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Add an Electrical Outlet

Eliminate those ugly and often dangerous extension cords. You can add a new outlet quickly and easily without tearing open a wall, if you already have an outlet in the other side of the wall. No extra holes. No messy patching and repainting.  The procedure we show here allowed us to center our TV against a wall in the family room that had no outlet. Since there was already an outlet in the other side of that same wall (facing into an adjacent bedroom), we just added a new outlet in the family room, drawing power from the bedroom outlet.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

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    The techniques are simple, but you should have some wiring knowledge to make good connections.

Add an Electrical Outlet

Eliminate those ugly and often dangerous extension cords. You can add a new outlet quickly and easily without tearing open a wall, if you already have an outlet in the other side of the wall. No extra holes. No messy patching and repainting.  The procedure we show here allowed us to center our TV against a wall in the family room that had no outlet. Since there was already an outlet in the other side of that same wall (facing into an adjacent bedroom), we just added a new outlet in the family room, drawing power from the bedroom outlet.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

How to find a power source

This technique only works if you can use an outlet as a power source that’s opposite, or nearly opposite, the place where you want your new outlet. To determine whether you can safely use an existing outlet, follow the list below.

  1. If a switch or outlet is on a circuit that often blows its breaker or fuse, don’t make matters worse by adding yet another outlet to the circuit.
  2. Electrical codes restrict the number of lights or outlets that can be connected to one circuit. Typically, you can have no more than eight lights or outlets on a 15-amp circuit. To determine the amp rating of a circuit, just look at the number on its breaker or fuse in your main electrical panel. Turn off the circuit and test light switches and other outlets to determine exactly which lights or outlets are on a given circuit.
  3. Most electrical codes now require outlets in kitchens and bathrooms to be on separate 20-amp GFCI circuits. So before using the method we show here to add an outlet in a kitchen or bathroom, check with an electrical inspector. If you add an outlet to a kitchen or bath, it must be GFCI protected. Don’t power your new outlet from a kitchen or bathroom outlet.
  4. Codes also limit the number of wires that can enter an electrical box, depending on the inside volume of the box and the gauge of the wires. The outlet-addition methods we show here are based on the most common wiring (14-gauge wire on a 15-amp circuit) and an 18-cu.-in. box (typical inside dimensions are about 2 in. x 3-1/4 in. x 3 in. deep). If the circuit is 20-amp—which means thicker, 12-gauge wire—or if the existing box is smaller than 18 cu. in., you can’t wire a new outlet as we show here unless you replace the existing box with a larger one. Plastic box sizes are stamped on the inside at the back.

Always confirm the required box size with your local building inspector. In most regions, you have to obtain an electrical permit for this work from your local building department. This helps ensure a safe job.

Run the new cable and wire both boxes

Once you’ve determined the outlet that you’ll use as a power source and have shut it off, use an electronic stud finder to locate the studs on both sides. You can put your new outlet anywhere between these two studs.

Hold the face of the new electrical box against the wall where you want it to go, and trace around it with a pencil. Cut out the hole with a drywall saw. Note: Be sure to buy a “remodeling” box that can be secured to the drywall, not one that must be mounted on a stud.

Next, unscrew the existing outlet on the other side of the wall from its box (Photo 1) and punch out one of the knock-outs at the back of the box using a screwdriver. Then feed the new cable through the knock-out into the wall cavity (Photo 2). Feed in enough cable to reach the new outlet location—plus about 1 ft. Connect the wires of the new cable to the existing wires (Photo 3). Pull the cable out through the new outlet hole in the wall (Photo 4) and feed it into the new box. Then mount the new box in the opening. Photos 3 and 5 show how the electrical connections are made. Finally, call the electrical inspector to check your work.

Caution!

Before you tackle any part of this project, turn off the power to the circuit at the main electrical panel by switching off the breaker or removing the fuse.

  • Before touching any bare wires or terminals on a switch or outlet, use a voltage tester on all the wires to make sure the power is off (Photo 1).
  • If you have old, fabric-insulated wiring, call an electrician to recommend safe connections. With wiring like this, there’s usually no ground wire and it’s hard to tell the hot wire from the neutral, because both are coated with black insulation.
ALUMINUM WIRING REQUIRES SPECIAL HANDLING. IF YOU HAVE ALUMINUM WIRING, CALL IN A LICENSED PRO WHO’S CERTIFIED TO WORK WITH IT. THIS WIRING IS DULL GRAY, NOT THE DULL ORANGE THAT’S CHARACTERISTIC OF COPPER.

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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • 4-in-1 screwdriver
    • Needle-nose pliers
    • Drywall saw
    • Voltage tester
    • Wire stripper/cutter

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • Electrical cable, about 5 ft.
    • Remodeling box
    • Receptacle (outlet)
    • Wire connectors, several sizes

Comments from DIY Community Members

Share what's on your mind and see what other DIYers are thinking about.

1 - 15 of 15 comments
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September 10, 12:23 PM [GMT -5]

I have a question, I mounted a flat screen TV in the corner of my bedroom and I would like to locate the outlet directly behind the TV so I don't have cords all over. We wall fished the CAT5 (we use streaming Internet TV) to the location. The problem is the outlet we use for power is not on the wall we want it on, it is around the corner and a couple feet away. We have a generous attic space to run cables and wires but I want to ensure I comply with all local safety codes. In my mind, I would attach an encased appropriate gauge wire to the top screws of the existing outlet (power is attached to bottom screws) feed the wire through the box and up the wall and across the attic, drill a hole at the top of the wall where I want to drop the new box and fish it down and into a new junction box where there would be the new outlet. This would create a daisy chain to the new outlet and leave that outlet on the same breaker as the rest of the bedroom outlets, there are presently 5. Does anyone with electrical and code know how see any glaring flaws with this plan? Please let me know yay or nay on the plan and let me know your qualifications. Thank you!!!

August 12, 4:21 PM [GMT -5]

By having more than 8 outlets connected to a 15A circuit, you run the risk of overloading your circuit. Even if you know everything that will be plugged into the outlets once you finish the project, the cord-and-plug loads may change over time. The less spare capacity you provide yourself on a circuit, the more likely overloads occur. When overloads occur, you start tripping the circuit breaker. It will trip over and over again if most loads on that circuit are typically used at once. So unless you are certain that there will never be more than one load on at a time or that the loads will not change for the life of the home, 8 or less outlets should be used on a 15A circuit at a maximum.

August 12, 4:07 PM [GMT -5]

The reasoning behind the 8 outlets comes from the NEC cord-and-plug connected load rule. Since every load actually connected to a circuit of all outlets would be cord-and-plug conected, this rule would apply. In a 15A circuit, code allows a maximum cord-and-plug connected load of 12A - 80% of the rated ampacity (with a 20A circuit this would be 16A). A standard outlet without a known load is standardly assumed to have a load of 180 Volt-Amps (VA). So 12A x 120V = 1440 VA / 180 VA gets you to 8 outlets. Of course if the load is known, you should use the actual Amps multiplied by the Voltage to make sure you are not overloading your circuit.

July 20, 9:43 PM [GMT -5]

The article says that code is no more than 8 outlets on a 15 amp circuit (unless I'm misreading). My question is what is the logic behind that? If there were, let's say 10 outlets (or any number of outlets), each with one device pulling power, but the total amperage was less than 15, what is the rationale behind the 8 outlet limitation?

July 20, 9:09 PM [GMT -5]

Assuming that the total amperage (including start up amps) is less than the circuit capacity, what is the logic (or risk) of having more than 8 items connected (and drawing power) at the same time?

May 21, 1:24 PM [GMT -5]

Be sure to wrap the wire clock-wise around the screw. Connect the white wire to the silver screw and the black wire to the brass screw. NOTE: Only ONE wire per screw ever!

November 18, 12:36 PM [GMT -5]

If both rooms are on the same breaker that's a nice way to add an outlet. Couple of words of caution are: 1) Don't overload the circuit. Only a certain number of loads are allowed per breaker. Applicable code and wire gauge dependant so seek the local authority for details. 2) Making orphaned electrical outlets by stealing power from another service can leave you thinking power to the bedroom is all off when the orphaned outlet is still powered from the den. Make sure your electrical panel makes orphan outlets clear. May not even be allowed in some juristrictions.

April 28, 4:14 AM [GMT -5]

good project

April 28, 4:14 AM [GMT -5]

gr8

April 28, 4:14 AM [GMT -5]

very good

April 28, 4:13 AM [GMT -5]

nice

April 28, 4:13 AM [GMT -5]

ggod

April 28, 4:13 AM [GMT -5]

good project

February 05, 3:56 PM [GMT -5]

The outlet should have light and dark terminals - white wire to light, black wire to dark, ground (bare) wire to green.

May 26, 6:08 PM [GMT -5]

Not clear as to which screw the black and white wires are to be connected to and what happens if they are not connected to the right screw!!

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