Did you know that those thin plastic outlet cover plates are actually a safety device? When the cover plates are broken or removed, some wires are exposed. Even though plugging in a device is typically 100% safe, exposed wires can pose a danger. Cover plates hide these wires so that you can’t accidentally touch them. The cover plates also keep the outlet firmly locked in place. Without the plates, the outlet can be moved easily, which can lead to loose wires and premature wear. Though the cover plates seem like a simple accessory, they provide a necessary safety feature. Maintaining the cover plates can also extend the life of your outlet.
Replacing a cracked or missing cover plate is a home electrical task that many homeowners can handle. As with most electrical projects, the first step is to turn off the power to the outlet. Turning off the appropriate switch in the circuit breaker usually does the trick. Once the power is off, the exposed wires no longer pose a risk to the homeowner. Cover plates are typically mounted into the wall using two or more screws. A screwdriver can easily remove the cover plate. Once the cover plate is removed, the homeowner can take the opportunity to inspect the outlet. Checking for exposed or pinched wires is a good practice. These wires can be hazardous when using the outlet. However, when the power is off, it’s safe to adjust these wires so that they don’t protrude from the outlet. Once the inspection is complete, homeowners can install the new cover plate using the same screwdrivers and screws. The last step is to turn the power on again.
Although many hazards are reduced by having an intact cover plate, sometimes whole outlets need to be replaced. This is a more complicated project for a homeowner. Instead of simply replacing a mechanical part, wires need to be removed from the old or damaged outlet and inserted into the new ones. Again, turning off the power is essential. The basic principle is to disassemble the damaged outlet and reassemble the new one in the same way. The location of each wire is important. If homeowners have any questions about this process, or suspect that there may be another issue, it’s probably time to call a professional electrician.
While there are many minor home fixes that owners can handle, professionals are available for a reason. They are trained to troubleshoot issues and stay safe. When an outlet is not functioning properly and the cause is not immediately clear (like a loose or missing wire), it might be time to call a professional.