Removing Concentric Knockouts from an Electrical Panel

Concentric knockouts (KO's) ready for removal.
Concentric knockouts (KO's) ready for removal.

Dear Mr. Electrician:  What is the best way to remove the pre-punched concentric knockouts in an electrical circuit breaker load center panel without loosening the remaining outer rings?

Answer:  Remove them very carefully.  If you look closely at the way the knockouts are stamped on the electrical panel you will see that they alternate between being punched in and being punched outwards.  You could start with the smaller center KO first, but I usually go with whatever is easier and most convenient for each job.  I use a hammer and an old screwdriver for making the first punch.   Begin the removal by banging it in the direction that it was pre-punched from the factory.   Depending on the manufacturer, some concentric knockouts are easier to remove than others.

Concentric knockouts that have been punched in with a hammer and a screwdriver.
Concentric knockouts that have been punched in with a hammer and a screwdriver.

Once you get it started by hitting with the screwdriver you need to twist it or knock it forth and back a few times to loosen it up.  If you have a good pair of diagonal pliers or a pair of BX Cutters you can sometimes get in there and cut one or more of those welds or the ring itself.  Just don’t try to get it real fast.  Be patient and work it out.  You will feel the knockouts get loose as you move them forth and back.

Inside of an outdoor circuit breaker load center panel with two knockouts punched in a little.
Inside of an outdoor circuit breaker load center panel with two knockouts punched in a little.

For subsequent rings sometimes you can use your pliers to carefully pry the ring halves until they are up enough to squeeze them together and then move the pliers forth and back parallel to the anchor point until it breaks off.  If you try to rock in the other direction it will tend to twist the next ring up.  Just keep removing the rings in the direction that they were punched and you should be fine.

Adjustable pliers squeeze the punched in knockout ring. The pliers are rocked forth and back until the KO is loose.
Adjustable pliers squeeze the punched in knockout ring. The pliers are rocked forth and back until the KO is loose.

In a situation where the electrical sub-panel is recessed in a wall, you can use a long thin screwdriver and stick it between the edge of the wall and the edge of the panel to apply a little pressure on one of the rings from the outside to get it started.

Cutting the punched out knockout ring using BX cutting pliers.
Cutting the punched out knockout ring using BX cutting pliers.

Each electrical manufacturer’s concentric knockouts are different in strength and ease of removal.  Sometimes they pop out too easily and you have a much bigger opening then you need.  Fortunately there are Reducing Washers available in all trade sizes, made to transition from the larger opening down to the size that you need.  If you punch out the wrong knockout, it can be sealed up again using a Knockout Seal.  Both of these items can be purchased online or at almost any local electrical supply company.

The cut concentric knockout can be removed easily.
The cut concentric knockout can be removed easily with pliers.
The completed concentric knockout holes.
The completed concentric knockout holes.  The remaining burrs can be filed down using a half round file.  The arrow points to the jaws of the BX cutters.
BX Cutters after cutting out some concentric knockouts.
My BX Cutters at rest.  If you punch out too big of a hole, you can use reducing washers.  If you punch out the wrong hole, you can fill it with a knockout seal.