If you own an older home with grounded outlets, you are more protected than with older ungrounded outlets. But in areas that can get wet, such as the kitchen and bathroom, a grounded outlet won't protect you from getting a shock. For those areas, you need to install ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets. These devices shut off the current to the outlet should it detect water or a short in the wiring. Here is how you can easily replace your existing grounded outlets in those wet areas with safer GFCI outlets.

Materials You'll Need for This DIY Project

  • flat-blade screwdriver
  • wire cutter and stripper

From the home improvement store:

  • GFCI outlet for each one you'll replace at home
  • a cover plate for the outlet, if needed (the old cover plate will work, but this is a good time to replace a cracked plate or one that's not a good color match)

Replacing the Old Outlet

  1. Turn off the electricity to the outlet you're replacing at the circuit panel for the house.
  2. Remove the cover plate.
  3. Loosen the two screws holding the old outlet in the junction box.
  4. Pull the outlet out of the box with the wires behind it.
  5. Cut the three wires attached to the back of the outlet as close to the outlet as possible.
  6. Remove the old outlet and place it aside.
  7. Strip about a half inch of insulation from the ends of the three wires coming out of the junction box.
  8. Push the end of the black wire into the hole on the back of the new GFCI outlet marked "Hot" or "Black".
  9. Push the end of the white wire into the hole on the back of the new GCFI outlet marked "Neutral" or "White".
  10. Wrap the end of the green wire around the green or brass colored screw on the new outlet and tighten.
  11. Push the wires into the junction box followed by the GFCI outlet.
  12. Secure the new outlet to the junction box with the screw at the top and bottom of the outlet.
  13. Replace the decorative plate over the outlet.
  14. Turn the electricity back on to the outlet and test.

Testing a GFCI Outlet

  1. Plug an electrical appliance, such as a hair dryer, into the outlet.
  2. Push the button marked "Reset" on the outlet.
  3. Turn on the hair dryer. It should begin working.
  4. While the hair dryer is running, press the "Test" button on the outlet. The dryer should go off.
  5. Press the "Reset" button and the dryer should work again.

Issues You May Encounter

If you have any of the following problems, you'll need to contact on of the local electrical contractors for help.

  • There are only two wires going to the outlet. The outlet does not have a ground wire, which is something an electrician needs to put in before installing the new outlet.
  • There are more than three wires going to the outlet. The outlet is on multiple switches and you'll need an electrician's help, such as from Royal Plus Electric, sorting out the wiring.
  • The wires don't follow the black/white/green color coding convention. An electrician will need to sort through the wires and replace them with the correct color combination to make future maintenance easier.