Replacing an Electrical Outlet

Under 2 hours

Repair a broken receptacle yourself and save time and money

Replacing an Electrical Outlet

If a receptacle doesn't seem to work, first check that whatever is plugged into it isn’t the problem.

If you’re still having trouble, before buying a new receptacle, check the wiring. Usually the wires leading to a receptacle will be #14 and the circuit breaker or fuse will be 15 amps. In that case, install a 15-amp receptacle. Install a 20-amp receptacle only if the wires are #12 and the circuit breaker or fuse is 20 amps or greater.

Any receptacle that is cracked should be replaced.

This guide shows you how to replace a broken electrical outlet. Before proceeding, make sure you are comfortable working with electrical wires and check local building codes to make sure this is a project you are allowed to complete yourself.

If you’re not comfortable working with electricity, hire an electrician.


Check for power
Check for power - Replacing Electrical Outlet

• Turn off the power for the circuit at the breaker box. Test with a voltage tester to confirm. If the tester shows current, check the service panel and turn off another circuit that powers the outlet. Test again and proceed only if the tester shows no current.
• Remove the receptacle cover plate and unscrew the mounting screws. Be careful not to touch the wires or terminals. Pull out the receptacle.

Double-check wires for power
Double-check wires power - Replacing Electrical Outlet

• In a damaged receptacle, wires may be powered even though testing shows none is flowing. Touch tester probes to the top pair of terminal screws, and then the bottom pair.
• If you have old wiring and both wires are black, use a receptacle analyzer to check that the neutral wire is connected to the silver terminal and the hot wire to the brass.

Snip and restrip damaged wire ends
Snip and restrip damaged wire ends - Replacing Electrical Outlet

Once you’re sure the power is off, unscrew the terminals and pull away the wires. Do not twist them too much. If a wire end appears nicked or damaged, or if it looks like it’s been twisted several times, snip off the end and restrip it.

Install the new receptacle
Install the new receptacle - Replacing Electrical Outlet

• Wire the new receptacle as the old one was, with each white wire connected to a silver terminal and each black wire connected to a brass terminal. Wrap with electrical tape to cover all terminals and bare wires.
• Gently push the outlet back into the box. Tighten the mounting screws and check that the receptacle is straight. Replace the cover plate, restore power and test with the voltage tester.