Renovation & Design

Closing the door on eyesores

A little creativity and customized cupboards help tuck away electrical panels

Marc LaBossiere / Winnipeg Free Press

A mounted 200-amp electrical panel remains hidden in a cupboard, which offers easy access to all of the breakers.

Every now and then, the existing placement of an electrical panel can create a design layout challenge. This past year, two such instances were overcome by using cupboards as a way of concealing the panels, while allowing easy access to the breakers.

While framing the 300-sq.-ft. addition at the Keith Yallits four-season cottage job site near Grand Beach, preparation also began to introduce all wiring required for the new space. Furthermore, the existing 100-amp service would be upgraded to 200-amp. As such, the existing wiring would be rerouted from the 100-amp panel (which would be abandoned), to a newly introduced 200-amp panel affixed to the interior wall, just five feet from the old panel.

The 100-amp panel had been placed adjacent the front door, likely because it was the shortest path to the Hydro pole. This caused an unfortunate eyesore near the kitchen.

In order to minimize wiring rerouting issues, the new 200-amp panel must be placed near the old panel to facilitate the transition once the new 200-amp service was energized.

How could we avoid the same eyesore?

After pondering the cupboard layout for the new kitchen design, I suggested what I had previously implemented at a cottage remodel in St. Malo a few months earlier.

At that job site, the electrical panel was also placed near the kitchen and was not being upgraded nor disturbed. To rid the eyesore, a tall, floor-to-ceiling pantry with retractable drawers was added to the kitchen cupboard layout.

I instructed Richard Rochon at Cabinet Corner to inset the backing of the cupboard by six inches — this allowed enough clearance for the existing electrical panel.

Before formally securing the pantry to both the adjacent cupboards and the wall, an opening — the size of the electrical panel — was cut away to allow access to the breakers and wiring, should the need arise. With the drawers in place and the cupboard doors hung, the pantry serves a dual purpose — it conveniently hides the electrical panel, as well as providing much-needed storage space.

Yallits loved the idea, and the cupboards for the Grand Beach kitchen project were ordered according to the required specifications.

As we awaited delivery, all new electrical wiring was pre-run to the new 200-amp service, and the old lines were transferred to the new panel the same day it was energized. The old panel was then removed completely. Finally, the old eyesore was gone.

Once the cupboards were on site, the lower cupboards were set into position around the entire kitchen.

After securing them to the wall, the upper cupboards were then appropriately hung around the space.

On the far end, next to the fridge, an upright pantry was placed and secured.

A similar, yet less-deep, upright cupboard, which conveniently offset the design, was positioned on the close end of the lower cupboards. This would be the cabinet that conceals the new electrical panel. For this application, Rochon at Cabinet Corner was instructed to leave off the backing of the upright cabinet, but supply backing for both the top and bottom sections of the cupboard cut to slide into each cavity respectively.

By doing this, I could then set the depth of the backing based on the clearance provided by the electrical panel and wiring below, once the cabinet framework was affixed to the wall.

Thankfully, the measurements had been accurately taken — the cupboard frame slid perfectly into position. I secured the unit to the wall with L brackets in a few places, as well as the adjacent lower cupboard.

Once secure, inside measurements regarding the position of the electrical panel were taken and scribed to the upper backing.

A precise portion of the backing was then cut out with adequate accuracy that when the backing was set to depth within the upper cavity, the electrical panel cover, once fastened, would hold the backing in place and hide the cut edges along the backing.

The lower backing was simply pushed into position and hid all remaining wires.

With the doors mounted, the inset upright cabinet, which had been introduced primarily to conceal the new electrical panel, inadvertently became an integral part of the kitchen cupboard design layout.

I know it wouldn’t have been the end of the world if the new electrical panel had remained visible — after all, Yallits had lived with the old one in plain sight for years.

However, by implementing a creative concealment that only required refining the cupboard layout ever so slightly (as well as a bit of on-site customization), Yallits’s new kitchen now promotes an esthetic symmetry, without panel disruption to spoil the flow.

And the extra storage space never hurts either.


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