How to Replace an Outlet Yourself Without an Electrician

How to Replace an Outlet Yourself Without an Electrician


Replacing an electrical outlet in your home can seem intimidating, but it's actually a fairly straightforward process that most homeowners can handle themselves without needing to call an electrician. As long as you educate yourself on electrical safety and use proper precautions, replacing an outlet is a manageable DIY project that will save you money on professional labor costs.

In this comprehensive guide, I'll walk you through the complete process of replacing an outlet, from gathering the right tools and turning off power, to wiring the new outlet and restoring power safely. I'll also provide tips to make the job easier, as well as point out important safety steps to avoid getting shocked or causing damage. Let's get started!

Safety Precautions

When working with household electrical wiring, safety should always be your top priority. Here are some key safety precautions I take when replacing an outlet:

Gather Materials

Replacing an outlet is usually a quick 15-30 minute job. To make sure it goes smoothly, gather all the necessary materials beforehand:

Turn Off Power

Once you have all your supplies, it's time to turn off power to the outlet. Here are the steps:

  1. Locate circuit breaker box - Find the main circuit breaker panel in your home, usually in the garage, utility room, or basement.

  2. Identify correct breaker - To determine which breaker controls the outlet, turn it off while someone watches the outlet to see if power cuts off. Shut off the right breaker.

  3. Switch breaker to OFF - Completely switch the breaker to the OFF position.

  4. Test outlet - Use a voltage tester to confirm power is off at the outlet you'll be replacing. It should read 0 volts if power is off.

  5. If you are replacing several outlets on the same circuit, repeat the process to verify power is off at all locations. Now it's safe to work on the wiring.

Remove Old Outlet

With power disconnected, you can now safely remove the old outlet:

  1. Unscrew cover plate - Use a screwdriver to remove the cover plate from the outlet. Place screws somewhere safe.

  2. Unscrew outlet - Unscrew the top and bottom mounting screws that secure the outlet to the electrical box.

  3. Disconnect wires - There will likely be two or more wires connected to screw terminals on the sides or back of the outlet. Carefully loosen each screw and fully disconnect the wires.

  4. Remove outlet - With all wires disconnected, you can fully remove the outlet from the electrical box.

  5. Take care not to touch exposed wires or allow them to accidentally touch each other as you remove the old outlet.

Connect New Outlet

It's time to install the new replacement outlet:

  1. Prep wires - Use wire strippers to remove about 1/2" of insulation from the ends of each wire coming out of the electrical box. Twist the bare copper tightly.

  2. Position new outlet - Insert the new outlet into the electrical box, matching the correct terminals with each household wire:

  3. Green or bare wire to grounding screw or green terminal

  4. White wire to silver neutral terminal

  5. Black wire to brass/gold hot terminal

  6. Connect wires - With the outlet oriented correctly, connect each household wire to the matching terminal screw. Tighten the screw securely over the wire end.

  7. Double check connections - Gently tug wires to verify tight connection. No copper should be exposed.

  8. Wrap connections (optional) - For extra safety, wrap each screw terminal with electrical tape. This helps prevent wires loosening over time.

  9. Secure outlet - Reinstall top and bottom mounting screws to firmly secure outlet to box. Don't overtighten.

Restore Power and Test

You're almost done! Follow these final steps to finish:

  1. Check connections - Do one last check that all wires are correctly and securely attached to the outlet. Verify no exposed wire.

  2. Insert cover plate - Install new or cleaned cover plate using the original screws. Ensure outlet is properly aligned and sits flush.

  3. Turn power back on - Return to the circuit breaker box and turn the outlet's breaker back to the ON position.

  4. Test outlet - At the outlet, plug in a lamp or other appliance and turn on to verify that the outlet is working correctly.

  5. If the outlet doesn't function properly or the circuit breaker trips, turn power back off immediately and double-check all connections before trying again.

Additional Outlet Safety Tips

Beyond the steps above, here are some extra safety tips when replacing outlets:

By following these precautions, using proper tools, and taking your time, you can safely and successfully replace outlets in your home. Just be sure to turn the power off and double check connections. Stay safe!