Installing a GFCI Electrical Outlet

A GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) electrical outlet is an outlet design with its own built-in circuit breaker so that it would be able to protect people from deadly electric shock, plus also your house wiring and breaker panel from having short circuit. Besides that, the GFCI outlets also reduce the risk of house fires due to electrical problems and damage to electrical appliances caused by faulty circuits. The GFCI outlets use the ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI or GFI) technology; apart from that you would also be able to install a GFCI in your breaker box as well as using a portable GFCI device.

According to standard building codes, it requires you to install a GFCI outlet in areas, which is near to water for example in your kitchen, bathrooms or garage. However, it is not necessary for you to install a GFCI outlet for all outlets near water, just the first one in a series is sufficient enough and by doing so this single GFCI would be able to ‘trip’ if one of its receptacles below its line is shorted out.

What you need to do:

  1. GFCI Outlet
  2. GFCI outlet plate
  3. Electrical tape
  4. Flat-head Screwdriver
  5. Needle nose pliers
  6. Circuit tester
  7. Utility knife

GFCI Electrical Outlet


  1. Firstly, you must make sure that you have already turned off the circuit that you will work on at the circuit breaker box. Double check to see that the switch is flipped to the ‘Off’ position and for those houses that use a fuse box; you need to remove the fuse which controls the circuit. You can simply do another test on the receptacle using a circuit tester to see whether it has been turned off or not.
  2. The next step is for you to remove its cover plate. There are two screws holding the receptacle onto the box and you would be able to unscrew them using a flat head screwdriver. Once finished, you can pull the receptacle out of the box.
  3. You must check the wires connecting to the receptacle. If you notice there are six wires connecting to the receptacle, it is in the middle of the line; whenever you are connecting the GFCI, for all receptacles further down the line will be controlled by it. You must determine which wires are feed or live wires. As for three wires, you will be able to see the receptacle at the end of the line.
  4. To know which wire is the live one, you have to unscrew all the wires from the receptacle and separate them. You also have to ensure that they do not touch each other or happen to touch any other metal surface.
  5. Once done, you need to turn back on the circuit breaker at your breaker box and then hold your electrical tester to each of the black and white wires to enable you to know which wires are the live ones. Make sure to make a note of the live wires or label it before you turn off the circuit breaker off at the breaker box.
  6. After that, you need to attach the live black and the live white wires onto the terminals, which are being marked as ‘LINE’ on the side of the GFCI receptacle. Next, you must loop the wires in a clockwise direction around the screws or pushing them right through the quick connect holes before tightening the screws.
  7. Then, you have to attach the black and white wires which connect to the receptacles further below the line onto the terminals which are being marked as ‘LOAD’ while the bare ground wire has to be attached to the green screw located at the bottom of your GFCI receptacle.
  8. Next, the GFCI needs to be pushed into the receptacle box, tighten its screws securely before installing back the cover plate.
  9. Finally, you need to turn on the circuit breaker and test the operation of the circuit by pressing the test button located on the GFCI, followed by pressing on the reset button. For testing your connected wires at the LOAD terminals, you need to test the receptacles down below the line using the circuit tester and they should automatically trip once the GFCI breaks the circuit.

Image Credit:

Flickr CC

Additional Reading:

Ultimate Guide to Home Repair & Improvement

Electrical Construction: Electrical Fundamentals, Materials and Methods, and Project Management