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Stencils Keep Electrical Boxes from Being Lost Behind the Drywall

May 15, 2019
Image Credit


I was walking through a competitor’s construction in Vail, Colorado, admiring the careful workmanship and overall neatness of the job site, thinking to myself, “This is one good builder,” when I kept noticing on the floor, throughout the house, hieroglyphic marks on the floor.

Boxes, circles and numbers. I looked up, and just as I suspected, the pictograms represented outlets, ceiling cans and other rough-in essentials that often end up buried behind drywall. “This builder’s a genius,” I thought.

By marking outlets, hangers can quickly spot a buried box.


So, when I got home, I fired up Google and looked for “electrical symbols stencils.” Nothing came up. I searched every way I could think of to find out where I could buy some of the same stencils to keep my wiring and plumbing from disappearing behind gyp-board.

I found nothing. So, I called Dave Hilb, the builder whose work I was admiring, to ask him, what kind of stencil do you use?

I few days later, I got a reply by email, “I have a good drywaller who does that,” he said.

Wait a minute, the drywall hanger goes around marking all the plugs, switches, cans, and plumbing? I was even more intrigued and went back to the job, when I knew they were hanging, to meet this guy (and maybe steal him).

Lazaro Montes, owner of Montes Construction Services, LLC, in Vail, Colorado shows off his stencils. 

On the Job I met Lazaro Montes, who shyly admitted being the man behind the mysterious marks, and confessed he came up with the idea out of frustration,

Me canse de perder cosas detrás del draivall,”

he told me,

“I got tired of loosing stuff behind the drywall.”

He made a stencil and used spray-paint to memorialize the location of electrical and plumbing rough-ins. To indicate where on the wall a plug or switch might be located, if not at floor height, he would indicate with a number, such as “4” to represent 4-feet up.

The number “4” means the single-gang outlet is four feet from the floor.

6. Several boxes marked. 

This way, Lazaro never loses a can light or buries a box. “Except, sometimes in the garage,” he admitted. I cannot paint the concrete floors in the garage.

Fernando Pagés Ruiz is ProTradeCraft's Latin America Editor. He is currently building a business in Ecuador and a house in Mexico. Formerly a builder in the Great Plains and the Mountain States, Formerly a builder in the Great Plains and the Mountain States, Fernando is also the author of Building an Affordable House and Affordable Remodel (Taunton Press).

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