How to Wire an Outlet

Simply put, electrical work is dangerous. If you are contemplating a project that requires complexity or sophistication, we wholeheartedly recommend that you hire a licensed electrician. However, there are some simple electrical repairs and upgrades that are appropriate for the budget-conscious DIYer who is ready to proceed with careful attention to detail. By following these tips, you can replace an old or damaged outlet, or even swap one out for a USB wall outlet. It’s a simple job, and as long as you take the proper precautions and carefully read the steps on how to wire an outlet before you begin, it’s safe.

A word of caution, though: Before you take on any electrical work on your home, it’s a good idea to check your local building codes to make sure your project falls within the scope of work an owner can perform.

Before You Begin

There are certain jobs that are well within the wheelhouse of a seasoned DIYer, and then there are others that are best left to professional hands. How can you tell the difference? A few common scenarios are outlined below to give an idea of ​​what a handy homeowner should be able to tackle (depending on local restrictions of course) and what should be left up to an electrician.

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Add an Outlet

If you want to add an outlet but require When placing a new wire between the new outlet location and the house’s electrical panel, you should call a professional. You’ll need a licensed master electrician, especially since building codes often stipulate that a permit is needed for new electrical work, and in many parts of the country, only a professional can obtain the required permits. In other areas, a homeowner may obtain their own permits and begin wiring multiple outlets after passing a government-administered test.

Wiring one outlet from another outlet

In many cases, it is possible to wire an outlet from another outlet. In fact, if there’s an existing outlet on the opposite side of the wall from where you’d like to add one, the job can be quite simple. In this situation, you can usually cut a new opening, install an electrical box, and add a new outlet without running wires through studs. Just be sure to use a stud finder to locate the studs on either side of the existing outlet, and be sure to locate the new outlet within the same stud bay.

If you’re looking for more outlets in one location, it is also possible to replace an existing duplex outlet, which requires only two plugs, with a quad receptacle, which requires four. This can be useful in a workshop or even in kitchens and bathrooms where two outlets are simply not enough.

In either case, it is important that there is enough capacity on the circuit to accommodate the additional consumption. For 15 amp circuits, the maximum is usually eight outlets or lights. More receptacles than that could draw too much current for the switch.

Converting a two-prong outlet to a three-prong outlet

Old outlet connections Two-prong outlets are not grounded, making them dangerous in the event of a power failure. Without an electrician, it is safe to convert a two-prong outlet to a three-prong outlet only if the electrical box that houses the outlet is made of metal and the wire feeding the box is shielded. If these conditions are met, the box provides ground-fault protection (even if the outlet does not). How can you tell, without opening the wall, if the electrical box meets the criteria? Simple: use a voltage tester. Insert one prong into the shorter slot of the outlet (the “hot slot”), then touch the other prong to the screw that holds the faceplate. If the tester lights up, the electrical box is grounded; you can go ahead and turn the two-pronged one into a three-pronged one. If your outlet box is not grounded, you can still convert it to a 3-prong outlet, but the replacement must be a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter, or GFCI (the kind of outlet with a red button on the front).</ p

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How to Replace an Electrical Outlet

Over time, electrical outlets can begin to look faded or dirty, or the plastic may crack and make the outlet unsafe to use. To keep power flowing where you need it, it’s important to learn how to replace an outlet safely and efficiently. Fortunately, when it comes to electrical projects, replacing an outlet is as easy as it gets.


– 4-in-1 screwdriver- Voltage tester- Needle nose pliers- Lineman’s Pliers – Wire Stripper

STEP 1: Remove power at the electrical panel.

Before proceeding, it is imperative that you remove power to the outlet that is replacing.Go to your home’s electrical panel and turn off the breaker associated with the circuit that supplies power to the outlet in question. After turning off the power to the outlet, use a voltage tester to verify that it is indeed turned off. Insert the tester probes into the top two slots of the outlet. If the tester powers up, you have flipped the wrong switch on the electrical panel and will need to try again. Continue your trial and error until you’re sure the outlet is no longer receiving power.

Don’t have a voltage tester? You can use a lamp instead, as long as you know the lamp works. Plug the lamp into the outlet and if it doesn’t turn on, it’s safe to proceed. This method is inherently riskier, so use it only as a last resort.

STEP 2: Remove the faceplate from the outlet.

Unscrew the faceplate from the outlet. On most faceplates, there is a single screw in the middle. Remove that screw, and the board should come off easily. Next, unscrew the mounting screws that secure the outlet to the electrical box. Finally, gently separate the outlet from the receptacle.

STEP 3: Loosen the wires.

You can now see three wires running from the wall to the outlet. If the wires are attached to screws on the outlet, simply loosen those screws to free the wires. If the wires feed into the holes in the back of the outlet, press the release slot and pull the wires out, assuming they don’t come out on their own. Set the old outlet aside.

STEP 4: Connect the neutral wire to your replacement outlet.

You are now ready to connect the replacement. First, connect the neutral (white) wire to the silver screw on the side of the outlet. Be sure to orient the hooked end of the wire so that its curve is clockwise, the same direction the screw turns as you tighten it.

STEP 5: Connect the ground wire to the replacement outlet.

Attach the ground wire to the green screw, using the technique described above.

STEP 6: Connect the hot wire to the replacement socket.

Attach the hot (black) wire to the gold screw, which is the last one remaining on the outlet housing.

STEP 7: Replace wires into the outlet box and secure the faceplate.

Carefully maneuver the wires back into the outlet box, then screw the outlet to the box using the mounting screws on the back of the outlet. upper and lower. Finally, place the faceplate over the outlet and screw it back on.

STEP 8: Power up!

Go back to the electrical panel and restore power to the outlet you just replaced. Be sure to verify that the outlet installation is successful by testing the device with a voltage tester.

Wiring an outlet from another outlet

Sometimes you find you absolutely need another outlet. Maybe you need to accommodate a new appliance or entertainment device, or you’re setting up a shop. You can often solve this problem by connecting a new outlet from an existing outlet that is on the other side of the wall from where you want to put the new outlet. This project is a bit more involved, but doable for a safety-conscious DIYer.

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– 4-in-1 Screwdriver – Tester -Needle nose pliers -Lineman’s pliers -Wire stripper -Drywall saw -Electrical cable -Outlet -Remodel box (also known as old work box) -Wire connectors

STEP 1: Turn off the power.

Be sure to disconnect power from the existing outlet before doing anything else. Check the outlet with the voltage tester and then go to the electrical panel to turn off the corresponding breaker. Go back to the outlet and test again to make sure there is no power. Once you confirm that the power is off, it’s a good idea to place a piece of black electrical tape over the switch to prevent someone from inadvertently turning it back on.

STEP 2: Power a new wire through the wall.

Place the electrical box face down against the drywall where you plan to install it. Trace along the edges of the box with a pencil and cut along the marks with a drywall saw.

Return to the existing outlet. If it’s been some time since you closed the breaker, retest the outlet to make sure it’s still off. Next, remove the faceplate and remove the screws that hold the outlet in the box. Carefully remove the outlet and let it hang off the side, providing access to the back of the box.

Push the new wire through an opening in the back of the box, feeding enough wire into the box. the wall to reach the new exit opening plus 1 foot. Getting the wire through the opening can be a challenge, so be patient and use a pair of pliers to pry open the tab if necessary. On this same side, cut the new wire approximately 10 inches from the box. Carefully remove the plastic liner, leaving approximately 1 inch of liner on the box.

Note: Be sure to use an “old work,” “rebuild,” or “remodel” electrical box for the new outlet. These boxes have tabs that press the box against the back of the drywall to hold the box in place.

STEP 3: Rewire the existing outlet.

Use the screwdriver to loosen the screws holding the existing wires to the outlet and straighten the clips with needle nose pliers. Use a wire stripper to strip about ⅝-inch of the jacket from the hot (black) wire and the neutral (white) wire.

Cut a 6- to 7-inch length from the spool of electrical wire. Remove the white, black, and ground wires from inside the casing and strip the ends about ⅝-inch. This wire is called a pigtail.

Use the lineman’s pliers to twist the ends of the existing wire, the new wire, and one end of the pigtail into a clockwise twist. Do this in three sets: all the black wires, all the white wires, and all the ground wires. Cover each twist with a wire connector.

Use the needle nose pliers to bend the wires at the other end of the J-pigtail and hook them into the outlet. White turns silver, black turns gold, and the ground turns green. Make sure the hooks are turning clockwise before tightening the screws.

STEP 4: Run the output wiring through the wall to the new location.

Go to the other side of the wall to the space you cut for the new exit. If the new wire is not easy to find, use a wire hanger bent into a hook to pull it out of the wall. Pull it through the new opening and insert the end into the new remodel box. Place the box in the opening and turn the screws attached to the tabs clockwise until the box is secure.

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You should have about 10 inches of new wire coming through the box. Strip the plastic coating to expose the hot, neutral, and ground wires, leaving approximately 1 inch of coated wire inside the box.

STEP 5: Wire the new outlet.

Use wire strippers to strip the sheathing off the ends of the hot, neutral, and ground wires, exposing about ⅝-inch of bare wire. Use the needle nose pliers to bend the ends of the wires into hooks and slide them over the screws in the new outlet. Remember to follow typical receptacle wiring techniques: connect the white wire to the silver screw, the black wire to the gold screw, and the copper wire to the ground screw.

Finally, bend the wires so that they they bend. very well when connecting the outlet to the box. Tighten the screws at the top and bottom of the outlet until it is snug in the box. Place the face plate on the outlet and tighten the screw. Turn the switch back on and test the outlet.

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Final Thoughts

Learning to plug in an electrical outlet isn’t overwhelmingly difficult, and it’s a skill some DIYers will use over and over again. With a little experience and the right safety techniques, adding an outlet for a TV or a new tool or appliance can be a doddle. Just remember to work safely, test and retest outlets before you begin, and follow the instructions above for safe and reliable outlet installation.

FAQs Electrical Outlets Wiring

This may have seemed like a lot of information on how to install an electrical outlet, but some people may need even more. These are some of the most common questions about this job.

Q. What do the different colors of wires mean?

There are many types of wires, and to explain them all you would need an electrical engineering textbook. However, most common residential wiring contains three wires: black, white, and copper. The black wire is the “hot” wire that brings power to the device. The white wire, known as “neutral,” carries current from the device to the electrical panel. The ground wire provides dangerous levels of electricity with a safe place to go in the event of a short circuit or other type of electrical failure,

P. Can you plug a light switch into an electrical outlet?

You can plug a light switch into an electrical outlet, and there are several ways to do it. The switch can be installed between the power source (usually the panel) and the outlet, or in a circuit after the outlet.

To install in-line, simply route the cord through an outlet. and connect the hot wire to the switch so it can interrupt the flow of power, and then continue the hot wire to the outlet and wire normally.

To install the switch after the device, connect the neutral wire in the box as usual, then run a length of wire from the outlet to the switch. Connect one end of the wire to the existing live wire in the box using wire connectors.Then connect the black wire of this length to one side of the switch and connect the white wire to the other side. Finally, go back to the outlet and connect the white wire to the gold screw and wrap black electrical tape around the wire to indicate that it is now the hot wire coming from a switch.

P. How do you ground an outlet without a ground wire?

The easiest way to fix an outlet that doesn’t have a proper ground wire is to replace it with a GFCI outlet. These devices detect ground faults and break the circuit immediately. Install a GFCI in place of the first outlet in the run to provide grounding protection.

Of course, contact a local electrical inspector to make sure this meets local codes.


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