How To Replace An Electrical Outlet

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Replace Electrical Outlet

Using an electrical outlet that has become loose and wiggly can make anyone nervous. There is no reason to continue using one in this condition when replacing one can be done easily. You can also use the same methods, plus a little bit of work involving cutting a rectangular hole in the wall farther away, to add another outlet that is more convenient for you.

Get Your Tools and Materials Together First

You need a circuit tester, which you can buy at almost any hardware store for only a few dollars if you don’t have one already. If you need help in figuring out how to use it, just ask one of the employees.

  • A hard plastic cap nut to close off the grounding wires.
  • Another tool you need is a set of needle-nosed pliers.
  • You also need a piece of copper wire that has no insulation on it to ground the outlet. It should be about 10 inches long.
  • You might need to buy another electrical outlet box and a cover plate, as well. Make sure when you do that the screw comes with either one of them, most often it comes with the cover plate.

Always Play (and Work) Safely Around Electricity

Get the electricity to the area of your home that you are going to be working on shut 0o0ff. You can do this by shutting off the breaker at the box. Flip the switch off and put a piece of tape on it so nobody can easily flip it back on. That is the last thing you need to happen while you are working on this project.


Make sure that you have turned off the breaker for the outlet you are going to take apart and replace by carefully plugging in a working appliance. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you know that it works. Smaller is always better if you need to carry it to where the outlet is located. You need to test both outlets to make sure that it is completely dead. Some outlets can still be live even though the other one is dead, just like one outlet might be controlled with a switch instead of always live.

Once you know that the outlet is no longer supplied with electricity, you can take it apart. Unscrew the cover plate and set it aside if you will be reinstalling it. If you need it soon, you don’t want it to get broken by accidentally stepping on it. Take a good look at the wires inside. You might want to take a picture or two, just to be sure later on during this project.

To Rewire the New Box Without Any Changes (the Simplest Route)

Pull the wires apart gently. When you see two sets of wires, two black and two white, put one white with one black, and then repeat. These two pairs should be made up of wires that come into the box at the same two locations. (BW) and (BW)

One of these two pairs is going to be where the power comes in at, the live wires. The other two wires are capable of carrying electricity to additional outlets farther down the wires inside the wall, or even into another room. However, if you only see one set of wires coming into the box, this box is the last set of outlets on this electrical line.

Test the Wires (Carefully)

Make sure that all of the wires are not touching, and then turn the power back on at the circuit breaker. Use your circuit tester to determine which set of wires has power. Only one set of wires should have power. If not, and both do, recheck the wires to ensure that each pair of wires comes out of the same hole. Make a note, without touching the wires, of which set carries electricity. Turn off the power at the breaker box again and redo the tape.

Get Your Wires Ready

Test the wires again with the circuit tester to make sure the electricity is completely off. This might seem over-cautious, but it is better to always check and know than to possibly get shocked because you switched off the wrong breaker. Besides, it only takes a few seconds to do, so there’s really no point in not protecting yourself with this simple step.

Once you know the power is off, take the needle-nosed pliers and bend the wires’ ends into hook shapes, as well as twisting the wires’ strands a bit to more easily pass through the small holes in the new outlet’s receptacle. If these wires appear damaged or frayed, in any way, trim this part off, pare down the insulation around the wire, and give it a fresh start.

Rewiring the Box (Finally!)

Take the two wires that have the electrical supply and connect these to the terminals inside the outlet box that say “LINE” and attach the set of wires to the terminals that say “LOAD.” As you do this, connect the black wires where the outlet box has gold, brass, or other yellowish colored screws in the plate. You should attach the white wires where the silver-colored screws are located. You need to wrap all of these wires in a clockwise direction so that the screw only tightens the wiring up instead of loosening it.

Now You get to Ground the Outlet

If you have two bare copper wires sticking out of the outlet box, these are where you need to attach the 10-inch long piece of copper wiring. Twist these three wires together and then place a cap nut on them. If you bought a new GFCI outlet box, attach the free end of the copper wire that you added to the green screw. Some outlet boxes are metal and you attach the grounding wire directly to the box instead.

Replacing Electrical Switch

Almost Done!

Reassemble the outlet box together by pushing the wires inside it and then adding the cover plate. Do this gently but make sure no wires are sticking out. Allowing them to stick out also allows them to get pinched and possibly cut, which can be very bad for you and your home. Screw the plate back on and then you are ready to test your workmanship.

Go back to the breaker box and turn the switch back on. Plug in an appliance and see if it works. Now try the other socket. If you’re using a GFCI outlet, make sure you test it to see if everything is working correctly. If the switch is already flipped on the outlet, the appliance won’t come on until you push the red button. You should also test to make sure the black button turns the outlet off.

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