old outlet to new outlet
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Changing Out an Old Outlet

So, this is one of those not so pretty posts, but I promise it is Oh So Handy! Learn how to easily change out an old outlet.

tutorial for updating an old outlet

Changing Out an Old (UGLY) Outlet

Our home was built in 1978 and most of our outlets are almond colored and many are so worn that they won’t hold a plug anymore. I used to get annoyed EVERY TIME I vacuumed downstairs and turned the corner only to have the vacuum plug slip from the outlet. Not only is this frustrating, but it is also a fire hazard. Old outlets should be replaced for safety reasons (but, hey, I’m okay if you just want to change them to a pretty white outlet.). Changing Out an Old Outlet is easy!

old outlet to new outlet

I distinctly remember my father showing me how to wire an outlet when I was about eight years old. I didn’t remember exactly what he taught me, but I do remember the feeling that – yes, I can do this myself! Being the father of three girls, Dad taught us all the things he would have taught a son. This is a picture of my Dad, my sisters and me teaching him all we knew about bows, barrettes and bobby pins.

Changing Out an Old (UGLY) Outlet

I know several of you would never think of taking apart your outlet. You might say electricity scares you. Well, that is a good thing! A healthy fear of electricity will make you more cautious, so don’t lose that fear. It is a good thing to double and triple check your safety when working with electricity. Now, are you ready to update your outlets? Changing Out an Old Outlet is a relatively easy task to do. And, I promise I will show you step-by-step instructions.

I highly recommend performing outlet replacements during daylight hours (or have a lamp that you can plug into an extension cord from another room.) Also, don’t let your little ones watch you, we don’t want them to stick a screwdriver in the outlet when you aren’t looking. Therefore, it is best to handle this fix during nap times.

Materials needed:

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

Changing Out an Old (UGLY) Outlet

* It is safest to work with tools that have rubber or plastic handles that won’t conduct electricity.

Changing Out an Old (UGLY) Outlet

Optional tools:

  • vacuum to clean out the receptacle box (there will be dirt and dust in there and this may be the only opportunity you will have to clean it!)
  • cushion to sit on
  • power drill with screwdriver bits to speed up the process

Required Safety Instruction:

Turn off the power to the outlet you are working on. I highly recommend putting a night light or light in the outlet and turn it on. Then shut off the circuit at your circuit breaker and check to see that the light has gone out.

Also note that just because two outlets are in the same room, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are on the same circuit. Plus, it is possible for the top and bottom of one outlet to be on separate circuits. Always check both the top and bottom of an outlet before you work on it.

Instructions:

Okay, let’s begin. Take a deep breath and realize that if an 8 yr. old can do it, so can you!

1. First, turn off your power, double check both outlets with your light to make sure the power is out to both top and bottom outlets.

2. Then take out your voltage tester. Insert a probe into each of the top two holes.  If the tester lights up, you need to back up and turn off the power to the outlet! If it doesn’t light up, then check the bottom outlet as well. Still no light? Perfect, the power is off to your outlet.

Changing Out an Old (UGLY) Outlet

3. If you haven’t done so already, remove the face plate from your outlet by unscrewing the middle screw.

4. Unscrew the two mounting screws as shown below.

Changing Out an Old (UGLY) Outlet

5. Gently pull the outlet out of the receptacle box. Inspect the outlet and see if you have the same amp replacement outlet. (Usually there are marking denoting 15A 125V or 20A 120V on the silver tabs, on the back or near the screw hole in the middle of the outlet.)

6. Note which wires are attached to the outlet and where. Then make a drawing if you need to of their position. Or work by transferring one wire at a time.

Changing Out an Old (UGLY) Outlet

7. If the wires are wrapped around screws (lucky you), unscrew your wires and skip to step 10.  If your wires are poked into holes in the back of the outlet, you may choose to try to release them by poking a flat head screwdriver into the slot next to the wire, or you will need to cut the wires as close to the outlet as possible.

Changing Out an Old (UGLY) Outlet

8. Now strip about 1/4 inch of the insulation from the end of your wire.Then gently use your wire strippers to clamp down on the wire being sure it is scoring the insulation. If you need to, rotate your wire strippers 90 degrees and cut through the insulation again. then while the strippers are still around the wire, pull gently towards the end of the wire to remove the cut insulation.

Changing Out an Old (UGLY) Outlet

9. Next take your needle nosed pliers and grasp the end of your wire and twist the end to make a shepherds hook shape. Do this for all your remaining wires.

Changing Out an Old (UGLY) Outlet

10. Looking at the back of your new outlet, you will see that one side has silver screws and/or markings on the back that says white wire. The other side of the outlet should have gold screws and/or markings indicating hot wires (the black wires). And one screw towards the bottom that is green, this screw is for your bare or ground wire.

Changing Out an Old (UGLY) Outlet

11. Hook each of your wires around the appropriate screw (Gold Screws = Black wires;  Silver screws = White wires;  Green screw = bare or green wire).

Changing Out an Old (UGLY) Outlet

12. Further, using your needle nosed pliers, pinch your wires tightly around the screws attempting to close the loop.

Changing Out an Old (UGLY) Outlet

13. After that tighten each screw being sure that the wire stays tightly wrapped around the screw.

 

Changing Out an Old (UGLY) Outlet

14. If all your wires have been screwed tightly onto the outlet you can gently push your outlet back into the receptacle box. Try to rock the outlet in by alternately pushing on the top and then the bottom. If your outlet doesn’t go in, pull it out and rearrange the wires so they fold neatly behind the outlet and try again.

Changing Out an Old (UGLY) Outlet

15. Screw in the mounting screws.

16.  Finally, replace the faceplate.

 

Changing Out an Old (UGLY) Outlet

Now you can turn the power back on and use a nightlight or lamp to make sure your outlet works!

Hey, you are done! Congratulations, you did it. Reach up and pat yourself on the back because I’m proud of you! Now that you know Changing Out an Old Outlet is easy as can be, I have a next level swap for you! You can use the same tutorial to install a USB Charging outlet!

Let me know how you did. Changing Out an Old Outlet was easy, wasn’t it?!

193 replies
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  1. AndyB
    AndyB says:

    In step 15, just before you finish tightening the mounting screws, that’s the time to wiggle the outlet left or right so it’s nicely vertical. And sometimes you want to move the whole outlet a little bit to one side so the switch plate will hide a poorly cut hole.

    Reply
  2. madge
    madge says:

    When changing out plugs or switches, I put a strip of masking tape on each side of the opening to make a diagram of where the wires go, and make note of which screws they go on, you could also use bits of tape on the wires, and mark A, B, C, etc to correspond to your diagram, until you get comfortable changing these.

    Always, always make sure that ground wire is put back on your plugs.

    I use an old radio on full blast, plug it in and check your breakers, and yes test those wires for life, you can get a tester that beeps at any hardware place.

    If you run into multiple wires, or red, black and white wires, best leave that to a professional.

    Leave as much wire as possible, short wires are a nightmare to work with.

    Reply
  3. Edward L Muniz
    Edward L Muniz says:

    I am wondering in step ten (picture ten really) I see a square piece with a hole in the middle near bottom of picture through which the screw enters. What is this piece and what does it do?

    Reply
  4. Hollee Fielder
    Hollee Fielder says:

    This was a very easy to follow tutorial. Nice job! I too am a Daddy’s girl. I wish I remembered more of his instructions for everything from pipe fittings to games of pitch.

    Reply
  5. Bryon
    Bryon says:

    Let me preface this comment with the fact that I am a second generation Master Electrician. My mother, and my father are Masters. I want my son to be able to do things traditionally set aside for women, and my daughter to be able to do maintenance items herself, for this is how I was raised. Now, for the glaring problem in the post, that, to be honest, most “professional electricians” get wrong, because they lack understanding of the National Electrical Code, and it’s purposes. The neutral wires cannot be connected to each of the two silver screws per the code. This means that the grounded conductor (neutral) is dependent upon the device (receptacle) to complete the circuit (little jumper between the screws. If that tab breaks, and someone measures voltage black to white (hot to neutral) at the next receptacle, without checking to ground (bare), they will assume there is no power, and could kill themselves (obvious perfect storm of conditions, but possible nonetheless). Other than that, very well written how to article.

    Reply

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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  2. […] light fixtures, electrical components often come in contractor packs. If you are not comfortable changing out the switches and outlets yourself and don’t want to hire an electrician, just change out the […]

  3. […] light fixtures, electrical components often come in contractor packs. If you are not comfortable changing out the switches and outlets yourself and don’t want to hire an electrician, just change out the […]

  4. […] light fixtures, electrical components often come in contractor packs. If you are not comfortable changing out the switches and outlets yourself and don’t want to hire an electrician, just change out the […]

  5. […] light fixtures, electrical components often come in contractor packs. If you are not comfortable changing out the switches and outlets yourself and don’t want to hire an electrician, just change out the […]

  6. […] over at Pretty Handy Girl – Love this blog! Here’s the link to the tutorial… Pretty Handy Girl: Changing Out Old Ugly Outlet {Image […]

  7. […] light fixtures, electrical components often come in contractor packs. If you are not comfortable changing out the switches and outlets yourself and don’t want to hire an electrician, just change out the […]

  8. […] light fixtures, electrical components often come in contractor packs. If you are not comfortable changing out the switches and outlets yourself and don’t want to hire an electrician, just change out the […]

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