How to Tighten Electrical Outlets in a House

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Keep your electrical outlets tight, and safe.
Keep your electrical outlets tight, and safe. (Image: electrical outlet image by Mat Hayward from Fotolia.com)

If you have a wall outlet that moves or wiggles when you're plugging in or unplugging an appliance, it's not something that should be ignored. By moving around, the outlet's wiring may become loose, possibly causing a short circuit, or even sparks that can start a fire. A little simple preventative maintenance is well worth the time.

Things You'll Need

  • Lamp
  • Flat-bladed screwdriver

Turn off the power to the outlet you'll be tightening, at the circuit breaker box. If you're uncertain about which circuit breaker controls the flow of power to the outlet, have an assistant turn off the breakers one by one while there is a lamp plugged into the outlet. When the lamp goes off, the correct circuit breaker is turned off.

Remove the outlet's faceplate with a small, flat-bladed screwdriver. Turn the screw in the center of the faceplate to the left until it comes out. Pull the faceplate off and set it and the screw to the side. The outlet itself and its mounting screws are now exposed.

Check the connections to the outlet while the cover is off, since they may have worked loose while the outlet was loose. Remove the screws at the top and bottom of the outlet with a small flat-bladed screwdriver and pull the outlet slowly out of the gang box. Check where the wires are attached to the outlet to make sure they're tight. If they move, tighten the screws holding them in place, with your screwdriver.

Place the outlet back into the gang box and tighten the top and bottom screws with your flat-bladed screwdriver until the outlet is securely fastened in place.

Replace the outlet cover and secure it with the center screw.

Turn the outlet power back on by flipping the circuit breaker to the "On" position.

Tips & Warnings

  • Avoid getting injured. Don't skip the essential step of turning off the power to the outlet before beginning work.

References

  • "Wiring 1-2-3: Install, Upgrade, Repair, and Maintain Your Home's Electrical System"; The Home Depot; 2005.
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