One more post on electricity. When we inspect homes, electrical receptacles are usually wired correctly and operate as intended. However, it is common to find electrical receptacles that are loose. Receptacles that are loose either ‘wiggle’ in the wall or do not properly hold a cord plug. I will explain both of these..

One more post on electricity. When we inspect homes, electrical receptacles are usually wired correctly and operate as intended. However, it is common to find electrical receptacles that are loose. Receptacles that are loose either ‘wiggle’ in the wall or do not properly hold a cord plug. I will explain both of these.

First of all, receptacles, or outlets, should be covered with an undamaged cover plate that fully covers the wall opening. We often find cracked cover plates or gaps around the plate where we can see inside the drywall. This can present an electrical shock hazard and needs to be replaced. The receptacle should not move in its place. It should be tight against the wall (inside the cover plate). 

Behind the cover plate is a box in which the receptacle is secured. This box houses the open/uninsulated electrical wires as they are attached to the receptacle itself – throughout the rest of the wall structure, the electrical wires have insulation around them. The receptacle is secured to this box with screws. If these screws are not tight, the receptacle will move. It is easy to find this when something is plugged into the receptacle.

Outside of loose receptacles being an annoyance when you plug a cord into it, what is the danger? The major concern is a shock hazard caused by loose wiring. As the receptacle moves, the wiring connected to it will be moved as well. The wires are not designed to move once they are installed, and moving them can lead to loose wiring. Loose wiring can disconnect, resulting in a ‘dead’ receptacle. Loose wiring can also create arcing – a situation where the connection is not complete and electricity ‘jumps’ from the wire to the receptacle. This can cause sparks or fire. 

Secondly, receptacles should hold a plug firmly. We sometimes find receptacles that are loose enough that a plug will fall out of the receptacle on its own. Think of the inside of a receptacle as a spring-loaded clamp. When you insert the flat prongs into the receptacle, the ‘clamp’ holds it firmly in place. When the receptacle gets worn out, the ‘clamps’ no longer work properly and a cord plug can fall out or at least be loose enough in the receptacle to not make a good connection. Once again, this is a shock hazard.

Electricity needs a solid connection and path to travel to flow correctly and safely. Both of these findings will show on a home inspection report as a ‘red flag’ – a serious safety concern. But… they are one of the easiest items to repair! In the case of loose receptacles in the box, the screws under the cover plate just need to be tightened – securing the receptacle to the interior box. In regards to a loose receptacle ‘clamp,’ a bit more work is involved, but it’s only a matter of replacing the receptacle.

Either of these is a simple job for a licensed electrician – and we recommend leaving this job to a professional. They will be better equipped to safely make these repairs.