Introduction: Installing a Standard Electrical Outlet

The following instructions will guide you through a standard indoor electrical outlet installation. Occasionally there will be a need to install a new electrical outlet where one does not currently exist. This need may derive from redecorating a room to incorporate a new lamp, a desire for increased convenience such as installing a television in the bathroom, or for the need to increase security by installing a power outlet for a motion camera. Installing a new outlet exactly where you need it will increase convenience and reduce unsightly and dangerous extension cords. All the materials necessary to install a new outlet cost less than $10 and installation will take approximately 30 minutes to an hour depending on the distances and obstacles within the walls.

Step 1: Gather Tools and Materials


  • Phillips Screwdriver
  • Slotted Screwdriver
  • Tape Measure
  • Utility / Box Knife
  • Writing Utensil (Pencil)
  • Wire Cutters

Optional Tools:

  • Electrical Tape
  • Outlet Tester
  • Stud Finder
  • Voltage Tester


  • Wire Connectors (or Wire Nuts)
  • Wire (14-2G AWG)
  • Outlet (15 AMP)
  • Outlet Face Plate
  • “Old Work” Electrical Box
    • "New Work" electrical boxes are used when the drywall is not installed and the electrical box can be attached directly to the studs within the wall. "Old Work" electrical boxes are used when access to the stud is unavailable. These electrical boxes are only attached to the drywall and are frequently used for remodeling.

Step 2: Locate an Existing Power Source

  1. Locate an existing power source to connect your new outlet to. Select a power source that is near the general location you wish to install your new outlet.

  2. Select a power source that is compatible with your power requirements. Simply ask, "does the power source currently serve the same purpose as your intended new outlet?"

    • If yes: This power source is a good candidate to power your new outlet
    • If no: Select another power source.

    • DANGER: High amperage or high voltage outlets such as those for electric clothes dryers and ovens are not appropriate to power a standard outlet.

    • TIP: Many light switches can also be used to power new electrical outlets.
  3. Validate the power source is working as expected. Using an outlet tester, voltage tester, or plug-in and turn-on an electrical appliance to verify the outlet is "live."

Step 3: Identify a Location for the New Outlet

  1. Once an appropriate power source has been selected, you must map a wiring path to your new outlet. The simplest installation is one where the power source and new outlet are within the same wall segment but face opposite directions.
    1. Identify a general location where you would like to install your new outlet.

    2. On the other side of the wall, measure the distance from the end of the wall to the power source.

    3. Using the same measurement, locate the "backside" of the power source from the other side of the wall.

      • TIP: It is not a good practice to put outlets "back-to-back" within the walls and they may not fit

      • TIP: Use a stud finder to locate the empty spaces within the walls. If you do not have a stud finder, gently "knock" on the wall listening for a hollow space. Stud walls generally have 16 inch spaces between each stud.
  2. Having identified a location for your new outlet, trace the electrical box onto the wall.

    1. Use the height measurements from a similar outlet to set the appropriate height for your new outlet.

    2. Trace around the "old work" electrical box with the open end facing the wall. The four blue tabs at all four corners should not be included in the trace.

    3. Carefully cut out the rectangular shape, being sure to cut deep enough to cut completely through the drywall (often 1/2 inch thick). If the shape is cut out properly, a soft tap with your fingers will indicate if it is loose. Once completely cut you can attempt to remove the rectangular shape or knock it into the wall.

    4. The power source may now be visible inside the wall.

Step 4: Connect Power for the New Outlet

  1. Having identified your power source and have cut the opening for your new outlet you are ready to begin wiring.

  2. Next, locate the circuit breaker and turn off the power to the room or circuit your power source is attached to.
    1. On the circuit breaker (frequently located in a basement or garage) you will need to find the specific room you need to power off. The panel should have a map identifying the circuit breaker number with the room label.

    2. With the power off to the power source, double-check to verify that the power is truly off for that particular circuit.

    3. Retest the power source with an outlet tester, voltage tester, or a small portable electrical appliance (such as a hair dryer or alarm clock).

    4. DANGER: It is extremely dangerous to work with electricity while the power is "live." Electric shock,
      injury, damage, fire, or death can result from not following these directions.
  3. Having verified the power is indeed off, next you will open the power source.
    • Take the cover plate off of the power source and unscrew the top and bottom mounting screws that hold the power source into its electrical box.

    • TIP: New outlets have square plastic washers on the mounting screws to prevent them from falling out, therefore the mounting screws will generally not detach from the power source outlet.
  4. Break a hole in the power source's electrical box with a slotted screwdriver to feed a new wire out to your new outlet.
    • Feed your new wire, as much as you need to reach your new outlet hole, through the electrical box hole you just made.
  5. Prepare the wires:
    1. Strip the paper and plastic cover (sheathing) off of the new wire you just ran with wire strippers or a sharp knife, so all three wires are visible.
      • Black = HOT Wire
      • White = NEUTRAL Wire
      • Copper = GROUND (bare / no colored casing)
    2. Disconnect the power source outlet so all wires are visible.
      • TIP: If the wires to the power source are "plugged" into the back, then you can gently rock the power source back-and-fourth until they come free. If the wires are screwed into the terminal screws on the side, simply unscrew them.
    3. Cut off a small segment of your new wire (approximately 3-5 inches) and remove the sheathing. These will be used as "pigtails" to reconnect your power source outlet. "Pigtails" are simply small segments of wire that are used to connect an outlet to a larger bundle of wire such as that from a large wire nut. If you do not plan to reconnect your existing power source, you may skip this step.

    4. With the power source outlet disconnected you are ready to begin to connect your new outlet's wiring.
      1. Begin by matching the colors and connecting them together either with wire connectors (preferred) or wire nuts. Ensure the wires are firmly pressed into the connectors or the wire nuts are twisted tightly so the wires will not fall out.

      2. All of the colors should be matched together and the "pigtails" should be ready to be reconnected back to the original power source outlet.
    5. Reconnect the original power source outlet with the "pigtails."
      • The power source outlet will have the terminal labels HOT/NEUTRAL or BLACK/WHITE. Connect the wires to the corresponding slots or terminals.

      • TIP: If your power source outlet does not have a label then look at the color of the terminal screws, HOT/BLACK will be on the brass/gold colored side and NEUTRAL/WHITE will be on the silver colored side.

      • TIP: Bend a "hook" into the ground wire before placing it around the green GROUND terminal. Make sure the hook is placed on the terminal in such a way that when the screw is tightened clockwise the short end of the wire will also turn clockwise ensuring a tight connection.

      • TIP: It is a good practice to wrap the outlet terminals with electrical tape to prevent them from making contact with other wires or the electrical box itself if it is metal.
    6. With all of the wires reconnected and your new wire in place, carefully tuck the wires back into the electrical box.
      • With all of the wires pressed back into the electrical box, press the outlet back into the electrical box and reattached the power source outlet with the mounting screws.
  6. With the power source outlet returned to its electrical box you may reattached the cover plate.

Step 5: Install a New Outlet

  1. Pull the new wire through the new outlet hole and into the electrical box.

    • You will need to bend or break off one of the new electrical box tabs in the back to run the wire through.
  2. Now that the wire is ran through the box you can insert the box into the wall and secure it by turning the screws on the electrical box to draw in the "sails."

    • "Old work" electrical boxes have two tiny loose flaps called "sails" on the top and bottom of the electrical box that when screwed in squeeze the drywall from the back to hold the box in place.
  3. Similarly, to the other end of the new wire, you will need to remove the sheathing from the wire bundle with a knife to reveal the three individual wires inside.

  4. Begin to connect the wires similarly to the "pigtails" on the power source outlet.
    • Black = HOT wire
    • White = NEUTRAL wire
    • Copper = GROUND (bare wire)
  5. With the outlet now wired correctly, you can press the outlet into the electrical box and attach it with the mounting screws.

  6. You may now attach the outlet cover plate.

    • TIP: For a professional look, line the screw slots vertically. On multiple gang outlets or switches it is very unattractive to have the screw slots "pointing" in different directions.
  7. Turn on the power at the circuit breaker.

  8. Test both the power source and new outlets with an outlet tester, volt meter, or small portable electronic device.

You have now installed a new electrical outlet and can take advantage of the safety and convenience of relocating your power needs. The installation process is very simple and requires only simple "everyday" tools with little to no experience needed. Installing a new electrical outlet your self could save you hundreds of dollars charged by electricians and you can take comfort in knowing you did it safely, correctly, and with confidence.