There are several different functions of switchplates available and can be in a variety of configurations. Such options are: Toggle switches, Duplex outlets, Paddle/GFCI, and Cable hole covers. There are single, double, triple, and quadruple versions, as well as combinations.
Toggle is the most common switch and is used for many on/off switches, such as lights and garbage disposals. It uses a small rectangular cutout in the center of the plate, with two screw attachment points at the top and bottom.
While Toggle is the most common switch, Duplex is the most common outlet. It is used in most of the rooms of your house for plugging in small appliances. This switchplate uses two semi round cutouts. One of these sits on top of the other, with a single screw attachment in the center of the plate between the two cutouts.
Paddle, or GFCI, can either be a switch or an outlet. The Paddle is sometimes also called a Rocker switch. In your bathroom and kitchen, you will most often have a GFCI as your outlet. This plate accommodates the large rectangular cutout the outlets require and is attached with two screws, one at the top and one at the bottom.
Finally, Cable Covers help make cable outlets more pleasing to look at. They come two different ways, depending on the factory. Some function as a cutout that you run a cable wire through. Others have the connector attached and you screw the cable to the back of the connector. You then attach the plate to the wall, leaving a connection available to attach your cable to. They are secured to the wall with two screws, at the top and bottom.
Although these four options may suit your needs, many manufacturers have anticipated other styles of outlets and offer the different functions in a range of configurations. Some include double toggle, double duplex, toggle/duplex, paddle/duplex combinations, and blank plates.
Before ordering, it is also advisable to measure the size of the recessed electrical box in the wall. You can use this measurement to compare it to the switchplate you wish to purchase. Ensuring that the plate will be large enough to cover the hole of your outlet allows for customer satisfaction. Switchplates make an excellent finishing touch to the room and look so much better than the white or almond plastic covers that contractors and electricians install when building homes.