Tommy’s Tips: Changing an Electrical Socket

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Altering, or changing a domestic electrical installation, is not something I would generally recommend to DIY’ers, but attempting a simple alteration, can be successfully completed, providing you are a “competent DIY’er” and follow safety and installation instructions to the letter!

The most important elements to domestic electrical alterations are 1) Safety and 2) Planning. I learnt this to my cost: as a very young lad, I changed a broken single electric socket in my parents house, without any knowledge, hence not turning the power off, not something I would recommend! I couldn’t work out what this weird, buzzing sensation shooting up my arm was, and was very lucky not to get killed or suffer serious injury. The moral of the story therefore: electrical work is only for the competent DIY’er, and to further add insult to injury, I received a thick ear, when my dad came home from work and found out what I had done! With regard to planning, in my own first house, we only had about six single sockets throughout, and in a rush to complete the renovations, socket positions where spread throughout the house, two doubles per room, mostly on one side of the house, for easy installation for the sparks. This wasn’t good for us, because we didn’t plan the sockets to correspond with the room layout, furniture etc, which proved to be a bit of a nightmare, so planning in detail is paramount!

A double socket is not much more expensive than a single, and is fairly straight-forward to change and is better and safer, than using multi – plug adapters! First, turn off the power at the mains, and check the power’s off, by plugging in an electrical appliance, switching it on, to ensure the power to the socket has been isolated. Unscrew the chrome retaining screws on the socket face, pull out the face, to reveal the cable connections. Unscrew the wires and remove the socket face, then unscrew the retaining screws, to the single back box, and remove. If the socket is mounted on a plasterboard partition, once the box is removed, use the new plastic back box, as a template to mark the plaster-board for cutting. Using a pad saw, cut out the plaster-board, and insert the double back box, pulling the cables through to the front of the box. The wiring layout is the same for a double as a single socket outlet; two brown (or red) – live, two blue (or black) –neutral, two green and yellow – earth. Connect up the wires accordingly, replace with the double socket face, and secure with the retaining screws.

Tommy Tip: use your phone or tablet to take a picture of the connections BEFORE disconnecting, as a reference guide for the reconnection to the new socket outlet.

If the power point is mounted into a solid wall, once removed, position the new double back box and use as a template to mark the wall. Using a drill with a masonry bit, create a series or holes INSIDE, the pencil marks, to the depth of the back box, using a light club hammer and chisel, break out the plaster and brick work, within the pencil lines. Position the new double back box and fix with two screws and plugs, pull the cable through, to the front of the box, ensuring the back box is flush with the plaster. Re-connect the wires to the socket face, as described above, finally make good the plaster edge around the back box with filler, smooth with fine sand paper when dry, touch the paint work up, and nobody will ever notice!

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