How to replace an outlet

How to Replace an Outlet, Step by Step

Do you have an ugly old outlet that you want to replace?

An outlet that has stopped working? Maybe you’ve recently painted and you want to change the color of your outlets.

Whatever the case, being able to replace an outlet is something every home owner should know how to do. I have created step by step instructions on how to replace a typical outlet. (with pictures)

Do you need to know how to replace a GFCI outlet?

Important note: Always comply with the NEC (National Electrical Code) your local and state laws before starting. Some city offices or city libraries might give you access to or help you out with an NEC book. You can even call your local building inspector to find out if you can do your own electrical. Your work might have to be inspected. Do your own research to see if you can DIY your own electrical and what codes are in place. If you DO NOT feel like DIY electrical is something that you can handle please call a qualified electrician.

Working on live circuits is dangerous and not recommended. Always turn off the circuit and check for power before working on anything electrical.

Okay, Lets get started.





Electrical Tools

Here is a list of the most basic tools for doing your own electrical work at home.

    • Volt Meter (if you’re going to be doing your own electrical you really should invest in a decent volt meter, but if you trust a lamp or radio use it if you have to)
    • Wire Strippers
    • Needle-nose pliers (you will only need these to bend loops in the wires if your strippers don’t have holes for loop makers)
    • Flat Blade
    • Philips
    • Drill (recommended, but optional)
    • Plug Tester (also optional)

Harbor Freight Tools - Save 25% to 50% Off!


  • New outlet and cover plate.

new outlet

Choosing the right outlet:

They make Residential grade, Commercial  grade, hospital grade, you can get just about every color imaginable too. (for a price of course)

A standard 15-amp outlet could cost anywhere from $0.58 to an decorator outlet with 2 USB outlets for about $25.00. Expect to pay a little bit more to buy them individually too. You can get boxes of 10 (contractor pack or bundle) for a discounted price per outlet.

Most cases you will only need a 15-amp receptacle. 15-amp receptacles are made for circuits not exceeding 15-amps such as a 15-amp breaker or fuse. While a 20-amp receptacle is made for circuits not exceeding 20-amps such as a 20-amp breaker or fuse.


Follow These Steps to Change a Receptacle


Step 1:

Plug in a plug tester (if you have one) into the outlet or use a lamp or radio. 

plug tester

Step 2:

Locate the circuit breaker box or the fuse box. Turn off the circuit breaker or remove the fuse. (If the panel is not labeled clear enough, turn off one circuit at a time until the lamp or radio that you plugged in turns off)

turning breaker off

Turn off circuit breaker


Step 3:

Remove the outlet plate.


This would be the time to use that volt meter and test for voltage. Touch one volt meter lead to the neutral side of the outlet (silver color screws) then touch the other lead to the hot side of the outlet (gold color screws) No volts? Great! On to step 4.

Checking outlet for power

Step 4: 

If the wires are wrapped around the screws then you will need to loosen the screws and unhook the wires. If the wires are stabbed into the back of the outlet you will need to cut the wires as close as you can to the back of the outlet. Inspect the wires to make sure they are not damaged, if so you will need to cut off the damaged portion and re-strip the wires. On the back of the new outlet there is strip length indicator to show you how long to strip the wires.

outlet stripgage

Step 5:


Grab the new outlet and install the ground wire first (copper/or green). The ground wire needs to be wrapped around the green ground screw. Use the hook makers on the strippers or use needle-nose pliers to make hook in the wire. Make sure you tighten the green screw tight. The neutral (white) is second. Strip the neutral to the correct length as indicated on the strip gauge on the back of the outlet. Make a hook like you did with the ground wire and install under one of the silver screws on the side of the outlet usually it’s the same side as the ground screw. Repeat this step if there is a second neutral wire then tighten both screws. Then lastly the hot wires (Black/or Red). Do the same thing for the hot wires as you did for the neutrals but they go under the gold color screws on the opposite side of the neutrals.

bending loop

ground screw

note the direction of the hook.




Step 6:

Push wires and outlet back into outlet box making sure that the bare copper ground wire doesn’t touch ether the hot or neutral screws on the outlet. Level your outlet. If your outlet is un-level, loosen one screw a little and adjust the outlet to level, re-tighten. If you tighten the outlet screws to the wall too much, your outlet will be farther into the wall than your outlet plate, and look weird, but too little and your outlet will wiggle when you go to plug anything in.

outlet reinstall

Step 7:

Replace the cover plate. Check the outlet and outlet plate for level.

outlet coverplate level

Step 8:

Turn power back on and test the outlet with that lamp or radio.

turning on breaker


That’s It


Congratulations! You have successfully replaced an outlet.  Stand tall, Be proud, and tell your friends. Also please give back by sharing this content below. Cheers!


Following these steps is at your own risk. Electricity is very dangerous and can cause serious injury, death or damage to property.

Need more information?

How to wire a 3 way switch

How to wire a single pole switch

How to wire a GFCI

How does a GFCI work

Switch wiring diagrams

Outlet wiring diagrams