How To Abandon An Electrical Outlet?

Due to the increased usage of electrical devices in our house, you have multiple outlets. If any such outlet dies or becomes useless, you must abandon it for safety. But how will you do it? Here’s what I found out. 

To abandon an outlet, cap off the outlet, disconnect the wires, and cover them with wire caps. Remove the wires and cover the electrical box with drywall to abandon it permanently. But if wires exist, remove the outlet, cap the wires, and screw a blank plate.

Abandoning an electrical outlet is not that difficult. But, you must cover them well to prevent children from playing with them. This article describes the reasons to abandon an outlet, the steps of abandonment, and some safety considerations while working with an outlet.

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Reasons for abandoning an electrical outlet: When is it necessary?

Outlets no longer in use should be abandoned and covered for safety, especially if children are in your house. 

Below are some conditions that explain when and why you should abandon an electrical outlet:

  • Over time, the electrical outlets can damage and wear out due to regular wear and tear. If the outlet is damaged or dead, you should abandon it for safety to reduce the risk of electrical accidents. 
  • If you find any visible damage in your outlets, you must abandon them, at least for some time, unless you replace them.
  • When your breaker trips multiple times due to overloading, reduce using a few outlets to reduce the circuit load. The outlets you disable from the circuit should be abandoned to avoid further usage. 
  • Recently, technology has improved a lot over time. So, the older outlets may not be compatible with the new devices. As a result, you have to abandon them. 
  • If you have an outlet that does not meet the rules of the local building codes, you should abandon them or replace them with a new outlet. 
  • If you are not using an outlet, it can lead to air leakage, further decreasing your house’s energy efficiency. So, to avoid such a situation, you must cap off the outlet and abandon it. 
  • During the remodeling and renovation of the house, the outlets are no longer necessary except for one or two. So, abandon them for some time to reduce the risk of accidents. 
  • You need a compatible outlet if the outlet prong differs from the appliance’s plug prong. So, you may want to abandon the existing outlet. 

Safety considerations while working with electrical outlets 

In most conditions, the outlets and their wire connections are done by an electrician. 

If you are new to wiring or abandoning an outlet, hire an electrician. Otherwise, you can do it yourself.

When I attempt to wire or abandon any outlet, I consult an expert and then approach for it. 

Here are some safety considerations that I always follow while working with electrical outlets:

  • Always turn off the power of the outlet at the circuit breaker. Only turning off the outlet switch won’t cut off the power running in the wires. Go to the breaker, find the outlet’s power, and turn it off. 
  • Apply electrical tape to the working circuit to warn other people that work is going on and they should not flip it on. 
  • Even after turning off the circuit, check whether power is running in the wires with a voltage tester. If there is a voltage reading, you have not properly turned off the breaker. If needed, switch off the panel. 
  • You must identify the correct wires to connect them to the proper terminals. 
  • Use wire nuts to secure the wires and avoid them from touching each other. It will prevent sparks.  
  • Wear protective gear while working, like insulated gloves and goggles. 
  • Avoid working around wet areas. Keep your hands dry while working. 
  • Avoid contacting any metal materials. 

Tools and materials needed for abandoning the electrical outlets 

Abandoning electrical outlets is essential to avoid the risks of electrical accidents. 

To abandon the outlets, you will need the proper tools and materials to disable them successfully. Here are some crucial tools required:

  • A voltage tester will help you know that no current runs through the outlet wires while working.
  • The screwdriver will allow you to unscrew the outlet from the wall or screw back a blank cover.
  • Pliers will help you loosen the wires from the outlet.
  • The wire cutters will be needed to disconnect the wires.
  • The wire caps or nuts will be needed to secure the exposed wires and avoid electrical shocks.
  • Outlet covers and electrical tape will cover the outlet as a sign that the outlet is useless and should not be used.

Steps for abandoning the electrical outlet

Electricity can be dangerous if handled carelessly. 

Abandoning a damaged or useless outlet keeps you safe from electrical accidents. You can do it yourself if you know the proper steps. 

If you are a beginner and want to try it yourself, here are some general steps to abandon an electrical outlet. However, if you hesitate, call a professional to do the work. 

  1. The first important step is to turn off the outlet’s power at the circuit. If you work with an energized outlet, there are higher chances of electrocution. So, ensure that you have turned it off.
  2. To confirm it, use a voltage tester near the circuit. You have successfully turned off the power if there is no voltage reading.
  3. Once the outlet is no longer live, unscrew the screws at the top of the cover plate with a flathead screwdriver. 
  4. Now, remove the outlet gently from the wall. 
  5. Removing the wires depends on how they are connected to the outlet.
  6. If the wires are connected to the screws, unscrew them properly with a screwdriver or pliers. 
  7. But if they are connected to the back of the outlet, find holes or slots next to the wires. 
  8. Press a tool into the hole and pull out the wire.
  9. If the wires are stubborn, use wire cutters or strippers to disconnect the wires from the outlet. 
  10. Once the wires are disconnected, secure them with wire caps or nuts to ensure they do not touch any wrong materials. 
  11. If you don’t want to disconnect the wires feeding the outlet, splice the wires in the outlet box and cap them together. 
  12. Twist the black wires together and repeat it for the white and ground wires. 
  13. Install a blank outlet cover plate and make a hole in a cabinet or bookshelf in front of the outlet to keep it accessible. It will also allow the current to flow to the next outlet. 
  14. Wrap electrical tape around the wire nuts at the bottoms and push them inside the outlet. 
  15. Use a blank cover to screw it in the outlet’s place and abandon the outlet. 

Sometimes, you can use electrical tape to cover the abandoned so that children and other members understand that the outlet is out of service and should not be touched.

Suppose you want to remove the outlet from the wall permanently. 

In that case, you must remove the wires and power cable from the electrical box and fully cover the outlet with drywall.

For that, after removing the outlet and disconnecting the wires:

  1. Pull out the power cables through the attic or the basement, based on how they are brought and connected to the panel.
  2. You can reroute the cable to the new electrical box or disconnect it from the electrical panel. 
  3. Use a knife or drywall saw to remove a piece of drywall to fit inside the opening. 
  4. Spray foam insulation to fill up the space of the electrical box until it expands and protrudes. 
  5. Place the drywall over the foam and work into the box when wet. 
  6. Once the foam has dried, cut off the hard parts surrounding the patch and cover the vertical joints around the patch with drywall tape at the center to cover the horizontal joints. Flatten the tape.
  7. Add a second layer of joint compound and flatten it. Repeat it after the second layer has dried. 
  8. Paint the patch with the same color as the drywall. 

How to safely cap and cover the wires when abandoning an outlet?

While abandoning the electrical outlets, you need to disconnect the wires and cap and cover them, so they don’t touch each other or any other wrong materials. 

Before you begin, turn off the power at the circuit that powers the wires. 

For additional safety, use electrical tape in the circuit where you are working to warn others to stay away from it and avoid flipping it. 

Let’s get to the steps:

  1. Cut the bare ends of the wire strippers after disconnecting them from the outlet. Remove a few inches of wire insulation, around ½ inch at the ends.
  2. Press the wires together and put wire nuts or caps over the wire strands. 
  3. Twist and turn the caps on the wire until the turning stops. 
  4. If the turning is more, you can remove a few more inches of the wire insulation to exactly fit the wire into the caps. 
  5. The bare copper wires don’t need the capping as they do not carry any current unless there is a ground fault. 
  6. Wrap electrical tape at the bottom of the wire nuts for extra safety. 
  7. Push the wires inside the box and put a blank wall plate on the box using the same screws.

If these wires are a part of the circuit, they can be restored whenever you want to use them. 

If these wires have a single circuit, do not turn on the circuit. For a warning sign, use electrical tape or label the circuit to not to turn it on.

Options for covering and sealing an abandoned electrical outlet 

Once you have abandoned the electrical outlet, you should cover and seal it, so no one uses it again. 

Here are a few options to cover and seal an abandoned outlet:

  • You can use a blank cover plate or an outlet cover to cover and seal the outlet. The cover outlet won’t have any prongs to insert the cords. So, it will be safely abandoned from further usage.
  • You can use electrical tape if the blank cover is not available. Cover the outlet holes and seal them with electrical tape. However, electrical tape is only a temporary solution as it will deteriorate over time, and you have to reapply it occasionally. 
  • You can use child safety plugs. These plugs are small plastic caps that fit in the outlet holes and seal them just like the electrical tape seals the holes. These plugs are also temporary solutions like electrical tape.
  • Another option is to use electrical putty for the abandoned outlets. The open outlets can leak air and reduce your home’s energy efficiency. Covering the outlets with putty will prevent this leakage. Apply it to the opening of the electrical box. 
  • For permanently covering and sealing the outlet, you can remove the outlet and the hanging wires from the box and cover it with drywall. Follow the STEPS heading for detail.

How to dispose of the abandoned outlet and its components?

When you abandon an outlet, you must properly dispose of it and its components to prevent posing safety hazards. 

It will ensure that the wires and outlets are properly secured and disposed of so that no one uses them. 

Here are some ways to properly dispose of the abandoned outlet and its components:

  • Once you have removed the outlet and its components from the electrical box, separate the components, i.e., the wires and wire nuts. 
  • Dispose of the wires and wire nuts in the garbage. After the daily usage and wear and tear, it would be better to dispose of them. If they are still in good condition, reuse them or sell them for recycling or reuse.
  • Outlets can be recycled. If the outlet is still in good condition, find a recycling center for abandoned outlets and give them the outlet. 

Alternatives to abandoning an electrical outlet: Other options for addressing electrical issues

Outlets are abandoned due to damage, overloading, incompatibility, code compliance, and renovation. 

During the renovation, the outlets are temporarily abandoned and, in other cases, permanently abandoned. 

Instead of abandoning the outlets, there are other options to get rid of those outlets, and below are some alternatives:

  • Instead of eliminating the outlet, you can replace it with another outlet, especially if they are dead or incompatible with the new modern appliances. 
  • If the abandoned outlet is near moisture-prone areas, you can replace the outlet with a GFCI outlet. GFCIs have a sensor that senses danger and trips to prevent electrical accidents
  • Install a tamper-resistant outlet instead of standard outlets. The tamper-resistant outlets have an inner shutter that closes the outlet holes. So, if you do not want to use the outlet, close the shutter. 
  • If your outlet is incompatible with the connected appliances, you can reconfigure the wire connections and upgrade the outlet. 
  • You can convert the useless outlet into a junction box. Remove the outlet, install a blank cover plate, and use it as a connection point for the electrical wires. Call an electrician to perform this conversion. 
  • Instead of completely sealing the outlet, remove the wires and the outlet and install a USB charging station. It will let you charge electronic devices without any bulky adapter. Call an electrician to make the setting.

Final thoughts

Abandoning outlets is very easy once you are acquainted with the proper steps. It is needed to prevent electrical accidents. Please turn off the power, open the outlet cover, disconnect the wires, secure them with wire nuts, push them inside the electrical box, and put up a blank cover over it. 

You can also use black tape, electrical putty, and child safety plugs to cover the outlets and stop people from messing with them. There are several reasons behind abandoning an outlet: damaged or dead outlets, incompatibility, overloaded circuits, code violation, energy efficiency, or prong mismatch. Another reason is a renovation, but it is temporary because, after the remodeling, you will be using the outlets again. 

If you do not want to use the outlet, properly dispose of it and its components and seal it. Instead of abandoning the outlets, try other options depending on the reason behind the abandonment. For example, if you have a dead outlet, you can replace it with a new standard, GFCI, or tamper-resistant outlet. Follow the safety considerations while working with electrical outlets to avoid electrical accidents and fires. 

Is it safe to cover a dead outlet with drywall?

It is okay to cover a dead or damaged outlet with drywall. But, there should not be any wires in the electrical box. You should remove the outlet and the dead wires and replace the empty electrical box with foam insulation.

Is it safe to use electrical tape to cover an outlet?

Using electrical tape to cover a dead outlet is easy and tempting. But, it is a temporary fix. For a permanent fix, choose other options, like the blank cover, child safety plugs, or drywall.

Reference: Electrical Outlets Wikipedia

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Arthur Smith

Howdy! I am Arthur Smith, an electrical engineer who is extremely passionate about electronics. I have lived in different parts of the US and currently reside in Wisconsin. I am one of those rare children who knew what he wanted to study and do in life right from the start. I was a curious child who wanted to know how switches work and how the AC works, and I would always observe my dad whenever he would handle the wires and fix things around the house. I currently work as an electrical engineer at a reputed company and write for this blog. And I read loads of books or play video games in my free time.

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