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How to Terminate Electrical Wires

Updated July 20, 2017

If you are removing a switch or an electrical socket, you must remember to safely terminate the wires. Replacing the faceplate with a blank is not sufficient to prevent injury or an electrical fire. It is also a violation of building codes in most locations. It is quick and easy to terminate electrical wires using small wire nuts, with just a few safety precautions. Just remember to test the circuit with an electrical tester, even if you have turned off the power at the circuit breaker.

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  1. Turn off the power to the circuit at the circuit breaker.

  2. Unscrew the faceplate to access the electrical box where the wires are located.

  3. Hold the circuit tester probes by the insulated parts, not the metal probe tips.

  4. Touch the black probe tip to the grounding connector of the electrical box. Touch the red probe tip to the hot wire, which is usually sheathed in black or red insulation. If the circuit is live, the tester will signal the presence of electricity, usually by illuminating, beeping, or both. If this happens, you must locate the correct circuit breaker or contact a licensed electrician for assistance.

  5. Disconnect the switch or outlet you are removing.

  6. Twist one wire nut clockwise onto each individual wire. Ensure that the conductor is completely covered. Wrap the wire nut and wire with electrical tape.

  7. Tuck the wires carefully back into the electrical box. Screw a blank electrical faceplate over the electrical box.

  8. Turn on the circuit breaker.

  9. Warning

    Exposure to household electrical current can be fatal. Always use a circuit tester to make sure that the power is off. Consult a licensed electrician if you have questions or you are not sure about your ability to safely handle this project.

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Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Circuit tester
  • Small wire nuts
  • Electrical tape
  • Blank electrical faceplate

About the Author

Since 1996 Rachel Moon has worked as a technical writer and technical editor in such diverse fields as the semiconductor industry, chemical delivery equipment and video game community management. She has developed curriculum for Occupational Safety and Health Administration general industry training after getting certification from the University of California, San Diego, Southwest Safety Training Alliance and an automotive/diesel vocational school. Moon attended Hofstra University.

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