Back when I was actually finishing the room what I decided to do was just replace out the switch plate covers and then hide the outlets behind the furniture. (#KeepingItRealwithKimSix) but today I finally got off my horse and decided to suck it up and replace the outlets themselves.
I have to admit they were REALLY bad.. I am pretty sure drunken monkies painted the room or something since they had about 4 layers of paint on them.
Now there are 10,000 tutorials out there on how to replace your electrical outlets. My personal favorite is from my favorite DIY-guru Brittany. (In fact, I suggest you read HER post and THIS post because knowing more is always better.) Now, the thing about almost all those tutorials (including Pretty Handy Girl’s) is that they tell you how to use the traditional side screws for hooking up your new outlets. And that is a perfectly reasonable way of doing it, but I am too lazy for that.
So today I’m showing you the shortcut using the push-in holes (also known as “QuickWire” connectors.)
**Before undertaking this tutorial I am giving you a HUGE warning. If you are not comfortable working with electricity, or if you are AT ALL unsure of what you are going, please call a professional. Seriously.. I don’t want you to zap yourself to save $50. If the wiring looks strange or if you aren’t sure if something is right, don’t assume it will be okay if you just guess. I’m not responsible if you burn your house down! Also, be sure to check your local building code. In some jurisdictions, this type of electrical work may require a permit.**
How to Replace Electrical Outlets:
Step 1: Turn off the power. DUH!I use a voltage tester to check outlets. You want to check EVERY SINGLE OUTLET you are planning on working on. Outlets can run on different circuits in the same room. Also check the circuits with the light switch ON and OFF (if your room has a switch) because you don’t want to assume and outlet is off because the power is off and then have someone flip the switch on you. Lastly check the top and bottom outlet (they can actually be independently wired.)
I always stick the voltage tester in the outlet (to make sure it is working) then go and turn off the power and check it again. You can also use a lamp or radio or whatever.
Step 2: Remove outlet from wallAfter removing the switch plate cover, unscrew the attachment screws at the top and bottom of the outlet and pull out the outlet. The wires are usually stiffer than you expect so you have to pull pretty hard.. but don’t “yank” them since you risk snapping a wire.
Step 3: Keep track of where the wires are in the current outletModern wiring is made up of three parts. A hot (black wrapped) wire, a neutral (white wrapped) wire and a ground (unwrapped copper) wire. If you are missing a ground wire you should consult an electrician since that is no longer legal under most residential building codes. Some outlets may have more than one incoming hot wire, especially if the circuit has a switch . You want your outlet to work correctly after you replace it so you need to wire it the same way. In my example I am using the simplest wiring setup you can get:
Step 4: Remove wires from old outletIf your wires are screwed onto the outlet you can unscrew them to remove them. If you are replacing a push-in style outlet (like I was) you need to release the wires from the connector. Push a screwdriver (or if the hole is smaller than screwdriver head, I like to use a nail) to release the wire. You have to push pretty dang hard.
If you successfully remove the wires you can probably use them ‘as is’ without stripping any additional insulation off. If you can’t get them out, you can cut them off with a wire cutter and then strip them yourself. To know just how much insulation you should take off, use the strip gage on the back of the outlet. T
Step 5: Hook up wires to new outletThe nice part of this upgrade (besides the color) is that I am using tamper resistant outlets (they require you to push a plug into the three holes of an outlet at once. It won’t let you stick something into a single hole. ) Which is great for the baby's room.
But ALL outlets are labeled with either “Hot” “White” or both. (You can see in the previous photo and the one below.) Some are harder to read than others, but look closely and you will find it. When reattaching the wires you want to make sure you put them on the correct side.
Now here is where you save a bunch of time. Instead of screwing them to the side you can poke the exposed wires into the small holes on the back of the outlet. It is as simple as that. That is why it is called “QuickWire." There is a little clip inside the outlet that will catch the wire and won’t let it pull back out.
This is another place where the strip gage comes in handy. If you have stripped the connect length of wire, you will know you have the wire pushed in far enough when hardly any exposed wire is showing.
Once you have the hot and neutral wires inserted, you need to add the ground. Create a ‘hook’ shape in the wire and wrap it CLOCKWISE around the (typically green) screw. You want it to go clockwise so when you tighten the screw you are also tightening the loop of the wire.
Step 6: Replace outlet in wall.Carefully fold the wires back into the outlet receptacle and reattach the upper and lower screws.
Step 7: (OPTIONAL: Exterior Walls Only)If you’re outlet is in an exterior wall, you will want to add a little insulation gasket behind the switch plate. This keeps drafts out.
You don’t need to use them on interior walls.
Step 8: Replace Switch plate and turn on power.Ta-dah! You did it! Isn’t she a thing of beauty?
Now that I’ve finished and see how good they look I want to replace the rest of the off white outlets and switches!
The total cost for this project was under $6 (I had to replace 5 outlets and they are about $1 each!)