How To Update An Old Ugly Electrical Outlet

Ever really taken a look at the outlets around your home? Chances are if you live in an older home that you have an outlet that is off-white, brown, black, or painted over (several times maybe). That ugly outlet can be the eyesore of the room, but it doesn't have to be. You can change it out all by yourself and update it with a brand new one. Depending on the room you are working in, you can even replace it with an outlet that also has a USB port to make charging your smart devices a little easier for you. See below for instructions on how to replace an outdated outlet with something a little more modern.

Here's What You Need:

  • New outlet (with or without a USB port) and new cover plate
  • Wire snips
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Screwdriver (both Phillips and flat)
  • Voltage meter


  1. Start by turning the power off to the outlet you are going to be working with. You can plug something into the outlet such as a lamp or something that makes noise, then begin turning off the breakers until you figure out which breaker is the appropriate one (unless all of your breakers are marked). You may want to use a helper for this part, unless you want to run back and forth several times between the breaker and the outlet. Be sure to test the outlet with the voltage meter to be sure there is no power going to it.
  2. Next, take the cover plate off using the flat head screwdriver.
  3. Remove the screws holding the receptacle to the box using the Phillips screwdriver and gently pull it out to expose the wires. Take a quick photo of the wires and how they are connected just in case you need it as a reference.
  4. Then, use your screwdriver to gently remove the wires from the outlet. Depending on the age of the outlet, the wires may be wrapped around screws, or pushed into different holes in the receptacle. If the wires are pressed into the holes, you can use the flat head screwdriver to remove them, or cut with with wire snips as close to the receptacle as possible. You should be left with three wires - black, white and copper (or green). Black = hot, white = neutral, and copper (green) = ground.
  5. Your new receptacle should have screws where the wires will be wrapped around. If need be, use wire strippers to cut through the wire insulation and expose the bare wires. Then use the needle-nose pliers to make a hook shape at the end of each of the wires.
  6. Bend the wires around the appropriate screws as follows- black wires to gold screws, white wires to silver screws and the copper (green) wire to the green screw. Tighten the screws around the wires to hold them securely in place.
  7. Finally, press the new receptacle and wires back into the box in the wall and attach the new screws to hold the receptacle in place. Then add the new cover plate, and turn the power back on to the outlet. Test it with a lamp or other small appliance to be sure it is working properly.

Your eyesore of an outlet is now gone, and you can enjoy your new, updated outlet. If you have any problems at all with this project, or don't want to attempt any work on an electrical outlet, call a professional, like one from Alpha Omega Electric, for help.