How to Fix a Loose Electrical Outlet

Loose Electrical Outlets are Annoying and Can be Dangerous

By Mark J. Donovan

Do you have a loose electrical outlet that pushes in or sideways when you plug an appliance into it? If so, you can and should fix the loose electrical outlet problem promptly. A loose electrical outlet increases the risk of electrical shock. Moreover, the electrical wires that connect into the outlet can loosen over time, which can result in the outlet no longer working and/or dangerous arcing conditions occurring.

To repair a loose electrical outlet all you need is a screwdriver and a couple of shims specifically designed for electrical outlets.

Before working on the electrical outlet, first turn off power to the electrical outlet at the main circuit panel.

Check to make sure power is indeed off to the electrical outlet by using a circuit tester. You can also check by plugging in an appliance and making sure it no longer turns on.

Next remove the electrical cover plate to expose the electrical outlet. Use a screw driver to remove the screws that hold the cover plate to the electrical outlet.

Then check the loose electrical outlet to see what type of motion it has. If it has only lateral movement (side to side), tighten up the two screws that hold the electrical outlet to the electrical box, making sure the electrical outlet is first plumb.

If the electrical outlet is recessed too deeply and pushes in and out when you put pressure on its front face, such as when you plug an electrical appliance into it, then use one or more electrical outlet shims to fix the problem.

Electrical outlet shims are very inexpensive and can be found at any home improvement center. If the electrical box itself is recessed into the wall too deeply then you may want to use a receptacle outlet box extender.

They are commonly used in wall tile projects and extend the outlet outward so that it is flush with the finished tile surface.

After shimming the electrical outlet reattach the outlet cover plate and turn power back onto the outlet at the main circuit panel. That’s all there is to it to fixing a loose electrical outlet.

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