Adding a New Outlet

Posted by John on May 2nd, 2012

I enjoy doing electrical work.  It’s usually fairly straight forward and doesn’t involve me getting very dirty.  Usually.  Sometimes I have to cut holes in the wall, like in our dining room.  Since we decided to add some raised panel wainscoting, we’re adding a new outlet behind this buffet.  The lamps we have on there don’t have an outlet close enough so we have to run them out across the wall.  Talk about first world problems.  Oh, the humanity!

In reality, it does make sense to get the cords out of the way with a toddler and a schnauzer occasionally running in here.

What I don’t like doing is showing my readers how to wire something because I don’t want anyone to get hurt.  So, I’m not going to show how to actually wire up the outlet.  I will show you how I put the new receptacle box in and how I ran the new romex cable in the wall.  If you’re looking to get into doing your own electrical work, I recommended a really great book last week here.

I did all of this work with the power to the room off at the circuit breaker.

Here’s the wall with the two original outlet visible.  To begin, I marked out the wall with the stud locations using a stud finder and then with the locations of my vertical wainscoting boards.  I want the new outlet to be somewhere in the raised panel section and not in the middle of an edge or something.  When I did this step, I also found another outlet on the opposite wall needed to be moved since it was too close to one of these edges.

Here’s the basic idea behind adding an outlet.  The picture below shows how the cables are run to each outlet.  The power comes in from the right, hits the first outlet and then carries over to the second outlet.  Sometimes these cables can be run in the wall or they can be dropped into the basement and run down there.   By doing a quick inspection of my basement ceiling, I could tell that the lengths are run down there.  Doesn’t really change much either way.

Here’s how I’m going to add the new outlet.  First, I’m going to add the new hole in the wall where the outlet will go.  After that, I’ll pull the long red cable out of the first outlet and take it over to the new outlet location.  I’ll then add a new cable section between the right side outlet and the new outlet.

To mark off for the new outlet, you can measure the existing outlets to get an idea of how high off the floor they are… or you can do this method… snap a chalk line.  The chalk line gets me some more flexibility.

I use a thumb tack (or a tum tack as they say in NEPA) above one of the outlets.

Then, pull the string tight across the wall to the same location on the other outlet.  Snap it.  Repeat that step for the bottom of the outlet.

You end up with an entire zone across the wall where the outlet can be located.  All you need to do is pick a spot.

The outlet boxes I’m using for this project are “Old Work” since they’re not going into an open wall.  “New Work” boxes are used during new construction.  These old work boxes have flip up tabs that grab the drywall from inside the wall.  Here’s a tip though:  Get the screws started for those tabs and use a cordless driver.  The screws are very difficult to turn and even harder if they’re not started.

I take my outlet box over to the wall, line it up with the chalk lines and mark the sides of the outlet.

The opening can be cut with a drywall knife or a box cutter.  I used both.  Once the hole is cut, we shift to moving the cables.

So, with the new outlet hole in place, it’s just a matter of moving a cable out of an outlet box and running a new one.  I opened up the wall below a couple of the old outlets to get the cable out from a staple.  In my opinion, it’s easier to open the wall than to try and rip the cable out from the staple.

To get the cables into the new outlet, I had to drill a hole in the basement ceiling directly below the new outlet location.  Sounds tricky, but it was easy.  I just found the hole for the existing outlets in the basement, measured over and drilled (the photo below was taken from another outlet move).  See that hole on the right?  That’s where the cables used to run.  Now they run to the hole on the far left.  Again, different outlet, but you get the idea.

Here’s what the new outlet looks like now.

I still have to prep the wires for the electrical inspector.  Oh, and I’ll show you how I spackled some extra holes I put into the wall!

Any electrical work on your horizon?

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