I don’t know if I mentioned it, but we recently moved into a new house and the past few months have been a whirlwind of activity between moving in and renovating at the same time. Our new home was built in 1974 and the previous owners’ updates have been minimal to say the least, mostly consisting of painting over the wallpaper. Because of this, we have had an extremely long to-do list of things to be done. Some projects like installing new carpeting, putting in new (not brown) toilets and painting the walls/removing wallpaper happened before we moved in, but others like painting the kitchen cabinets and re-grouting the tile in the master shower are a work in progress. I will be so excited when we can stop showering in the hall bath and when our dishes are safely hidden away!
I know most people in relationships have a Honey-Do list, a list of projects (usually around the house or yard) that you want your significant other to do. I must confess my husband’s list is pretty long and so I set about trying to figure out what I could do to help shrink it down a bit. I know some of you are probably thinking “She’s crazycakes! I’m sure her list of to-dos is pretty long too. I mean, she has a 14-month old and she just moved!” and you are right, but there are some things on the hubby’s list that I’m just plain tired of waiting to get done and there are things on my list (like finishing painting the kitchen cabinets) that I’m avoiding not ready to work on. ***I need a bit of a painting break after my mad dash to paint nearly every room in the house in less than 3 weeks.***
Some of the things on his list are things I have little to no experience with and are slightly intimidating to me, like electrical work. I can flip a switch and do basic troubleshooting, like “Is it plugged in?” when a light doesn’t work, but beyond that…no experience. However, one of the quickest and easiest ways to update the look of your house is to “freshen up” your outlets and switches and it was very important to me to make sure our outlets were inquisitive kid-proofed. We, I mean my husband, did the switch (hahaha) in the Goober’s playroom and the nursery pretty soon after we moved in and it has slowly been driving me nuts going from seeing pretty, clean white outlets to dingy, beige ones. So I put on my big girl panties and got my husband to show me how to change out the darn things on my own and now I’m going to share how with you. Aren’t you lucky?
First things first, I gathered all the supplies I would need:
1. Test Light or Volt Meter
2. Wire Stripper
3. Screwdriver (I ended up needing both a flathead, a Phillips, and a tiny watch-sized one)
5. New Outlet
6. New Outlet Cover
7. Wire Connectors (I used an assorted bag until I figured out what size I needed and then ran to Lowes and bought more of the correct size)
The first and most important step was to check that both outlets were on and working using the test light and then to find the correct switch in the breaker box to turn off. Double check using the test light that the power is off to the outlet before going any further. Then removed the cover plate and the screws holding the outlet in the wall and pull out the old outlet enough that you can loosen the green screw that holds the ground wire (see arrow). This was one of the hardest parts for me, getting the ground wire out from around the loosened screw and where pliers definitely come in handy.
Then use a very small screwdriver to push in the slots to pop out the black and white wires.
Then you cut about 4-5″ of wire from your roll and pull out the white and the black wires from the casing. We chose to continue using the existing ground wire so that was discarded with the casing. There is a strip gauge on the back of the outlet (see arrow on above image) that shows you just how much plastic coating needs to be removed. Then pop those suckers in the new outlet, white obviously going on the side label “white” and black going on the “hot” side, then match up the new wires with their corresponding old wires and use a wire connector to twist them together. Reconnect the ground wire to the green screw on the new outlet and tight the screw back down and shove all the wires back into the box. Double check that you have your outlet oriented the way you want it (the first time I shoved it in upside down…Oops) and tighten the top screw just enough to hold it to the wall and then do same to the bottom screw. It helps to tighten the screws evenly and adjust the outlet alignment right before you finish tightening it all down so it straight and even.
Put your new cover plate on and put the test light back in and go turn the power back on to check that everything is working. Put your test light in BEFORE you turn the power back on so that you aren’t right by it in case something is, in fact, incorrect… Then step back and admire your handiwork. It’s an incredible difference, isn’t it? I love it. I can’t wait until all the outlets are done. I do a few a day during nap, since it makes a good, quiet project that won’t wake
the Kraken the Goober.
That’s my Handy Mama story. Share yours in the comments!