How to Cut Outlets in Wall Paneling

Elizabeth Knoll

Paneling is an easy wall-finish option for DIY remodelers, as there is no heavy wallboard, tape or mud to deal with. Panels usually come in manageable sections that you either glue or nail to the room's walls. A paneling project can go pretty quickly, until you run into an electrical outlet.

An opening for the outlet must be cut into the paneling before you install it on the wall. This may seem complicated since exact measurements are required. However, with the use of either a washable marker or chalk, you will be able to quickly and efficiently mark the outlet's location on the panel.


If you do not have or want to rent a jigsaw to cut the outlet hole, drill large enough holes near each corner so you can fit the tip of a thin handsaw in and cut the rectangle out by hand.

  1. Turn off power to the outlet from the main power source. Use a circuit tester to make sure the outlet is safe to handle.

  2. Lift the panel onto the wall, covering the outlet. Fit its side tightly against the previously installed panel piece and line up each pieces' top and bottom edges.

  3. Tilt the panel's top edge down enough for someone to reach an arm behind it. Ask a friend to either rub a piece of chalk over the outlet's face or, if the electrical box protrudes slightly, you can trace around its edges with a washable marker.

  4. Push the panel back up tight to the wall and tap its front surface over the outlet's location. Make sure its edge is still tight against the panel next to it. Lower the panel from the wall and flip it over. The chalk or washable marker should have left an imprint on the back of the panel.

  5. Draw a rectangle around the outlets, if you used the chalk method. Make the rectangle extend 1/2 inch past the outlet imprints on all sides.

  6. Lay the panel on two sawhorses, with the backside facing up. Cut out the rectangle with a jigsaw.