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How to Replace an Electrical Outlet: Everything You Need to Know

You plug in your blowdryer after a perfect steamy shower. You've woken up on the best side of the bed, and then, it happens, the blow dryer won't turn on.

You unplug the blow dryer and plug it into the other outlet, still nothing. You press the reset button, still nothing.

You end up blow drying your hair with a hand mirror in the kitchen. But, now you need to handle the outlet in the bathroom.

Here, we tell you how to replace an electrical outlet from start to finish.

How to Replace an Electrical Outlet: Everything You Need to Know

Below are the steps to replace electrical outlets all over your home. We start with the basics first:

Turn Off The Power To The Receptacle

Before you do any sort of electrical work, even if you are just checking something, you should turn off the power from your breaker.

The last thing you want is a broken outlet and a slight electrocution.

Unscrew And Remove The Cover Plate

There are generally two little screws holding the cover plate in place on the top and bottom. Your cover plate could also be held in place by one screw in the middle.

Sometimes people will have painted around the cover plate instead of removing it so it could be a little stuck on.

Use a flat head screwdriver slipped a little under the edge to pry it up once it's unscrewed. Keep working at it until it pops off and set it aside.

Be careful not to pry too hard because plastic cover plates can crack pretty easy. The good news is that if you crack it they are also inexpensive to replace.

Before you go to the next step, use a voltage tester to make sure there is no power running to the circuit.

Press the black lead into the ground slot, the bigger side of the plug, and the red to the smaller side.

You should not receive a reading if the outlet is broken and you've turned off the power.

Unscrew The Receptacle

Now you should see the inner workings of your outlet. Like the cover plate, the outlet is held into the metal electrical box by a couple screws.

Locate the screws and unscrew the outlet, or receptacle, from the electric box.

When you are wiring a plug outlet you want to pull the receptacle all the way out from the electric box before you start fiddling around with stuff.

Note The Placement Of The White And Black Wires

One of the most important steps in how to replace electrical outlet is noting how the outlet was wired in the first place.

When you pull the receptacle out of the box make a note of the white and black wires and where they are connected.

Also, make a note of any different colored wires that are there. It can help to make a small sketch so you don't have to rely on memory later.

Make sure your sketch labels each wire with the color and placement. Rewiring later will now be a breeze.

Remove The Wires

Unscrew the rest of the screws and remove all the wires.

Take care when removing the wires so you don't ruin them. Stretch them out so they remain close to the place you removed them from.

Even though you already have a sketch, this will make it even easier to replace the wires later in the process.

Inspect The Old Receptacle

Have a good close look at the old receptacle.

Make sure the break-off tabs on each side that connect the two terminals together have been removed.

If they haven't been removed skip the next step. But, if they have been you'll need to break the same tabs off your new receptacle for it to fit in the electric box correctly.

Break Off The Tabs

If the tabs are removed on the old piece than you need to remove the break-off tabs on the new receptacle.

Using a pair of needle-nose pliers, rock the tabs back and forth until they snap off.

Now you're ready to install the new terminal.

Attach The Wires To The New Terminal

Now, you need to refer back to your sketch.

The most important part in how to install an electrical outlet in your own home is to make sure it's wired correctly.

Using your sketch as a guide attach the wires to your new terminal carefully.

Make Sure Green Goes To Green

If your electric box contained a green ground wire, make sure the green ground wire is attached to the green terminal on the receptacle.

Place The New Receptacle Back In

Now that all the wiring has been reattached you can place the new receptacle in the electric box.

You want to make sure you do a neat job of this. You shouldn't have to force it in and the wires should tuck nicely behind the receptacle.

Screw On The Cover Plate

Once everything looks even and in place replace the cover plate.

Place the cover plate back over the outlet and replace the screws. Be careful not to over-tighten the screws or you will crack the cover plate.

Flip The Power Back On And Test The Outlet

Go to the breaker and flip the power back on. Take your blow dryer and plug it in.

If you've done your job right it should be blowing hot air right away.

If the outlet still isn't working then you should contact a professional electrician.

Doing Simple Repairs Yourself Saves Time and Money

We hope this guide on how to replace an electrical outlet has been helpful to you.

Learning how to do simple repairs like these around your house can save you so much time and money.

Even if there is a bigger issue, you have saved tons of diagnostic time by trying the simplest solution before calling a professional.

Go through the whole repair and the outlet still isn't working? Let us help you troubleshoot the issue.

Find out more about our family owned and run operation here. We would love to help you with your next renovation.


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