How To Replace An Outlet

Is your outlet loose? Cracked or broken? Out of style? If you need to replace an outlet, for whatever reason, you could call an electrician or you could replace it yourself. With these seven steps, replacing an outlet is easier than you might think.

Tools You’ll Need: New outlet, new faceplate (if necessary), Phillips screwdriver, flathead screwdriver, wire cutters, wire strippers, power tester, utility knife and pliers.

replace light switch - tools needed

1 - CUT POWER TO THE OUTLET

Before starting an electrical project of any size, it’s imperative to cut the power to that circuit to avoid electrocution. Go to your electrical panel or fuse box to find which circuit to turn off. Always check and double check for safety!

Pro Tip: Many panels are labeled, but some are not. If your circuit panel isn’t labeled, plug a lamp into the outlet and have someone watch it while you try switches. Have them alert you when the lamp goes off. Or, if you’re alone, plug a radio or bluetooth speaker into that outlet with the sound turned up. You’ll hear the radio go off when the circuit is broken. Another option is to use a handheld tester that lights up and makes a sound when electricity is present.

2 - REMOVE THE OLD OUTLET FROM THE WALL

Start by removing the old cover plate, using your screwdriver. If the plate will still fit your new outlet and if it isn't cracked or broken, set it aside to use again. Otherwise, you won't need this plate again. Next, unscrew the outlet from the wall and pull the outlet out of the wall box.

Pro Tip: Occasionally, the faceplate or the outlet can be painted over, making them difficult to remove. You may need to use the utility knife to score the edges of the outlet to break it free and avoid pulling paint from the wall.

3 - DISCONNECT THE OLD OUTLET

Depending on how much wire you have in the box will determine whether to try and unhook the wires or just cut them off. If you have enough wire, I recommend cutting the wire off as close to the outlet as you can and we'll strip fresh wire. If your wires are real short, you may want to pigtail them and make them easier to work with. We made a video to show you how to do that, click here to watch that video .

4 - CONNECT THE NEW OUTLET

Before you reconnect the wires, examine the back of your new outlet. You'll see two labels on the back: white on one side and hot on the other. Your white wire will connect to the white side and your black wire will connect to the hot side. Your bare copper wire goes to the ground screw. On the back of the outlet, you'll also see that you can connect the wires by looping them around the screws on the side or by poking them through the holes in the back. You'll probably also see a recommended length for how much copper should be left exposed to wrap around the screws. Using your wire strippers, strip away the wire's insulation. Bend the copper end into a hook shape and wrap them around the screws.

Pro Tip: Wrap the wire clockwise around the screw so that it forms a snug fit as you tighten the screw. You want this to fit very tight. Loose fittings can cause electricity arcs that could be a potential fire hazard.

5 - REPLACE THE OUTLET

Once your wires are connected and the screws are firmly tightened down, bend the wires back like an accordion and replace the wires in the box. Line up the outlet with the holes in the wall and screw the new outlet into place.

6 - INSTALL COVER PLATE

Screw the cover plate into place, making sure not to over tighten the screw, as this can cause the plate to crack or break.

video play button  VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

How To Replace An Outlet

How To Replace an Outlet Want to know how to replace an outlet? Then you’ve come to the right place. In this video we’ll show you how to safely replace an outlet, the tools you’ll need and how not to get shocked in the process...at least I hope you don’t...come on. There’s a few reasons people replace an outlet: it’s stopped working, it’s broken or worn out, to change the color or style or to increase functionality. We’ve added a navigation at the top so you can easily jump around in the video to the information you need. You’ve got the overview, tools needed to complete the project and of course... the project itself. There’s lots of different colors and styles of outlets, Like this or this or this or this but most of them have a very similar back structure where the wires connect and if you understand some basics, you’ll be ready to replace an outlet. OK, safety first. Electricity is dangerous and you want to be careful. We’ll show you how to make sure the power is off to the outlet you’re working on but check and double check and then check again. Better safe than sorry. Here are the tools you’ll need to replace an outlet: Screwdriver Wire cutters Wire strippers Some kind of tester Utility knife Possibly some pliers And maybe an extension cord and work light New outlet New cover plate Now let’s go replace an outlet I always like to make sure that the outlet I’m replacing is wired correctly to begin with, most are but I’ll be plugging it in anyway so why not double check.

Step 1 - Cut power to the circuit you’re working on

Go to your electrical panel, breaker box or fuse box...whatever you have or whatever you call it and cut power to the circuit. You can plug in a lamp and have someone yell when it’s off. If you’re alone you could plug in a radio and turn the volume up so you hear when it goes off or just walk back and forth to check it. This tester has lights on it so I’ll use this. Check to make sure the power is off. Again, electricity is dangerous and you should always double check that it is off. Here are a couple different tools I’ve used as an electrician to make sure the power is off to what I’m working on. The one that is most convenient is my fluke wand style tester that lights up and makes sound when electricity is present.

Step 2 - Remove the old outlet from the wall

Start by pulling off the cover place, usually held on by 1 or 2 screws. If you don’t see any screws, it might be one of those screwless cover plates that snap on. Just pop it off to reveal the screws you need to remove. Next unscrew the top and bottom screw that connect the outlet to the box in the wall. If your outlet has been painted over, you may want to score the paint with a razor knife to avoid making the paint peel. When you pull the outlet away from the wall, if you have the wand style tester, go ahead and double check the power if off.

Step 3 - Remove the wires from the old outlet

Depending on how much wire you have in the box will determine whether to try and unhook the wires or just cut them off. If you have enough wire, I recommend cutting the wire off as close to the outlet as you can and we’ll strip fresh wire. If your wires are real short, you may want to make a pigtail to extend them and make them easier to work with. We made a video to show you how to do that, click here to watch that video.

Step 4 - Connect the new outlet

On the back of your outlet you’ll see some different things. You’ll notice that one side is labeled “hot/black” and the other is labeled “neutral/white”. You should also see a ground screw. You’ll also see the screws on the sides and maybe some holes in the back. You can connect the wires by looping them around the screws or poking them through the holes in the back. You’ll probably also see a recommended length for how much copper should be left exposed after stripping the insulation away. When I’m replacing an outlet I prefer to loop the wires around the screws so I’ll show you how to do that. After stripping the wire, bend the wire over to make a hook shape. My strippers have a little hole you can put the wire through or you can use your pliers. Once your hooks are made, put them over the screw in such a way that when you tighten the screw it naturally pulls that hook towards the middle rather than pushing it away. Tighten the screws down very snug, not to the point of stripping the screw. Electricity causes tiny vibrations and over time, if the screw isn’t tightened properly it can become loose. When this happens the wire can arc against the screw and cause a fire hazard.

Step 5 - Put the outlet back in the wall

Once your wires are connected and the screws tightened down, you’re ready to put the outlet back in the wall. Bend the wires back in, like an accordion and screw the 2 screws in the holes in the box.

Step 6 - Install the cover plate

Depending on the style of outlet you have, there is usually one screw in the middle or 2 screws, top and bottom that hold the cover on.

Step 7 - Turn the power back on and test

Flip your breaker or screw the fuse back in to restore power. If you don’t see smoke or flames, good job! Plug in the tester or something in to make sure it works. As you can see, with a little information and instruction, replacing an outlet is something you can do yourself. Just be safe and if you ever feel like you have gotten in over your head, stop and call an electrician you trust to come help. If you’ve found this information helpful and informative, click that thumbs up button down there. If there are any other electrical, plumbing, heating or air conditioning projects you’d like to learn how to do, leave a suggestion in the comments below.

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Nov 3rd 2016

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