Shockingly Classy

Just like I told Nate Berkus, we didn’t know what we were doing with electrical work.  How’s that for name dropping? :)

But seriously.  When we bought our first house, we had NO idea on how to do anything with electrical outlets…short of plugging in our George Foreman…and even then, there might have been an episode with jamming the wrong prong into the wrong hole.  (totally inappropriate that’s-what-she-said opportunity! sorry mom…if you know that joke.)

Three trips to the library, several electrical books, and lots of practice later, we are well versed in putting the power in Bower Power….cheesey!  Jeremy even put in all the wiring for our old basement renovation…so proud of that boy.  So switching out an outlet is like picking a wedgie….no brain power required.

See the outlet near the office bathroom sink?

Well, since it was a dingy almond color, I decided to switch it out with a GFCI outlet that is bright white.

Now wait just a gosh darn second…here’s my disclaimer…don’t attempt electrical work without turning off the power at the breaker.  Your life, your good hair, non-bleeding-eyeballs are not worth risking being electrocuted.  Take all safety precautions.  When in doubt, pull out.

And read all your instructions.  I have done these a bunch but it’s still REALLY good to read them.

Okay – so now that you have officially turned off the power at the breaker…and tested your outlet for any power….

you are gonna start by removing the face plate from your dingy outlet.

Using your screwdriver, unscrew the outlet from the blue electrical box that sits inside the wall.  See those little screws at the top and bottom?  Yup, those.  Now pull the entire thing out – don’t yank…and in my case, I had the simplest three wire version.

I unscrewed the screws on the side and bottom which released the wires.  You can simply pull the wires out of the holes after you unscrew the screws.

Break out that bright white baby…

It’s time to look at your new GFCI outlet….it has three screws – a green, a silver, and a classy brassy one.  And you are gonna work them all like Trump’s apprentices.

See how you stick the NON-frayed good condition wire back into the hole?  Black to brassy – white to silver.  Excuse my cuticule beds…they are groddy.

Now tighten the screw…it locks them bad boys down…(bad boys bad boys, whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do when they come for you?!?! – name that show)

The black & white wires are straight as they go into the holes.  And the copper wire needs to be curled…it’s difficult, believe me, but it helps in the long run.  Now have the curl go around the green screw in the clockwise direction…

After all the wires are fastened, gently push all the wires back into the electrical box and screw the GFCI outlet into the box.  Don’t tighten it all the way down till you straighten it though.  I mean, nobody is gonna admire your work if it’s lookin more crooked than a politician :)

Fasten it down – now break out the moves.  Hustle, q-tip time, running man, make it rain…(extra points if you actually do that in a cubicle or while nursing a baby)…

Ta – da!   You have officially switched out a GFCI outlet without shocking yourself into next week!


But you didn’t think I would leave ya just with that, did ya?

No.  nonono.  I have a very classy how-to video for ya.  Excuse my hair, and my bathrobe, and for keepin it a-little-too-real…

Please don’t remember me like that….



  1. says

    Yeah, I agree that you are way braver than me! But thank you for the step-by-steps, it does seem a lot less intimidating when you break it down like that. My husband is USELESS when it comes to electrical (still love him), so maybe I could do this one all on my own! A girl should know how to change out an outlet, right? It’s gotta be on someone’s bucket list…

  2. says

    Last year, we had electricians come and do this to all of the outlets in our basement, as well as put in recessed lighting. This week–we did the same thing ourselves. It is LIBERATING!

    Oh, and–
    “bad boys bad boys, whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do when they come for you?!?! – name that show”

    “Are we on cops?! Are we on cops?!” (Name THAT show.)

  3. says

    As always, delightful and informative. I’ve always “watched” others do this, wouldn’t have attempted it myself. I think I will now; got some grungies of my own!

  4. Pip says

    Thanks for keeping it real – all DIY should be done in terry toweling comfort I think. Its got me thinkin though, bathrobe, snot crying…I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed you’ve got a little something brewing :) Pipxx

  5. Susan says

    Just a heads up that replacing outlets and light switches can be more difficult in older houses. We replaced every last one in our former house, which was only 30 years old, but the wire color scheme and positioning was different in the 80’s. It took some (scary) experimenting to figure out the right way to replace the old outlets and switches with more modern ones. Especially difficult were the three-way switches, where two switches control a single light from different locations in a room.

  6. Maddy says

    Good work! In most states of Australia, you have to be a licenced electrician (ie have an electrician’s “ticket”) to do electrical work in your home. I must admit I have done little jobs and always said I have a “ticket”… bus ticket….

  7. Sarah says

    When I was a kid our pastor would always have the kids come up front before he gave his sermon. He had a box that would be sent home with a different kid each week, and that kid would put something in it and bring it back the next week. The pastor would then open the box and give a little mini sermon based on the item inside. When my week came I put in a GFCI. What can I say, I was a weird kid. It took the poor guy a long time to come up with a spiritual parallel… and it was a long time before I was given the box again.

  8. says

    So happy this blog had a happy ending! My default is always to cry and then sleep it off too. It always makes things better when you wake up. Good to know I’m not the only one. :)

  9. Rebecca says

    I was going to comment and ask if there was music playing somewhere in the background in your house and I’m going to guess the answer is yes based on the video credits.

  10. says

    Those GFCI’s are pretty cool. I read somewhere that if tripped they will break the circuit of electricity in less than one of your heartbeats (thus helping you avoid totally frying yourself). Normally the trip must be relayed back at your circuit box, which can be a few seconds away in electricity time.

    And while absolutely necessary in certain parts of your house (I think the rule of thumb is anytime you have an outlet within six feet of a water source, it should be GFCI – but dont quote me), they are also expensive.

    Another cool thing about a GFCI outlet (to people like us, reading blogs like these – GFCI related information has “cool” potential – which probably doesn’t translate everywhere), is that so long as the first outlet in a series of outlets is a GFCI, the rest of the series will be protected even though they are regular-type outlets. They all use that first outlet’s circuit breaker, instead of going all the way back to the circuit box in the case of interruption. Obviously, it takes a little more investigation to determine whether or not the subsequent outlets are in the same series as your GFCI. I wouldn’t attempt this without further research and consulting someone with experience. If possible, you could save some money by not having to buy a bunch of GFCI outlets in some instances.

  11. Ashley says

    I love how the project isn’t complete until you do the booty dance :). You are braver than I! The electric stuff scares the bajeezus out of me. Looks great Katie!

  12. says

    EVERY single outlet in my house is tan. I don’t get it – why would anybody EVER choose to install tan instead of white? They can’t possibly be cheaper. The tan is especially offensive in my upstairs bathroom, where the main color scheme seems to be “flesh toned”. Yick. Thanks for the tutorial… I need to update all of mine soon!

  13. Corie says

    You are so flippin’ cute, Katie! I love it that you did electrical stuff yourself, it gives me courage to do more Man Work around here! My husband is NOT handy, and I kinda am… except with electrical stuff.

  14. lisa says

    hmmmmm, could katie be pregnant and not feeling well since she didn’t get out of her robe while working on the outlet in the video?
    crossing fingers.:)

    • says

      Thanks for crossing those fingers – cross your toes too! And yeah, I wish I could say that the robe was still on because of sickness…it’s not. It’s because I was too lazy to do laundry.
      xo – kb

  15. says

    Hi Katie,
    I just found your blog and have totally added you to my google reader – which is very selective btw :)

    To add to this fabulous post – I would caution anyone who has the old school metal face plates. Our old apartment had them and I almost electrocuted myself trying to pull out one of those 2-prong to 3-prong converters. I’m talking sparks EVERYWHERE! So good to cut the power even for what might seem like a simple job.

    Love your blog! Can’t wait to read more!

  16. says

    I, for one, am very impressed! I’ve never tried to change out an outlet, I’m always afraid to mess with electrical things. You’re inspiring me to try something new. Good for you!

  17. says

    Katie, you crack me up in your bathroom and edward scissorhands hurr. its faboosh! I recently learned to do this myself, but changed a 3 way switch to a 3 way + dimmer. Oh the lighting now is Oh-so-glorious!
    however…now that you’ve changed your outlet to white…it makes me wonder if i should be changing all my “grungy almond” to nice & white. it would match the trim, but i was worried it would be too stark. rats!

  18. Alison says

    I definitely laughed out loud at work during a couple of points during this video…when in doubt, pull it out…stick your pliers in your bathrobe…this was awesome.

  19. Angela says

    “There’s a lot of screwing going on around here people!” You make me laugh. Seriously. OUT. LOUD.

    Thanks for doing this- we have nice white upstairs, but not down. Our living and dining rooms are actually not grounded- so I’m not sure if we could do this or not (we don’t have a three prong outlet- just a two.).

    I love that you’re wearing your robe- I love blogs that keep it real!

  20. says

    Thank you for this post! I replaced most of my outlet plates with pretty new white ones, but the outlets are still a “dingy almond color” as you described them. It’s driving me crazy, but I didn’t want to spend the money to hire an electrician to fix it (my husband is wonderful, but not at all handy PLUS I like to conquer projects myself). You may have just given me the confidence I need to tackle this bad boy on my own. PS: Love the bathrobe and the hair. I have to laugh because it’s 5:45 PM and I’m still sitting in my PJs with unbrushed hair contemplating whether or not it’s even worth showering at this point.

  21. Olivia says

    Oh how nice to see you in person! Well, sort of in person. Even in your bathrobe!! Seriously, it was nice to actually hear your voice (and your crude but oh so funny jokes)! You were very informative. I am not replacing any grungy outlets at this point but will make a mental reminder of this video when I do! Thanks!

  22. says

    You are so darn adorable! Even more cute than I had imagined by just reading your blog! I love all of your hard work and ability to be the “besterest EVER” at it. Hope you win the Homies Award!!

  23. says

    Nice! I love doing electrical work and it’s cool to see someone else tackling it – most people are too scared (and rightly so, it’s not to be messed with unless you know your stuff). Here are a couple extra safety tips you and your readers should know:
    1) Push-in connections are easier, but weaker than looping the wire around each screw and tightening it down. Weak connections are a safety hazard as they can generate heat and start a fire. It’s a pain, but I loop around each screw. Better safe than sorry.
    2) Test your work after you finish! For any type of outlet, use a cheap outlet tester available at any hardware or home store, which will confirm your wires are all connected to the right places (and even if you did everything right, this might alert you to incorrect wiring elsewhere in the circuit). Just plugging something in and it working doesn’t mean the hot and neutral aren’t reversed, or that it won’t hurt the appliance over time. And with a GFCI, you should also press the Test button and make sure that turns off power to the outlet.

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