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What “Backstabbing” an Outlet Means and Why It’s Dangerous

Tips & Definitions from George Brazil

“Backstabbing” an outlet is basically a shortcut to securing the wires on an outlet or switch.

It was a common practice in the 1970s and 1980s but now quality electricians avoid it at all cost! Why? Well, it turns out that backstabbed wires are pretty dangerous and have even been found to cause electrical fires.

We’ll explain what backstabbed outlets look like and how to fix the problem so that your family and home is protected.

Why backstabbed outlets are so dangerous

If an outlet is backstabbed, it means that the neutral wires (white) and hot wires (either red, blue or yellow) are pushed into small holes in the back of an outlet instead of being anchored down by screws.

So why is that dangerous?

Well, when wiring an electrical outlet, you need to be sure that all wires are securely in place. And that’s where backstabbing falls short. Shoving wires into the holes on the back of a receptacle instead of screwing them in tightly means that over time (and especially if the outlet is tampered with) those wires tend to come loose.

And loose electrical wires can cause:

  • Electrical fires
  • Interruption in power
  • Damage to the outlet (melted/singed parts due to increased heat)

So if backstabbing is such an unsafe practice, why do electricians still do it? Well, less quality electricians sometimes opt for this installation practice because it’s faster and sometimes cheaper.

Wondering if you have this electrical hazard in your own home? Let’s look at how you can determine if you have a backstabbed outlet.

How to tell if you have a backstabbed outlet

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to tell a backstabbed outlet from a correctly wired one just by looking at the front end.

Instead, you’ll need to inspect the back end of your outlet.

Follow these steps to check for backstabbed wiring:

  1. Cut off power to the outlet at the electrical panel.
  2. Use a screwdriver to disconnect the cover plate. Then unscrew the receptacle from the box.
  3. Inspect the back end of the receptacle. If you see wires inserted into the 4 holes in the back, you have a backstabbed outlet and will need an electrician to rewire it correctly.

Have a backstabbed outlet? Get help from an AZ electrician

If you found one backstabbed outlet in your home, there’s a good chance that there are more.

At George Brazil, we train our electricians to never use the “backstabbing” method.

If you live in the Phoenix area and need an outlet rewired, just contact us today and we’ll send you our best electrician.

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