You might need to move an electrical outlet for many reasons. One of the most common situations is installing a television on the wall. Frequently this involves moving the plug receptacle to a higher level, where it will be concealed by the TV.
Safety Note: This project can be dangerous if you don't know exactly what you're doing. If you're not a certified electrician, it might even be illegal to do this in some places. The safest way to approach this is to hire a pro, but if you're curious about what goes into the project, you can check out the steps here.
Step 1 - Cut the Power
In order to keep yourself safe from any electrical hazard situations, it's important before you start that you turn the power off at the circuit breaker. You'll need to find the right breaker inside the electrical panel that feeds this particular outlet by inserting the probes of a multimeter into the slots to see if the voltage is present.
If you don't have a meter, you can plug in and turn on a lamp in the outlet you're moving. Flip the switches one by one—when it goes off, you've found the right breaker.
Step 2 - Choose the Right Box
Cut-in boxes are the type of electric boxes normally used when you’re working with an already finished wall, so a cut-in box with recessed outlets will let you plug in all your wires and cables within the wall surface and prevent them from getting in the way (Fig. 1). Some of those boxes are also designed to accept different types of wall plates with RJ-45, CAT-6, and HDMI connections to accommodate your specific connection needs (Fig.2).
Step 3 - Decide Where You Want the TV on the Wall
Decide where on the wall your flatscreen will hang, at what height, and on which studs it will be bolted. For this, you will need the bolt layout on the bracket to be traced on the wall. Screw the bracket in place temporarily with only a couple screws and adjust it with a spirit level, then secure the screen to it and push it against the wall so that you can place strips of painters’ tape on the wall to indicate the heights of the top and the bottom of the flat screen.
This will give you your limits as to where you can place the electrical recessed box on the wall, either on top or underneath the bracket where it will remain hidden from view. Remove the TV screen from the bracket and store it in a safe place for now.
Step 4 - Choosing a Location for the Electric Box
In contrast to regular standard boxes that are screwed to the wall studs, a cut-in box has clamps that rotate 90° to project its tabs behind the drywall as soon as you turn the tightening screws which then keep screwing down the clamping tabs until the box is tight against the wall (Figures 3 & 4). A cut-in box comes with a flange to keep it from falling inside the wall.
4.1 —Understanding this, the cut-in box should be kept an inch or more from any stud or other obstruction that might interfere.
4.2 —The cut-in box should be concealed by the TV screen.
4.3 —The opening for the cut-in box should be clear of the screen’s mounting bracket.
4.4 —Draw the box's outline on the wall and cut out the opening with a keyhole saw.
Step 5—Check for Obstructions
A cut-in box with multiple wallplates will usually require an opening large enough to check the inside of the wall for obstructions such as fire blocks, in which case—
5.1 —Secure a 1-inch spade bit and possibly a spade bit extension to a drill.
5.2 —With the spade bit placed against the obstruction inside the wall and at least 2-inches from any studs to keep away from nails, drill a hole through the obstruction.
5.3 —Another type of obstruction can exist if the new outlet is in a different stud bay. A similar procedure as above but this time drilling the 1-inch hole through the stud and if it’s too many stud bays away, it will be best to fish a new cable through from the ceiling or the floor, depending on what’s easier, but following the same basic procedures.
Step 6 - Bring the Cable to the Opening
6.1 —If the cable comes from overhead, as soon as you cut the opening for the cut-in box, you should find the cable running down the wall. You just cut the cable long enough and pull it in and if you choose to also keep the old outlet active, you’ll just have to make the connections inside the cut-in electrical box.
6.2 —If the cable comes from below, you’ll have to remove the receptacle from the box and stretch the wires out.
6.3 —Unscrew the box from the stud and remove it from inside the wall.
6.4 —Remove a knockout from the box and install a cable connector.
6.5 —Use a wire passed through the cable connector as a fishing tool and push it through until it reaches the new opening (Fig. 5).
6.6 —Cut a piece of a cable of the same gauge size long enough to reach between the two openings a 2-feet to spare.
6.7a —Bring the end of the fishing wire together with the cable to form one straight line and tape them securely together before carefully and slowly pulling everything up from the top where you will pull a foot of it out (Fig. 6).
6.7b —If proceeding from step 5.4 "from the next bay", push the fishing wire up as previously until it’s high enough, then use the 2nd wire with a hook formed at the end to catch the 1st fish wire through the hole in the stud.
6.8 —Return to the outlet by the floor and remove 6-inches of the cable’s jacket, the about 1-inch of insulation from each wire. Adjust to get the right length of wires and secure with the cable connector.
6.9 —Return the box into its opening and screw it in place. Connect the ground wires together and to the box, the white wire to the outlet’s free silver terminal, and the black wire to the outlet’s free brass terminal.
6.10 —You can now install the outlet back as it was initially with its plate cover.
6.11 —Back at the cut-in box opening, remove 6-inches of jacket from the cable and 1-inch of insulation from each wire. Put the wire through into the box up to the jacket and tighten the cable connector. All of the low voltage cables should be fished through and hooked up to their respective wall plate at this point.
6.12 —Push the cut-in box through its opening in the wall and screw in each of the clamping tabs in turn until it tightens up against the drywall (Fig. 7)
6.13 —Install the wallplates in their respective locations and secure them in place, then put the covers on and your job is done!
Step 7 - Finishing Up
All that’s left to do is turn the circuit breaker back on and test the receptacle. The screen bracket can now be permanently secured to the wall with all the bolts provided and the screen attached to it.
Moving an Electrical Outlet FAQ
Can I move an outlet myself?
While it is definitely a DIY task that should be undertaken seriously and safety measures must be taken, it is possible for the average homeowner to move an outlet without the aid of an electrician in most cases. State, city, and county electrical codes do not typically place restrictions on the number of outlets a home may have, nor are permits usually required for this task.
As long as you're safe and careful and you have a good guide to follow, almost any electrical outlet can be moved in most cases.
How hard is it to relocate an outlet?
Doing any type of electrical work is a bit daunting even for serious DIYers, but it is actually not very difficult to move an outlet. This is a fairly simple task that even non-electricians can perform successfully, so this is not at all a difficult undertaking.
The entire process takes less than an hour and requires only a handful of everyday tools, in fact.
How do you move an outlet without cutting the wall?
For some DIYers, the scary part of moving an outlet is not cutting electrical wires or attaching them, it's cutting into drywall. Repairing drywall can be a much more intensive task than the electrical portion of moving an outlet.
However, you can move an outlet without cutting into drywall. Instead of cutting into the wall to attach wires internally, you can lengthen the wires and run them along a channel, which is a shallow, straight, narrow piece that looks a bit like an inverted chair railing.
The wires run along the channel, which goes from the old outlet to the new outlet. The electrical wires can be attached to the new outlet and once the new outlet is secured to the wall, it's ready to use.
How long does it take an electrician to move an outlet?
For a professional electrician, moving an outlet is a typically quick and easy task. Unless there is some unforeseen problem with the existing electricity or a particular circuit is too overloaded for safety reasons, the entire job takes 30 minutes or less.
How far can an outlet be from a wall?
According to standard electrical codes, which are by no means uniform across every state and city, outlets should never be more than six feet away from a wall. However, this is often more of a suggestion than a hard coding law so you can't expect this to be a uniform rule that has been observed throughout your home.