How to Replace a 120-Volt Electrical Wall Outlet

Receptacle pulled out from the electrical box.
Examine the wiring on the receptacle before disconnecting it.

Step 4: Inspect Receptacle Wiring

Take a look at the receptacle to understand how it’s wired. Some outlets simply have one hot (black) wire and one neutral (white) wire. The black wire should be attached to a brass or gold screw, and the white wire should be attached to a silver screw. There may also be a bare or green ground wire attached to a green grounding screw on the receptacle.

Other circuits are wired in daisy-chain fashion from one to the next, with one set of black and white wires leading into the receptacle, and another set leading out to the next outlet. Still others might be wired on separate circuits, with entirely separate wires feeding each of the two outlets – that’s why voltage testing is so important.

If you have multiple wires coming into your receptacle, use bits of masking tape to mark which wires are attached to which screws, because once you disconnect them it will be hard to remember what goes where! On complicated hookups, draw a diagram, or take a picture of the wiring before disconnecting it.

9 COMMENTS

  1. I have two ceiling fans (bedroom & living room) which are controlled by wall touch switches. One or both will go during severe storms. I have questioned various Home Depot workers who had no idea what could be causing these occurrences. I don’t want to call an electrician to come over for something I could possibly do myself. I have installed dimmer switches, installed thermostats, toilet repairs, under the sink repairs, faucet repairs…..so I think I can tackle this one. I just need to know whether if I disconnect it at the wall switch, will it function manually directly from the fan?

    I thank you.

  2. I am replacing some old lighting in my kitchin, the lights I will be putting back are lumens link able. What I would like to do is remove the switch that is there fore the old light and rewire it for a outlet can you help?
    Thanking you in advance,
    Lonnie Ayers

  3. my electrical outlet in the kitchen does not fit my oven i need to replace it to fit my oven cord which is a three prong what do i need to do

  4. I have a gfi outlet in my kitchen that stopped working and would not reset. It did not trip a circuit breaker. I replaced the outlet and still no power. None of the others in the same room are broken. Could the problem be further back in the wall?

    • Hi, Casey,
      It could be a breaker problem, it could be another outlet in the series, it could be a bad GFCI. This one is better left for a pro that can troubleshoot and pinpoint exactly where the problem is.
      Good luck!

  5. Hi,my name is Bill and I was working on a project in the garage and Was using a stapler to put up cardboard and shot a 1/2 staple into an electric line and it went dark.I pulled the staple out and went to reset the breaker. It didn’t have the normal click on or off feel or sound so I am going to be replacing it.It is a double pull 20amp breaker.My question is do I need to pull the breaker out with some insulated pliers and can I leave the main power on w/o getting electrocuted?

    • Hi, William,
      Some simple electrical projects (such as installing a GFCI or AFCI outlet) are fine for do-it-yourselfers who are comfortable with cutting off the home’s power and tackling these jobs.
      However, this situation is much more complicated, and trying to correct it could be dangerous.
      It’s better safe than sorry, so we recommend hiring an electrician for this job.
      Good luck!

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