Replacing a Receptacle

Replacing a Receptacle

A new receptacle is inexpensive and easy to install, so don't hesitate to replace one that is cracked or caked with paint. If a receptacle fails to deliver power, shut off power to the circuit, pull the receptacle out, and make sure all the wires firmly connect to the terminals.

If you have to replace an outlet, it's a simple matter to replace a three-hole outlet with another three-hole outlet. Replacing a two-hole outlet may be another story, as two-hole outlets are no longer available. If there's a ground wire in the box, you can install a three-hole outlet. If there's no ground, however, it's against code to put in a three-hole outlet. Install a GFCI instead. Although it doesn't protect against a ground fault, its monitoring circuit gives you the same protection you get from a ground wire.


About 30 minutes to remove a receptacle and install a new one

Screwdriver, side cutters, strippers, long-nose pliers

Stripping wire, connecting wire to terminals

Lay a towel or small drop cloth on the surface below the receptacle.

Receptacle, wire for pigtails, electrician's tape

Three-Hole Outlets: Step 1

Replacing a three-hole outlet is simple. Shut off power. Remove the cover plate and the mounting screws and gently pull out the old receptacle. Test for power. Loosen the terminal screws and remove the wires or use side cutters to cut the wires.

Three-Hole Outlets: Step 2

Strip the wire ends and bend them into loops. Connect the black or colored (hot) wire to the brass terminals and the neutral (white) wire to the silver terminals on the new outlet. Connect the ground wire, pigtailing it to any other ground wires in the box and to the box, if it is metal.

Two-Hole Outlets: Step 1

If the outlet that needs to be replaced is a two-hole outlet, test for power and remove it from the box. If there is a ground wire -- which is either green or bare -- you can replace the outlet with a modern three-hole outlet.

Two-Hole Outlets: Step 2

Attach the ground wire to the green screw on the receptacle, pigtailing the wire to any other ground wires in the box and to the box, if it is metal. You may have to buy a green ground screw to attach the wire in the box.

Two-Hole Outlets: Step 3

Attach the white wire to the silver-colored screws and the black wire to the copper-colored screws.

What If There's No Ground Wire in the Box?

If there's no ground wire in the box, replace a two-hole outlet with a GFCI. Attach the black and white wires as you would in a normal GFCI installation. There is no ground wire, so simply tighten the ground screw as far as it goes. The GFCI gives you the protection a ground wire does, but not full GFCI protection. Code requires you to place a sticker on the outlet indicating that the outlet is not GFCI protected.

What If a Receptacle Is on Two Circuits?

If a receptacle has more than two wires connected to it, look at the tab that connects the two hot (brass) terminals. If it is broken off, the receptacle is split, meaning either that it is on two circuits or that one half is switched. Break off the tab on the new receptacle and wire it like the old one.

Spec-Rated Receptacles

Most homeowners turn to the bargain bin for their receptacles. Those work just fine. But if a receptacle often gets bumped or if people yank on cords when pulling plugs out, consider upgrading to a spec-rated (commercial) receptacle.

Comments (2)
mhintdec wrote:

very helpful

11/9/2013 08:32:19 PM Report Abuse
jolandamitchell wrote:

Thank you I watched my husband do it, but he pasted away almost 4 years ago, thank you for letting me know what color the wire are connected to. Thanks Jolanda

1/18/2011 12:13:06 PM Report Abuse
Add your comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Register | Log In
Wish-list Projects

Making these dreams come true is simpler than you thought -- print these instructions to begin!