the slight bit of additional material a drywall cutting tool removes will be enough.
If your cut is a fraction of an inch too small, instead of going in and making a bigger hole with your drywall cutter, consider using a small corner sander to take a minuscule amount of material off the edges. As you practice, you’ll find you get better at getting the holes only marginally larger than the box itself.
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What Is A Plaster Ring
Like a mud ring, a plaster ring is a piece of metal that goes into plaster. While mud rings used to be used in plaster, they typically go into drywall these days. However, a plaster ring is used only for plaster.
According to Encyclopedia2, the plaster ring is cylindrical and made of metal. These are set into ceilings made from plaster to serve as a depth guide. Additionally, plaster rings work as trim fasteners.
If you’re confused and thought a plaster ring and a mud ring were the same things, no worries. Sometimes the term ‘plaster ring’ is used interchangeably with mud ring in electricians’ slang. However, builders indeed used the original plaster ring in the ceiling.
How To Make Sure That A Mud Ring Is Flush With Drywall
So, you know what a mud ring is for, and you need to install them in your home. The next big question is how you make sure they sit flush with the drywall. Unsurprisingly, the solution is to choose the correct size mud ring.
A ring that is too deep or too shallow isn’t going to sit right. Even after you install the cover, it will sit funny and look completely wrong. Some people don’t care, but it’s important to do the job right, especially where electrical work is concerned. More importantly, your inspector might disapprove of mud rings that aren’t flush with your drywall.
Naturally, you might see 1/2 size drywall and assume the 1/2 size mud rings are the way to go. Unfortunately, this is not the case. You need to go down a size to 5/8. The screws that hold your mud ring to the junction box can add roughly an eighth of an inch. That means your 1/2 inch just became 3/4 instead.
Similarly, if your drywall is five-eighths, then you should get a three-fourths size mud ring. When in doubt, get a receipt to exchange them at the hardware store later if you need a different size. Also, remember to double-check the size of the package.
If they’re in a large bin with other similar-sized mud rings, people put things back in the wrong place all the time. It’s not always instantly apparent when you have a slightly different-sized mud ring.
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While you may never need a mud ring unless you build commercially, but a good DIYer knows all the terminology, not just the easy stuff. If you are reading about mud rings in a how-to book, it may be a little dated. That said, it’s always good to know anyway. You never know when you’ll encounter one as you refurbish a home.
A google image search won’t always answer your questions, but it’s a good place to start if you come across a less used part like the mud ring. When in doubt, never throw it out and always assume it’s there for a reason. Ask a professional if you can’t find another source. Some areas require mud rings for residences, and others do not. Always check first, so you don’t need to go back and install mud rings later.
Mud rings are not as common under drywall as they are under multiple plaster layers, but you may still find them. In this case, it’s best to assume you need them unless your building code specifically leaves them out.