How to Side Wire an Electrical Outlet

  • 01 of 06

    Loosen Screw on Outlet

    Remove Electrical Outlet Face Place
    Remove Electrical Outlet Face Place. Laara Cerman/Leigh Righton / Getty Images

    When installing an electrical outlet, there are two ways to attach the wires to the outlet.

    One method is to back wire the electrical outlet by inserting the wire into holes in the back of the outlet.

    But side wiring, favored by many electricians, is considered to be the "classic" technique for attaching the wire because it tends to grip the wires a bit tighter.

    The first step is to remove the plastic face plate with a manual screwdriver.  Do not use an electric drill.


    Continue to 2 of 6 below.
  • 02 of 06

    Loosen Side Screws

    Loosen the Side Screws on the Outlet
    Loosen the Side Screws on the Outlet. Laara Cerman/Leigh Righton / Getty Images

    Loosen the side screws with a manual screwdriver or cordless drill.  

    Loosen the screw without removing it.  It is not easy to get the screw back in if it comes out.

    Continue to 3 of 6 below.
  • 03 of 06

    Bend Wire with Screwdriver or Pliers

    Bend Wire with Screwdriver
    Bend Wire with Screwdriver. Copyright Lee Wallender; Licensed to

    Some screwdrivers such as this pictured Klein have a little nub parallel to the screwdriver's shaft that allows you to bend the wire into a loop.

    Another way to bend the wire is with a pair of needle nose pliers.

    When bending it, do not close the loop.

    Continue to 4 of 6 below.
  • 04 of 06

    Screw the Wire Down

    Screw the Wire Down
    Screw the Wire Down. Copyright Lee Wallender; Licensed to

    Screw down the wire. If the wire still isn't flattened down, it's sometimes possible to force it down when screwing it in.

    Make sure the wire is staying under the head of the screw. Sometimes it works its way out, so that it's no longer held by the screw.

    Stop just short of screwing it in hard. Check your loop again.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Make Sure the Loop is Closed

    Nudge Loop Closed
    Nudge Loop Closed. Copyright Lee Wallender - Licensed to

    If the loop is not closed, you need to take this opportunity to force the loop closed. Use a flathead screwdriver. This step also helps to further force the wire under the head of the screw.

    Also, ​make sure that the loop is pointing clockwise. The reason for this is that you want the loop to close up when you tighten the screw.

    Finally, for demonstration purposes, we have stripped back a generous amount of insulation from the wire. When you strip back wire, strip back the bare minimum that will...MORE have contact with the screw.

    Continue to 6 of 6 below.
  • 06 of 06

    A Finished Side Wired Outlet

    Finished Sidewired Outlet
    Finished Sidewired Outlet. Copyright Lee Wallender; Licensed to

    Now screw the wire down very firmly. A finished side wired electrical outlet should have a fully-looped wire tightly held under the head of the screw. A firm experimental tug should ensure that the wire won't pull out under the strain of installing the outlet.