Replacing Electrical Outlets

One of the first jobs I wanted to tackle when we moved in a few months ago was to replace every electric receptacle in the house. Every one of them was ancient, ugly, and barely usable. Most of them were only two-prong outlets (which means that we couldn’t plug in anything that requires the third ground prong – like a laptop!). They were all so loosy-goosy, plugs would just fall out of them. Many of them had been painted in place so many times that the slots were painted shut. Here’s a representative example of what they looked like:

Receptacle covered in paint.

Gross, huh? You couldn’t even plug something into that bottom receptacle if you wanted to! One plug I found was even so old that the slots weren’t even parallel to each other! I don’t know if this was some kind of special plug, or if all plugs used to have one slot angled like that, but I knew I definitely didn’t want it in my wall anymore. Anyone out there know what’s up with the angled slot?

Super-old receptacle with one angled slot.

Slowly but surely over the past few months I’ve been swapping them out one by one for new hardware, and correcting a few deficiencies along the way. A couple of the outlets were obviously newer than the ones pictured here, but the previous owner had mismatched a few of them with different circuit amps. The previous owner had used 15 amp outlets everywhere – even on the 20 amp circuits. When I replaced them, there were two outlets that I had to upgrade to a 20 amp receptacle. (HINT: you can identify a 20 amp receptacle because the neutral slot will be T-shaped like below):

New receptacle.

It also seemed like a good time to get around to sticking some of those plastic kid-blocker things in all the outlets since we’ve got a curious 8-month-old wandering around.

I was worried I was going to run into a bunch of problems with the old cloth-covered wiring, but it ended up not being much of a problem at all. Boy the difference in the quality of wiring used in our current 1939 home compared to our previous home which was built in 1909 is shocking! (lol – see what I did there?)

Anyway, replacing outlets is one of my favorite jobs, because it’s simple, and because it goes a long way to sprucing up an old room, don’t you think?

8 comments to Replacing Electrical Outlets

  • Bahaha, nice pun.

    Some of the outlets in our house were “updated” when we bought it. I use updated loosely because although the outlets were changed from 2 prong to 3, they weren’t actually grounded…we intend to rewire the ENTIRE house (room by room) because the old cloth wiring has been chewed on by many a mouse and some rooms only have one outlet. I’m incredibly thankful to be living with an electrical engineer who, although not an electrician, knows enough to do basic wiring…the cost would be ginormous if we had to hire an electrician!

    New outlets definitely make a huge difference to the room, like you said!

  • @Ashley – rewiring the house and adding some new outlets is on our list of things to do, too, but I’m sure it will take us a while to get there… and it’s tough when you don’t want to have to disturb the old lathe+plaster walls.

  • Very impressive. Our house is smattered with all of the converter piece and ungrounded three pronged outlets. How nice to own a home and know enough to make those kind of improvements. We also love the face plates. Very modern retro. Where’d you get them?

  • @Kalie – thanks – everything here is from generic home depot.

  • That outlet with the angled slot was the outlet that the radio was plugged in to, way back when. The third slot connected to a wire that ran up to the attic – it was an antenna.

    As for the child safety plugs, just use the new tamper resistant outlets and you shouldn’t have to worry about those. http://www.structuretech1.com/2009/06/the-end-of-plastic-outlet-plugs/

  • Your Car-Hating Neighbor

    Reuben, my understanding is that you do not need 20A outlets on 20A branch circuits unless you wish to plug in devices that draw 15+ amps. Which is basically nothing. It’s quite common to see 15A outlets on 20A breakers with 12ga wiring as a cost savings. I did my kitchen SABCs with 20A outlets including 20A GFCIs and multiple electricians have since wondered why I spent money on that.

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