Tired of that giant breaker panel eating up all of the visual real estate in your basement? I was, so I decided to create a visual feature while hiding the electrical panel at the same time!
This laundry room makeover is a multi-faceted project – we’re not talking just a can of paint here…
This laundry room makeover involves:
- painting the unfinished ceiling
- hiding the electrical panel
- painting walls
- adding trim
- in-wall storage
- new laundry tub
- new flooring
- new folding table over washer and dryer
- new accessories, like in-wall ironing board and drying rack
The other day I shared how to paint an exposed ceiling, and today I’ll show you my project for hiding an electrical panel.
Which isn’t really hiding it at all – I’ve actually drawn attention to it – but in an aesthetically pleasing way.
This is what I started with:
I was using a photo backdrop sheet hung from the ceiling to hide the unframed wall – and it was better – but not great.
Problem is, I don’t know how to frame walls.
I finally, 18 years later, I hit up my friend to frame the back wall for me so that I could finally drywall the space.
I’m sure framing is relatively easy, but around an electrical panel was not the place I wanted to attempt my first DIY of it. Better safe than sorry, so I brought in a professional to get it done right.
Is it okay to cover an electrical panel?
No…. and yes.
Covering your panel with a picture, a mirror, a book shelf, or any other object that hides or makes it unrecognizable as an electric panel constitutes a violation of the “readily accessible” standard and IS a fire hazard. ~Fuse-in designs
But covering it so that it is easily recognizable as an electrical panel, and in a way that it can be easily accessed IS okay.
So, I’d say I’m “bending” the rules a bit here. You will know it’s an electrical panel because of the size, shape, mass of wires leading to it, and it will be easily accessible – but it will be *slightly less recognizable. I have taken into account ventilation (breaker boxes need to have air circulating so that there isn’t a heat build-up), but you really shouldn’t cover it with drywall, paneling or other wall coverings. (shame on me)
So now that I’ve pre-empted this with “do as I say, not as I do” – I’ll still share what I did (because I’m really pleased with how it turned out).
After the back wall of the laundry room was framed up, I was able to box in the sides and top of the breaker box with ½” plywood.
These boards are attached to the framing studs in the wall, the exposed ceiling, and into each other with pocket screws. Having an unfinished ceiling gave me the advantage of ventilation space at the upper rear of the cabinet.
Once the shell of the cabinet was set in place, I used pocket screws to attach two face panels – which will hold the cabinet doors.
The electrical panel is not centred between these boards because I wanted symmetry in the finished product. Instead, I took the width of the narrower section and used that measurement for both face panels. I’ll be covering all of this with trim work, so having the pocket screw holes on the face isn’t an issue.
I know – there are far too many pocket screw holes in the bottom of the panels; I pre-drilled them before fitting the panels to the frame I’d built, and my panel frame wasn’t perfectly square, so a second cut down (and new holes) were needed.
Hiding an electrical panel with ½” ply does not give the cabinet a lot of strength. Unlike an ordinary cabinet, it’s not meant to hold anything, just to hide something. With that in mind, I needed a hinge solution that could attach to ½” plywood and bear the weight of the cabinet door. I’m sure there are a lot of options out there, but I went with a piano hinge because it is easily installed, carries the weight throughout the panel and door, and is fairly easily hidden.
(Amazon affiliate link to the item I ordered. For full affiliate disclosure please see sidebar or bottom of the page)
The piano hinges were attached to the front panels first, then I used playing cards to determine the spacing around each door, and then attached them.
It’s not pretty – but it’s coming
You’ll see shortly why I didn’t want knobs or handles on my electric panel cover, so I decided the best option for opening and closing the doors was to use a hole saw and drill a 1 ¼” hole in the base of the cabinet so I could pull the doors open from underneath.
To hold them closed, I added a magnetic door catch. Easy-peasy!
Now comes the prettying part – I gave the electrical panel cover a coat of Onyx in Advance formula from Benjamin Moore.
While that was drying, I went out to the garage and ripped down 1″ x 8″ boards to 1 ½” strips. You can buy panelling, or MDF trim already cut down – but I found this to be the most budget friendly option.
Once they were all cut to width and length, I gave the boards a coat of paint as well.
My goal was not only hiding an electrical panel, but to also hide the opening to the panel so that it looks more like a feature project on the wall. To that end, I started with the first trim board just slightly overlapping the opening between the cabinet doors, and then worked my way out from there. Each board is 1 ½” wide, and I used ½” as a spacer in between each.
Here’s my mistake though, and I’ll disclose so that you don’t as well….
my spacing was *almost perfect; I had the hinges lined up in the ½” space between the trim boards…
but one door wouldn’t open. I hadn’t spaced it “properly” so that the door could fold back on itself without 2 of the boards butting into each other. 🤦🏻♀️
The trim work was glued and nailed onto the electrical box cover, so moving them was not super-simple. I adjusted where I could, but my finished product does have one gap that is larger than the others.
It’s a laundry room and this isn’t a “mistake”, it’s a “distinctive feature”. 😂
I was planning on putting a second coat of paint over the entire thing, but I kind of like the gradations in the wood right now. I can always darken it up later.
So much better right?!
Pin it now so you can refer back when you are sick of wires thinking about hiding an electrical panel.
More to come!
Have a great one!