How to Replace an Electrical Outlet. Seriously, YOU can do this.

Sometimes you become immune to the ugly stuff in your house. Like old, gross electrical outlets.  Fear not.  There’s nothing scary or hard about it. You CAN replace an electrical outlet.  This tutorial walks you, a homeowner, through how to replace an electrical outlet in a real life situation.

White brick wall with wide white baseboard, dark brown, paint splattered old electrical outlet in the middle of the baseboard.

Jump right to the Quick View Tutorial.


Isn’t she a beaut?  The elegant lines, the contrasting colour that makes her stand out and demand attention in the middle of the baseboard, the paint artfully slopped all over it.


At least it’s near the ground.  When I first moved into my house the majority of the outlets were 3 feet off of the ground, waist level on the walls for some reason.  I suspect the previous owners had no knees.

I’ve wanted to move this plug closer to the corner of the room as opposed to being in the middle of it for ages but … well I  just haven’t had time in the past 18 years. You know how it is.

I finally gave up on the bigger job of moving it and resolved to at least change out the receptacle to something less bossy.

I am a firm believer that you shouldn’t do anything around your house that has the potential to kill you. Things like roofing work, installing an electrical panel or running on newly waxed floors while wearing socks.

But this?  Replacing an electric outlet.  That?  THAT you can do without fear of death.


How to Replace an Electrical Outlet.

1. TURN THE POWER OFF to the area you’re working on. Better yet. Just cut the breaker to the whole house if you aren’t sure about which breaker or fuse powers the outlet you’re working on.

Electrical panel with one breaker turned off.


2. Remove the face plate to the electrical outlet.

Removing ugly brown, paint splattered face plate from outlet in white baseboard.


3. Remove the electrical outlet from the box by unscrewing the visible screws.

Unscrewing brown electrical outlet from box in white painted baseboard while cute Burmese cat looks on.


4. Pull the outlet away from the box.

Old,dusty electrical outlet pulled out of wall with wires still attached.

Seems I got paint splattered on more than the receptacle. Heh. I’ll deal with that later.

Don’t even ASK me when this outlet was originally installed but there were some issues. For some reason the ground wire was broken.  It either happened as I pulled the outlet out or happened when the outlet was originally pushed in.  Either way it needs to be fixed.  I’ll get to that.

See? This is what happens in a real life situation as opposed to a sterile instructional video.


5. Remove the wires from the old outlet by unscrewing the screws they’re wrapped around slightly.  Just enough so that you can slip the wires off.

Blue screwdriver unscrewing black wire from brass screws on old electrical outlet.


6. Throw that sucker out.

Old electrical outlet in palm of hand in front of now empty electrical box and bare wires.


7.  Now is the time to talk about the scary GROUNDING WIRE, which everyone seems confused by.  Here are the two things you need to know.

a) The ground wire needs to be grounded to the box, AND

b) The ground wire needs to be grounded to the outlet.

First, how do you recognize the ground wire?  It’ll either be the green wire, or a bare copper wire.  One of the two.

Before installing your new outlet you would wrap the ground wire around the grounding screw at the back of the metal box and then bring it forward to the receptacle.


Shot of inside of electrical box, focusing on the box grounding screw at the back of the box, to the right of where the wires come in.


Since my grounding wire is broken I’ve had to do something a bit different.  I’ll have to make the two independent wires work together as one.

8. I’ve created a loop in my stubby little grounding wire with pliers. Luckily it’s just long enough to wrap around the grounding screw.

Electrical wires coming into electrical box, with ground wire bent in a U for placement over the ground screw.

See that hole in the back of the box that the wire is coming through? There should really be a Romex connector there so the wire isn’t rubbing the sharp metal edges. I didn’t have one and wanted to continue with the post, so continued on without it for the time being.

End of copper wire bent in the shape of a U for placement over ground screw.


9.  Then I created the same loop on the longer, broken off part of the grounding wire.

** if my copper wire had been a tiny bit longer the better thing to do would be to use a 2 port Wago like this to attach the wires.**

Grounding wire secured to grounding screw at back of electrical box.


10. I looped the shorter grounding wire around the grounding screw and then I looped the longer grounding wire around the screw so everything was touching.  As long as the two grounding wires were touching behind the screw, I knew I’d have a completed circuit.

REMEMBER this was an anomaly because my grounding wire was broken off very short.

Most people will have a longer wire that will easily loop around the grounding screw in the box with enough left over to attach to the new outlet.


11. Get your new outlet and face plate ready.

Old, brown, paint splattered electrical outlet laid on wood floor, above new, white electrical outlet.

I like the snap on face plates that don’t have a visible screw to hold it on.

12. Attach your wires to the new outlet.


Shot of new electrical outlet held in a hand, showing the brass screws on the side.

– Your outlet will have one side with brass screws.  The other side will have silver screws and a green screw for the ground wire.


Shot of new electrical outlet held in a hand, showing the silver and ground screws on the side.


Attach your wires like this:





New white electrical outlet with white wire secured to silver screw and ground wire secured to green screw.

See how there are two silver screws?  It doesn’t matter which one you use.  So don’t fret over it.  Just pick one. Try to do a little better than I did with the exposed copper wire though. The least amount of it should be exposed as possible. More should be under the screw.  (This doesn’t matter on the grounding wire as it doesn’t conduct any electricity)


Hook your wires so they are going  in the same direction as the screw is when turned to tighten. This will help clamp the wire down as opposed to pushing it off.

New electrical outlet with black wire secured to brass screw.

See how there are two brass screws?  Again, it doesn’t  matter which one you use. Just pick one.

Also notice I did a better job of having less of the bare copper wire exposed.


13. Carefully push the new outlet back into the box.

Gently pushing new electrical outlet into electrical box in white baseboard.

This shot here nearly BLEW the minds of some electricians who read this post when I first published it. Why? Because I haven’t wrapped the outlet in electrical tape. Some electricians (this is kind of a polarizing issue) wrap any outlets that are going into metal boxes with electrical tape.

This covers the metal screws and therefore prevents them from ever accidentally coming into contact with the metal box. However, there are other electricians who are just as adamant about not using electrical tape.

14. Rescrew the outlet into the box.

Screwing new white electrical outlet into white, wide baseboard.


15.  Cover with the face plate and you’re done.  Just turn on the power again and watch the room light up.

White painted brick wall with wide white baseboard and new white electrical outlet.

And just like that you know how to install an electrical outlet.

Here’s a quick rundown without pictures so you can quickly check it for when YOU replace your hideous electrical outlet.

How to Replace an Electrical Outlet.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Difficulty: Easy(ish)
Estimated Cost: $5

Step by step instructions on how to replace an electrical outlet.


  • new electrical outlet


  • wire strippers or scissors
  • Screwdriver


  1. Turn power to the outlet OFF.
  2. Remove the face plate.
  3. Unscrew and pull out the old outlet.
  4. Remove wires from the old outlet.
  5. Attach new outlet.  White wire to silver, black wire to brass, Ground wire to grounding screw at back of box and then to green screw on outlet.
  6. Gently push the outlet back into the box.
  7. Screw the new outlet in place.
  8. Attach new face plate.
  9. Turn power back on and bask in the glow.

Now that you’re an electrical outlet expert, you might as well learn how rewire a lamp.

There’s only one question left to answer.  No. I am not likely to wash the paint off of my floors in the near future.  Not in the next 18 years anyway.

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  1. Pete says:

    Its all good. I have to say, the first couple decades, I was so focused on doing everything and not asking for help that I would avoid topics of accessibility just to “fit in”, at least thats what I thought in my head. As I get older in this chair, I am realizing that I need things to be accessible if I want longevity. Not only that but by advocating for myself, I am helping many others who may not speak up. Anyway, I tend to be long winded so thats that and thank you for the reply. Best wishes and luck on future projects!

  2. Pete says:

    Great post! One thing I would like to add in response to the outlet heights as a couple people responded with confusion. Being a paraplegic from a logging accident twenty years ago and left paralyzed from the top of my abdomen down, I have zero core muscle control and in turn, very poor balance. This is very common of paraplegics. Due to this, it is hard on our bodies to bend over to reach an outlet so universal/adaptive design suggests that outlets and switches are installed at the height you speak of as it allows wheelchair users to use an outlet while sitting in our chair. Hope that helps:)

    • Karen says:

      Good point!!! Not being a paraplegic I wouldn’t have thought of that. I have a scar on my hand from cutting kindling but that really hasn’t inhibited me at all from plugs. ;) ~ karen!

  3. Clint says:

    What if I don’t have a grounding wire in my outlet? My house is old, and I want to replace the outlet in my room. How do I do it if there are no grounding wires?

    • Sheena says:

      I would strongly recommend having grounding wires installed in your home. It’s an important safety feature to prevent electrical current from finding ground through YOU.
      If you must replace the outlet for aesthetic reasons, I would recommend replacing the the outlet with another two-prong outlet, not a three-prong outlet. This way someone doesn’t assume that the outlet is grounded when it actually does not have this safety feature. You won’t be able to plug in three-prong plugs without an adaptor, but at least you’re not pretending your outlet is grounded when it’s really not.

  4. Gary says:

    Thank you! I knew this wasn’t hard but had never done it myself. Reading through your instructions made it very easy. Of course, I had white/black/red wires and a light switch. I saw the red was attached to the light switch and plug, so I assumed it was the power. Nope, breaker flipped. So, confident in my skills, pulled it back out switched the wires and BAM, all good!

  5. David Henry says:

    Madison electric boxes are my favorite products. I’ve been using these boxes for years. They are built solidly and intelligently, especially, they are easy to install in new construction or retrofit.

  6. David Henry says:

    Thanks for sharing a great and very detailed post! I used to very struggle with that but now I know how to replace the outlet

  7. Lou Willie III says:

    I am replacing a outlet that has 2 screws on each side to presumably feed to the next outlet. The new plug (with USB ports) only has 1 screw on each side. Can I connect both wires to the 1 screw?

    • Newp. says:

      NO! One contact for one conductor, unless explicitly designed otherwise. You will need to make “pigtails” using some wire of the same composition and gauge and the existing wiring, and appropriate wire-nuts. Considering that you needed to ask this question, I strongly, strongly, with all my heart, ask you to hire a professional to do the job. When working with household wiring you are not only taking your own life and property into your hands, but also the lives of all others who enter your home.

  8. V Cody says:

    This instructions and pictures provide the best help for my 1st try replacing 2 outlets. My caveat is our house hass aluminum wiring so we are using copper/aluminum 15A rated outlets. A male family member had bought copper only outlets but we discovered the issue in time and obtained the other outlets. If a house has aluminum wiring and GFCIs are being installed the GFCIs are only for copper wire directly but there is a safe-work-around. Not swearing to this, just saying if aluminum please research further.

  9. P says:

    I used to do this stuff a long time ago, but then I remarried and my husband did, now that he is gone it seems as though everything is needing to be replaced. I can do this, thanks for the Black to brass, I can remember that.

  10. whitequeen96 says:

    Thank you so much for this post! Very informative. I’ve been looking at an outlet I want to replace, have even bought the parts, but was just too nervous. You are both empowering and inspiring!

  11. Doug says:

    When cutting power to the outlet, check BOTH sides with a plug-in lamp or voltmeter. Occasionally, you may find each side of an outlet is controlled by a separate breaker. Only made that mistake once! Also, keep that in mind if you are labelling and documenting circuits.

  12. Peter says:

    Some old electrical outlets will only have 2 hole receptacles for plugs without a ground pin. Do not replace an old outlet like that with a new standard 3 hole receptacle.

    • Kerry says:

      I was just thinking about attempting this in the next couple of days at a friend’s house that my husband and I built a wall to add a bedroom off the living room. It’s an old house with only 2 hole recepticales. I was only got ng to replace them with the standard 3 hole, no GFI or anything like that. Our friend told us he still has knob & tub!
      This made me question the situation.

  13. Parker McCoy says:

    The outlets were three feet off the ground? Good lord. Haha. I’ve never heard of that before. I bet it would be easy to plug things in, though if you’re sitting near one of them. Let me plug in my phone charger. I don’t even have to move! Haha. Very informative and inspiring post as always. Thank you for sharing!

  14. billy sharpstick says:

    (From a retired electrician who has found that wisdom and experience is the result of years of ignorance and screwing things up in every way possible!) DO NOT use those easy push in wire holes on the backs of outlets. Always use the screws.
    It can help prevent corrosion to use anti-corrosion grease on the connections, or a dab of vaseline is just as good(This is also helpful in devices that use batteries)
    Most newer boxes are plastic(usually blue) and obviously do not require grounding to the box.
    For the OCD readers, the outlet is slightly crooked. When you tighten the mounting screws, they are usually into the center hole, which is elongated and allows some tilt to level it before tightening.
    Once you are finished, there should be no play or movement and the plate should be tight on the outlet. If there is wallboard, the “ears” on the outlet will be against the drywall and there will be a gap between the outlet and the box. There should be no play here. Sometimes you may have to place some shim material to make that space solid, especially if the wallboard or plaster has been damaged.
    After the breaker is off, make sure there is no power at the outlet. You can plug something in and see if it lights. Then touch a screwdriver across the 2 sides. Then, when you touch anything metal there, touch it firs with the back of your hand. If it’s hot, your muscles will contract and pull AWAY from the wire, not pinch it(done that!) There is also the possibility of a “backfed neutral”. That is when the white neutral wire is shared among 2 or 3 circuits. If something is plugged in and on on another circuit, some lower current power can come back to the neutral at the “off” outlet.

    • Idaho Girl says:

      Thanks Billy, for the added wisdom – I will definitely add the back of the hand touch to my arsenal! During the past month I’ve been replacing 60 year old outlets and switches with Decora ones and screwless faceplates, and I’m in total agreement with Karen, they look so much better.

  15. JF says:

    thank you, Karen, I now have My Project for this weekend — if it goes well, I may just go crazy and replace ALL the ugly, broken, loose outlets in my home — WACKINESS!

    ONE question — do I have to have a cat nearby to assist? If I don’t own a cat, may I rent one?

  16. Ellen Hatcher, Savannah, GA says:

    When I moved into my 1953 house in 2001, there were fuses in the box and several boxes. I hired an electrician to replace the fuse box and “centralize” control in my garage. Then I turned on every overhead light in the house, and a lamp into every outlet. I methodically switched off each circuit and recorded the lights and outlets controlled by that circuit. That was the best thing I ever could have done. Now I know where the body is buried when I need to work on a switch. This record is stored in my computer and several other places. It was a bit of work, but oh so worth it.

    • billy sharpstick says:

      I would then make up 2 charts, one in numerical order and one in alphabetic. A spreadsheet will make that easy. You can also write the circuit number on each outlet in fine sharpie. If you think that’s ugly, you can write that under the plate.

    • carswell says:

      I did that with my place. There is a list with all the breakers numbered and what they control hanging from my box.

      You are right – soooooo worth it.

  17. Etta says:

    If The outlet is several rooms away, plug in a radio…that way when you can’t hear it you know you’ve shut off the proper switch. Radio in one socket…lamp in the other…all’s good. Saves a lot of walking back and forth. Then mark those switches !

    • Karen says:

      The radio is a great idea! Most people turn a lamp on but you still have to run to wherever that room is to see if the lamp is on. :) ~ karen!

  18. Alison says:

    When I go to buy the new outlets at the store, how do I pick what amp I need? I have white and want to change to black on a dark wall–so I have two spots that need outlets and one that’s a wall switch. I see some outlets are residential vs commercial and 15 vs 20 amp and I don’t know what to buy (I assume I don’t have a choice with a switch and just choose the right size?). Thank you!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Alison! In general it depends on where the outlet is located. In most homes there are only 20 amp outlets in the bathroom. (protected outlets) The rest of the house will have regular 15 amp outlets. It’s O.K. to put 20 amp outlets elsewhere too, but you have to make sure that the circuit is also 20 amps. Make sense? The moral of the story is just replace the outlet with what’s there now. If there’s a 20 amp there, replace it with a 20 amp. If there’s a 15 amp, replace it with a 15 amp. (this is assuming the person who put in the original outlets did it the right way). ~ karen!

      • Alison says:

        Thank you, Karen!! So helpful and I won’t look helpless when I go to the hardware store! I see that mine are 15 amps, so I will purchase that. Is there a difference between residential and commercial?

        Also, I took the plate off my wall switch and don’t readily see anything to give me a lead on that: on the hardware website some say 15 amp and some say 15/20 amp. It also looks like some rockers say 3 way. Any suggestions on how to properly choose one of those?

        Final question (sorry!): have you ever swapped an outlet for one with an added USB port? Does that take extra steps to install or could we buy one of those and follow your steps in this blog post?

        • Karen says:

          If it’s just in the house and not in the bathroom it’s a standard 15. If it’s in the bathroom it’s 20. You can also tell a newer 20 because one of the slots looks like a “T” instead of looking like a simple straight line. If you’re really worried, just turn your power of (basically the most important thing :) ) , remove the receptacles you want to replace and take them to the hardware store with you. One of them will be able to tell you exactly what you need to replace it. But if it’s just a standard receptacle that you’d have in your bedroom or living room lamp plugged into, a standard (residential) 15 amp receptacle is what you need there. I’ve never installed a receptacle with a USB port (although I have looked at them!) but I would think they’d wire exactly the same. You’re just adding another place to plug something into it, not adding a separate port to plug into that’s powered all on its own. Make sense? ~ karen!

      • Brian says:

        I may be jumping the gun on this and maybe someone has answered this already. You can use a 20A outlet on a 15A circuit but not a 15A outlet on a 20A circuit. There are some older circuits that require a ‘split’ receptacle such as kitchen counter or a room where half the outlet is switched to control a table lamp etc. These will ‘usually’ have a 3 wire (red,black, & white)+ ground. The kitchen outlets should be protected with a double pole breaker or 2 separate breakers with a tie handle between them. Using your photo above on the brass terminal screws there is a small jumper between the screws. Using a pair of needle nose pliers simply break off the tabe to create 2 individual outlets. Leave the silver jumper intact.

        • Brian says:

          oooops my bad. Please disregard the part about 20A and 15A outlets and circuits. Even though a 20A outlet on a 15A circuit would work the possibilty of a fire hazard exists. All circuits should be rated @ 80% of the breaker rating.

    • billy sharpstick says:

      When putting in new circuits, i always make them 20 amp. 20 amp circuits require 12 gauge wire(instead of the smaller 14 gauge wire that 15 amp circuits use)

  19. Sandy says:

    How do you know which wire is which when you have a cloth covered wire. I was changing the outlets in my house and in the living room, the outlets had only 2 wires. House was built in 1949. I replaced them exactly to the new outlet (no ground wire). Now only half the house has power. I don’t know if I connected them correctly or a circuit blew when I turned the power back on.

    • Emily Amacker says:

      What ever happened? I just replaced outlets in the study where there were only 2 wires exactly as it was on the old outlets but I did not see an extra wire so I guess there is no ground wire- so now power not working in there… I do not know if I should buy new outlets that dont have that grounding or hire someone to install grounding wire? Or did I blow the circuit?

  20. Emily says:

    I wish I could better express how grateful I am for this post. All three of my grounded kitchen countertop outlets stopped working, and local electricians were quoting me upwards of $250. I’m currently unemployed, so that was hard to swallow. Thanks to your super clear walkthrough, I was able to replace them for so much less. But more importantly, I think my dad—who would have been the one to help me if he were still around—would be so proud of me for doing it myself. I’m glowing in more ways than one thanks to you!

    • Lynn says:

      I had that same thing happen to me , it turned out that the outlets in the kitchen had a little sliver of metal that would shutdown all of them if more than one was in use at once…. Rather stupid in a kitchen I think, but maybe that’s just me wanting toaster and kettle going at same time…
      Once that little sliver was removed I had no problem. Same electrical friend also helped figure out why door bell only worked occasionally. They had it wired to the mechanical room light so that it only worked when light was one.
      Builders are not what they use to be … neither are inspectors as far as I am concerned.

  21. Penny says:

    You would do well to read the comment left lower down the page by Tim. It demonstrates very well how a man can add a HELPFUL comment, without sounding like an arrogant, condescending arsehole.

  22. Alena says:

    Hi Karen,
    I can’t believe how behind I am – I am reading this post on March 1st!
    Nice article. I had no idea there are snap-on face plates. Will hit Home Depot on the weekend.

    Two comments:
    1. It really bugs me that the outlet is a bit askew. Is there no way to fix that? (I can’t help – that’s my own ‘ wiring’ at play here – I just like everything plumb and square [it’s a disease!]).
    2. Could you write a post on how to fix the cracked finish in between the floor boards? If you zoom in on the photo where you comment on the splatters on the floor – it shows there very nicely.

    I think there is one fugly outlet in the basement – I will try to replace it following your instructions!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Alena, Cracks between the wall and the baseboard can be filled with caulking. But between the floor and baseboard or quarter round there’s always going to be a crack if it’s wood against wood. Seasons change and the wood shrinks and swells. Humid = less crack, dry = more crack. ~ karen!

  23. martina says:

    You’ve inspired me! This morning I didn’t feel like waiting (& paying) for a plumber to come to relight the pilot in my gravity furnace. So I figured it out and did it my damn self. I felt like a total bad-a$$! Thanks for helping me feel like if those dummies can do it I can too.

  24. Bernard says:

    One VERY important thing to do after flipping the breaker …. and perhaps I missed it in the how-to or the comments…… and this especially goes for older structures:
    PROVE IT….either plug a reliable tool or appliance into the socket or use a voltmeter or multimeter to ensure there is not a volt of electricity coursing through that terminal.

    • Dave says:

      Plugging into both sockets is a good idea, too, if you don’t have a meter. Usually /3 wiring to outlets is reserved for things like kitchen counter-top outlets, but long ago I got zapped because someone had wired two circuits to a split outlet in the middle of an upstairs hallway. To code, those breakers would have had to be tied, but they were not and I was a naive university student who didn’t think to check the second socket.

  25. Cathleen clark says:

    I need this. Thank you Karen.😘

  26. Beth says:

    Please add to the instructions to check that BOTH plugs have no power before starting. We have outlets that are on 2 breakers, breakers that were mislabeled…

  27. Great! Loved this! Exactly what I needed! Two questions…

    1. Why are there two brass and silver screws if we only need one of each? What would we use them for?

    2. I have outside electrical outlets that don’t work. Confirming your directions would be the same when I try to replace them this Spring. Can’t see why they wouldn’t be the same, but thought I would ask.

    Did I say…THANK YOU! 💕💕💕

    Now…on to the lamp instructions! ☺️

    • Jenna says:

      If the outside outlets are the only ones not working, you probably have a GFCI breaker tripped. It’s happened to me in two different houses. The one that controls my outside sockets is actually located in the garage. All I had to do was push in the external breaker and BAM! Lights on.

    • billy sharpstick says:

      The two screws are so you can daisy chain on to the next outlet. You can also break off the tab on the hot side and have two circuits on that outlet. This is often used when one of the sockets is used for a floor lamp that is switched by the door of the room, leaving the other one always on.

  28. Mary W says:

    Well here in Florida almost all plugs are in the wall about 3 foot up. I’ve never actually seen one in the baseboard before except once in a very old house. Maybe they didn’t want to mess up nice wallpaper and thought it was easier just to go through the wood. I do think having them very low is a great idea since the cords won’t show as much. I’ve even seen them a couple times in the hardwood floors which is really weird but maybe when they finally got electricity, that was the easiest way to get wired – crawl under the house and up through the floor – we rarely have basements in Florida, also. It would be filled with water and snakes and maybe an alligator but positively would be covered in black mold. Just like spiders, I always slam the magazine or book shut if one turns up in a picture – but for some reason, I didn’t skip your post today – I’m terrified of electricity and spiders. I do so admire how you operate and can just see you as Scarlet ripping the drapes off the window and making a gown from it. You are certainly the deluxe emporium for blog readers – something for anyone. I did change the switch covers once to get white so I could paint them and was so scared the whole time I would slip with the screwdriver and it would touch something shocking – but was so happy that I did the job.

  29. ES says:

    THIS is what I love about you Karen.
    You are the one who puts their arm around my shoulders and says, “Sure you can: here’s how.”
    Your tutorial on sheetrock anchors made possible the large heavy mirrors in my bathroom & closet, and the wire shelf systems above the washer/dryer, and in closet – all installed single-handedly by lil ol’ moi.
    This one will be utilized in the kitchen where the counter outlet faceplates coordinate with the rustic copper tile backsplash, but the outlets themselves are high contrast almond plastic.
    Thanks, Girlfriend.

  30. Tarra says:

    Thanks for another great electrical post! I have a room full of wallplugs that need switching out to white.

  31. Tim says:

    Two things you may want to add: check the outlet with a tester before and after you turn off the breaker or fuse. No tester? Use a lamp. If the outlet does power on,. Look for a wall switch or other obvious reason. If it has other issues (swapped wires, no ground, etc…) before you start, then maybe call an electrician. Then flip the breaker and recheck. Always always always recheck. The breaker may not be labeled correctly, or someone could have tied two circuits together (not code, but surprisingly common) and your outlet could still be live!

    While you have the outlet out of the wall, carefully inspect the wire and wire insulation for corrosion and cracks, also make sure it is copper, not aluminum. If aluminum, you will need special outlets to prevent corrosion and eventually fire.

    Finally, after turning the power on, check the outlet with the tester again. If GFCI, test the fault protection feature, too.

    Great post though, just wanted to add some additional safety tips in there too.

  32. Linda H says:

    Speaking as someone who replaced all the switches and outlets in the house (they were ivory. I wanted white, plus all the outlets were installed with the ground on the top rather than the bottom as is standard these days) I’d like to suggest that as you find out which breaker works for each outlet/switch you mark it on the inside of the cover plate. Saves time if you need to mess with it again.
    Naturally you still check to be sure there’s no current before boldly grasping any wires. I use one of those little detectors that lights up if there’s a current and then touch first with the back of my hand because I’m really paranoid about electrocuting myself. I also prefer to work when there’s someone else at home to call 911. (Did I mention that I’m paranoid about electricity?)

  33. linda in illinois says:

    Bravo Karen!

  34. Jenny says:

    We’ve been slowly changing out our outlet covers, too–it really makes a difference to go from old dingy almond-colored outlets to fresh white outlets/light switches! I’ll be honest, I usually hold the flashlight/screwdriver/screws for my husband while he does the nitty-gritty, but I think next time I’ll insist that I do the hands-on work.

  35. Ev Wilcox says:

    Thanks Karen! I have waited actual YEARS for that kind of work when spouse would not get it done. Now that he can’t do it, I can wait till he is busy elsewhere and do it myself and he won’t even know. No need to to hurt his feelings, but no need to wait either! Thanks!

  36. Susan Claire says:

    I don’t mess with electricity. First step is turning off the power, and that would involve opening the fuse box-nope, not going to do that. I will gladly pay for the nice electrician man to come over and risk his life. More power to you Karen (hah!) for showing us how, but I think I’ll sit this one out.

  37. Thera says:

    Handy trick if you don’t know which fuse is which (renter with an unmarked box), plug a lamp into the socket you are replacing and turn it on, when it turns off you have the right fuse!

    • Unknown says:

      This works but you need to check BOTH terminals with a voltmeter or stick in a reliable tool, before you touch anything.. an improperly wired circuit breaker could cut a neutral instead… of course even if neutral is cut that will make the lamp not work, but the source wire is the one that actually shocks because you act as a neutral, if you ever touch a live one.

  38. Sabina says:

    Bravo! I’ve replaced all my switches and outlets over the years too but when it came to the GFCI I cried “uncle” and asked for help. Too many wires on that sucker for me!

    PS – there’s been a recall on some Instant Pots for melting and starting on fire. I thought of you!

  39. TucsonPatty says:

    I need a light switch changed out (why would that break? Weird.) and have been nervous about trying to do it myself. I am one of those people that thinks there is left over electricity hiding inside that lamp or outlet or switc, even when the power is turned off. It will jump out and get me. I know – not possible, but I do lots of other scary stuff to make up for that fear. Thanks for making this look simple enough for me to take care of my problem.

    • whitequeen96 says:

      What? You mean the electricity WON’T jump out and get me if the power is turned off? I don’t know . . . Why does the light stay on my re-charger for my phone even after I unplug it? Anyway, twice (TWICE!) I’ve managed to shock myself because I THOUGHT I’d turned the power off to whatever it was I was working on.

      • Jenny says:

        Get a current detector! We have one to double-check that the power is off because our home’s fuse box is horribly labeled and very weirdly organized (especially for a house built in 2005) and we’ve gotten shocked when we thought the whole room was on one fuse and painfully found out it wasn’t. Search “current detectors” on Amazon–they’re not even expensive!

      • SusanR says:

        Another option to check it is to plug a lamp into it. Leave the light on when you go to turn off the power. If the lamp isn’t lit when you return, you’ve turned off the power, or else the bulb decided to take exactly that moment before you arrived to burn out. These are the things I think of, when faced with doing something that has me slightly fearful. I can always come up with some situation in which all of my safety measures will be useless.

        Haven’t shocked myself yet, though! But I also use a device to measure if there’s any power in the outlet.

  40. Debbie D says:

    Yea! You finally replaced that old ugly outlet that was ruining the look of your gorgeous wall! Thank you for posting this great tutorial. Electricity scares me to death. I have cut and pasted this fabulousness and now have it for a reference for the future should I need to do this soon. This is wonderful. Thank you so much for posting!

  41. Gayle M says:

    Thankfully, your supervisor arrived just in time (photo 3) for the important stuff!

    I. Need. To. Do. This. Really, I do. Thanks so much for all you do to keep us fledglings safe and occupied caring for our “stuff”. It truly is an art…

  42. billy sharpstick says:

    As a person who is a retired electrician, and who possess a penis, I saw this headline and immediately thought to myself, “Myself, As good as Karen is at doing stuff, she’s bound to screw this one up and I will get a chance to mansplain how to do it right.” Fortunately(for me, because I would be sure to receive threats to my life and gonads for being so insensitive and politically incorrect), she got it all right. The only thing I will add is to recommend splurging(30 cents or so?) on nylon unbreakable cover plates. The cheap plastic ones tend to crack easily.
    (Next, please post how to replace a toilet and septic tank, real soon! Long story, don’t ask!)

  43. Rick Bradley says:

    Why did you use wood screws to screw the plug to the baseboard rather than using the screws that came with the plug?

    • Karen says:

      Because it’s a very old electrical box and the new plug didn’t line up with it properly. With wood screws I could drill straight into the wood baseboard to hold everything secure. ~ karen!

  44. How are you able to anticipate everything I need to upgrade in my life so perfectly Karen!!!? Seriously, your last 3 posts have been things happening to me! Thanks for your skillful suggestions and pictures that say 1000 words :)

    • Karen says:

      Ha! Ohhhh they’re just things that mainly apply to all people I think. At least all people that read this website. :) ~ karen!

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