smart box vs dumb box

This is a picture of 2 different single gang electrical boxes. The blue one is what is normally used and these can be easily had at the local home improvement store. Both are made of plastic, but one is infinitely more useful than the other.

The blue box, made by a company called Carlon, is made for old or retrofit work. The way it works: 1) cut hole in wall the size of box, 2) slip box in hole, 3) tighten up the 2 shiny screws on the front. The screws tighten up the tabs to the drywall (or plaster). It works OK. But those tabs are so finicky, it’s sometimes tricky to make the outlet box parallel/level when working with plaster walls. And those small tabs can hardly be enough support, especially if plugs routinely get pulled out and plugged back into the outlet. This motion will sure to loosen the box from the wall or make it out of level.

The gray box, made by a company called Smart Box Inc, can be used for new or old work. The way it works: 1) locate stud and cut hole in wall the size of box next to the stud, 2) slip box in hole, 3) tighten 2 black screws to the stud. Since the box is attached to the stud, it’s nice and secure. It won’t go anywhere. And it’s level (as long as the stud was plumb).

Now Carlon makes a box similar to the Smart Box, but it can only be used for new work. Why? because the box is attached to the stud via 2 nails. You definitely won’t have enough room to hammer the box into place without taking out a BIG chunk of the wall. And what if you want to move a location of the box, or just want to take the box out so you can add/fish more wire to/from the box, you’d have to carefully cut the nails holding the box to the stud with a recipricating saw. With the smart box, you just reverse the direction on your drill gun, and unscrew.

OK, so what are the drawbacks to the Smart Box (vs the “dumb box”)? Well for one, you won’t be able to find it at Home Depot or Lowe’s. You have to check your local electrical supply store. Once you get to one of the supply stores, you have to do the whole runaround with their staff (working with supply stores is an adventure all it’s own). And when you pay for it, you’ll notice that it’s probably twice as expensive as the cheap blue Carlon box.

But if you want to do it right, go with the gray Smart Box.