idea to steal: coffee can lightswitch plates


Here’s a lingering idea from our Earthship visit that I’ve been meaning to share with you: Tin can lightswitch plates. Easily made with coffee or other wide cans, the recycled tin plates work great whether painted to match the wall, or left alone to show the label (if it’s interesting enough). Using an existing plate as a template, lie it on the backside and use a sharpie to outline the switch and screw holes. Then, grab a pair of tin snips and carefully cut them out. It’s a great way to spruce up your walls and recycle at the same time! — Angela M.

From our partners
Mary T

What a great idea.

N. Sayer

Really, this is a totally bad idea. First, it’s difficult to get the holes anywhere near to the right size & shape with tinsnips, and second, even if the back of the coffee can lid is coated (as some, but not most are), there’s no real electrical insulation as there would be with a plastic switchplate or wallplate. Simply too ugly, too much effort, and too much of an electrical hazard to warrant using instead of a standard, inexpensive switchplate or wallplate. IMHO, that is.


metal + electricity = slight problem

N. Sayer was a little jerky about it, but I thought the same thing. It seems like a bad idea to have a metal switch plate cover.

Angela M.

That’s definitely a good concern to be worried about… but I’ve always seen metal and tin switch plates. New ones you buy in decorating stores, or old, pre-plastic ones. Let me do a little digging….

Looks way cute! What is the difference between this and a nickel switchplate, danger-wise? Just wondering – I would not have thought of that (makes me wonder what other kinds of dangerous DIY projects I may have created around the house!


Angela is right – there are a ton of decorative switchplates and outlet covers that are made of all types of metal. As long as your outlet or switch is properly installed and grounded you will have no problems, otherwise it won’t matter if your plate is plastic you could be in danger.

Green Party Boy

The concern about metal plates is easily avoided — use a piece of the plastic lid most coffee cans come with as a backplate….

I make switch plates and outlet covers from old tin cans and they are really cool. I am a tinsmith and the ones I make are formed into covers from the actual tins.

Mary T

And Sarah hasn’t been electrocuted yet! : )

Do you remember the old push button METAL switch plates? I don’t recall any stories regarding numerous deaths and I am sure wiring back then wasn’t nearly as advanced and safe as it is today. I have sold thousands of my switch plates in the US and Canada. No reports of injury yet!


sounds like a great idea.. what’s the consensus is it dangerous,, I tried to find some info.

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[…] in the bathroom to brighten it up in there, but I might need to make some kind of over-sized plate (like this or this one, for example) to hide that terrible paint job around the […]