Looking for a small project to knock out in a day or two, that costs next to nothing? Changing your old outlets and outlet covers can make a huge impact on the appearance of your house. For under $2 an outlet, you can update the look of your home and make sure your outlets are updated and safe. Installation is a piece of cake and requires almost no tools. If you don’t know how to install new outlets, you are going to be an expert in no time!
How to Install New Outlets
- Screwdriver – Flathead & Phillips
- Needle nose pliers
- Outlet Wall Plates
1. Shut off electricity
Before you start any electrical work, shut off the electricity to the area you are working in. You can completely shut off electricity to the house to be extra cautious, or just the breaker to the outlet you will be working on. Take this precaution before you do any electrical projects, not just when you install new outlets.
Before you do any work on the outlet after shutting off the electricity, make sure to test the outlet to confirm it is off. If you have a voltage tester, you can use this to check the outlet. I used a small lamp, and plugged it into each outlet before working on them to make sure everything was ready to go.
2. Remove wall plate & receptacle
Remove the screw(s) from the wall plate on your outlet. Once removed you will see the outlet receptacle held into the outlet box by two screws. Remove the the two screws from the outlet receptacle and pull it out from the wall.
3. Disconnect wires from outlet
Make sure to take note of where each wire goes on your old outlet receptacle. You will be installing them to the same locations on your new outlet. Standard wiring typically goes as follows:
- Black (hot) wire – Connected to gold screw
- White (neutral) wire – Connected to silver screw
- Copper (ground) wire – Connected to green ground screw
4. Connect wires to new outlet
Wire your new outlet according to the same wiring setup as the old outlet. Make sure to wrap your wiring snugly under each screw using needle nose pliers. I suggest starting with your copper ground wire. This wire takes some manipulation to loop around the green ground screw, and then is clamped together to remain snug under the screw.
5. Screw outlet back into wall
Once you have the new outlet wired, you will want to push the wiring back into the outlet box and screw the outlet back into the wall. Wires for outlets are stiff, so it can take a little push and shove to get everything back into the box and screwed in. When screwing the outlet in, make sure to get it flush against the wall and straight up and down. The easiest way to do this is by screwing the box almost completely in, and then sliding the outlet left to right.
Both the top and bottom screws have some horizontal space so the screw can slide for adjustment. Line up your outlet straight and hold it in place while you finish your last few turns on each screw. Make sure to step back a few feet after screwing in the outlet to see if it looks straight before putting on your new wall plate.
6. Install wall plate
Screw your wall plate over your new outlet. Wall plates are decorative plastic and not made to take much pressure from the screw holding them on. Only screw the plate in enough to hold it snug against the wall. If you apply too much pressure you will crack the wall plate and need to replace it. Luckily, these plates cost next to nothing, so it isn’t a bad idea to have some extras on hand just in case.
7. Test the outlet
Once the wall plate is back on, turn electricity back on for the outlet. Then, using the same method to test the outlet from before the installation, make sure that the new outlet is providing electricity. If you are getting power, you learned how to install new outlets! With a little practice, you can knock these out in 5-10 minutes each and clear your entire house in a day.
Making this small change to match my outlets to the new trim color of my house made rooms go from an outdated look, to clean and sleek.
If this is your first electrical project, the same process applies to replacing switches. With observation of how a switch is installed in the wall and where each wire goes, you can easily teach yourself to replace these as well.
Disclaimer: If you are uncertain about working with electricity, I recommend calling a licensed electrician for this project. Although this project is very easy, working with electricity can be dangerous unless you take the right precautions.