How to Replace a GFCI Outlet

Follow my step-by-step DIY video tutorial, and you’ll learn how to replace a GFCI outlet without hiring an expensive electrician. Of course, you’ve got to follow safety protocols, which I also explain.

If you’re not sure whether or not your GFCI needs to be replaced, keep reading, because I cover that too.

What is a GFCI Outlet?

A GFCI outlet interrupts power to your circuit if it detects a ground fault. GFCI stands for Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter. These outlets are required for kitchens, baths, pools, spas, and outdoors. Basically, wherever your home has water. We have a full guide to “What is a GFCI Outlet?” to better understand their importance in your home, how they work, and the different types available!

What is Line vs Load on a GFCI Outlet?

You will see 2 words on the back of your GFCI outlet: Line and Load.

There are two terminals for Line and two terminals for Load.

Reverse side of a GFCI Outlet indicating the Line and Load sides.

The Line terminals are for the power coming from the electrical panel.

The Load terminals are to wire additional outlets to be powered from the GFCI outlet.

Any standard outlets powered from your GFCI will be GFCI protected.

How to Replace a GFCI Outlet

You can watch my step-by-step DIY video tutorial on how to replace a GFCI Outlet. The steps are also written out below if needed.

I used the following tools and supplies to show you how to replace a GFCI outlet.

The following links for supplies are amazon affiliate links. If you choose to purchase from them, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

I have a full list of all my recommended electrical tools for apprentice to master electricians and home DIYers.

Step 1 – Test Your Current Outlet

Get your hands on a plug tester. Most of these have a GFCI test button but double-check that it has one because it’s what we’ll be using.

Plug this tool into your current GFCI. You should now see two lights on the plug tester indicating that the outlet is providing power.

Now we will check to see if the GFCI portion is working. You should see some type of button on top of your plug tester. Mine is red, but yours could be any color.

Push the GFCI test button on your plug tester. This will simulate a ground fault and should pop the test button on your GFCI and shut it down. If not, you will need to replace your GFCI Outlet.

Plug Tester with GFCI Test Button Indicated

Step 2 – Shut Down Power to Your GFCI Circuit

Let’s start by removing the cover plate and loosening the GFCI outlet from the wall. I use my power drill to make this task easy. Warning: We are NOT yet removing any wires from the outlet.

Now we will verify that there is power to the outlet. This is where you will need your non-contact voltage tester or as I call it – a proximity tester. You should see a green light when you turn it on.

Klein Voltage Tester

Touch the tip of the proximity tester to the wires. The tester will turn red and give a short beep alarm to warn you that the wire has power. (If there is no power available to the outlet, the proximity tester will keep the green light with no sound.)

Hopefully, you have power to the outlet, and the tester turned red and had an alarm sound.

Now is the time to turn off power to your GFCI circuit at the breaker box. Sometimes circuits are mislabeled, so we always check our outlet wires again to verify that the power is indeed shut off.

Testing wires with a Voltage tester. Green indicates it's de-energized and safe to work on.

Step 3 – Loosen Old GFCI

Remove the screws to the old GFCI. We recommend a power drill for the job. Carefully, pull the outlet out from the wall. Don’t remove the wires just yet.

Step 4 – Identify the Line and Load Wires

A GFCI outlet uses wires identified as Line and Load, as we mentioned earlier in this article.

The line terminals get one black wire and one white wire. (Black wire to brass terminal and white wire to white terminal)

The load terminals get one black wire and one white wire. (black wire to brass terminal and white wire to white terminal)

Reverse side of a GFCI Outlet indicating the Line and Load sides.

Since we are talking about replacing a GFCI outlet, you will want to check the back of your old GFCI to find the wires connected to the LINE terminal.

A red circle indicates the Line marking on a GFCI outlet

Identify these Line wires with electrical tape. These line wires are the power coming from your panel. You will need to connect these same wires to the line terminals of your new GFCI.

GFCI Outlet with line wires identified with electrical tape

If your GFCI is powering other outlets (and therefore giving them GFCI protection as well), you will have additional wires. Those wires will be connected to the Load terminals.

Step 5 – Connect the Wires to Your New GFCI Outlet

Now, that you have the Line wires identified with tape, go ahead and disconnect all the wires from your old GFCI.

Before you start connecting the wires to your new GFCI Outlet, I want you to be aware that your white wires will be connected to the white terminals. The black wires will be connected to the brass terminals.

GFCI Outlet identifying that the white wires go to the white terminals
GFCI outlet indicating that black wires go to the brass terminals

Now, start connecting the Line wires (the ones marked with electrical tape) to the Line terminals of your new GFCI outlet.

The white Line wire goes to the White Line Terminal.

The Black Line Wire gets connected to the Brass Line Terminal.

After the line wires are connected, go ahead and connect the load wires if your GFCI had them.

Connect the White Load wire to the White Load terminal. The Black Load wire goes to the Brass Load terminal.

Last but not lease, connect your bare copper ground wire to the green terminal. Your outlet won’t work right without it.

GFCI outlet indicting that the bare copper wire goes to the green ground terminal

Step 6 – Attach the New GFCI to Wall Box

The last step is to screw the new GFCI outlet to your wall box.

These wires can be stiff. If your working in a kitchen, you’re probably dealing with 12-gauge wire. It can be difficult to work with 12-gauge so be patient.

I like to take a needle-nose pliers and gently fold them into the opening instead of fighting them.

Also, make sure the bare copper wire does not come into contact with any other terminal. That will cause trouble.

Reattach your face plate.

Step 7 – Turn Power Back On to Your GFCI Outlet

Go back to your breaker box and turn power back on to your GFCI outlet.

Step 8 – Test Your New Outlet

Now that you’ve learned how to replace a GFCI Outlet, let’s test it to make sure it’s working as intended.

Put your plug tester into the new GFCI Outlet. You should see it light up.

Hit the GFCI test button integrated into your plug tester.

The reset button on your GFCI outlet should pop out. This kills the GFCI and shuts it down.

If your GFCI tested correctly, CONGRATULATIONS! You just replaced your GFCI!

GFCI Outlets Protect Downstream Outlets

If you connected Load Wires, you can test outlets downstream of the GFCI.

Just plug in the plug tester of any outlet downstream of the GFCI and hit the test button. It will pop the GFCI test button.

Read our full GFCI outlet guide for a better understanding of outlets downstream and upstream of your GFCI.

Diagram of how standard outlets can be GFCI protected when downstream from a GFCI outlet.

For more home DIY info, you might enjoy our article on How to Use and Read a Multimeter.

Wrapping Things Up

In conclusion, learning how to replace a GFCI outlet is a valuable skill that can enhance the safety of your home and save you money on hiring a professional electrician.

By following the 8 simple steps outlined in this article and watching the accompanying video tutorial, you can confidently tackle this DIY project.

Remember to prioritize safety, turn off the power, and use the right tools and materials for the job. With the knowledge gained here, you’ll be well-equipped to replace a GFCI outlet and ensure your electrical system is up to code.

So, don’t hesitate to take on this task and empower yourself with essential home maintenance skills.