Wires Too Short in Outlet Box, How to Extend Length ?
I have some 110 volt boxes which hold the Outlets and some are for
Light switches. The problem is when I go to replace the old outlet or
light switch the wires are so short that reconnecting a new outlet or
wire is impossible. The wires literally will not even allow me to get
to the screw without great effort.
So when I go to install the new outlet/light switch some of the wires
This section of the house is about 50 years old and it appears these
are the oldest boxes.
Is there a good/safe way to EXTEND those 110 volt wires?
I tried using 12 gauge wires and using a wire nut to extend a piece
but this made it impossible to push all those wires back into the box.
So does anyone have a method to extend those wires?
It doesn't have to meet code; it has already been installed and
supposedly inspected. He doesn't have to bring it up to code just to
replace the outlets. The back-clamp devices are a great solution.
note to BOB: we're not talking about cheap "back-stab" outlets. The
back-clamp outlets are commercial grade or better, and you stab the
wires (up to #10 conductors) in the back and then tighten the screws on
the side to clamp the connections.
How about using butt splice crimp connectors to join on additional short
lengths of wire?
They're available almost anywhere electrical stuff is sold and the
crimping tool only costs a few bucks.
Back when I worked as an electrician I came across this in buildings
built around WWII. Must have been due to copper shortage. Most
annoying! I would try insulated crimp butt splices. They would be a
bit smaller than wirenuts. The trick will be finding a crimper you
can fit into the box. Might have to grind off part of the tool.
Another possibility is search for other wire nuts. I've seen some
that were huge compared to others, even though they were all for use
on a similar quantity of #12 wires.
Steve Noll | The Used Equipment Dealer Directory:
I've run into this too, and asked other electricians about what they
would do, and I'll explain what I do.
The majority of electricians answered:
1. They charge their customers for a new wire run, if they have it.
2. If a customer doesn't have the money, then wire nutting on desired
length of wire to the short wire is done. This short length of wire
(< 2 times required length) does not count for box fill if you already
have a properly sized box. But check with your situation, and all
3. This is what I DO, I butt splice on longer free conductors, with
insulated butt terminals. I find them very clean, secure (if done
correctly), and take up minimal room in the box, verses a wirenut.
Plus the price is what most customers can afford. ;)
Now remember, I only recommended that qualified electricians work on
your equipment, it's not worth the chance of fires, or electricutions.
tom @ www.NoCostAds.com
I've got a crimp tool that's damned near perfect, but the ones I see
available now are all wrong - they have flat jaws, which don't really shape
crimps correctly. Have you found a source for a proper tool?
Go to this page:
And scroll down to the HT336A crimping tool with exchangeable crimping dies.
Then scroll further to HT-336HDIE, HT-336RDIE or HT336WDIE, depending on
the design of the crimp connector you'll be using.
I've used one of these at someone else's plant, but the only crimping
tool I own is one of the kind you described with almost flat jaws. If
I'm really concerned about the reliability of an inline connection I
usually make a twisted splice, solder it and put a double layer of
shrink tubing over it. :)
After many years working on our old house which has plaster/lath
walls, I've learned to just do the plaster/lath work needed to replace
some boxes. You might want to consider this. Once you get the old
box out of the wall, and consider whether or not the wire that is there
is worth saving, it will be possible to make a safe splice to extend
the wire AND replace the box with a larger one, OR run a new piece of
This also lets you think carefully about any other changes you might
want to make there. If the romex/wiring that is there has crumbly
insulation, replacement of some of it is the wisest thing to do
This is what it takes to deal well with these kinds of problems.
OR, hire someone to do it for you!! --Phil
Phil Munro Dept of Electrical & Computer Engin
mailto: firstname.lastname@example.org Youngstown State University
Wire nuts was good first thought, but you should
not use 12 gauge wire. Use14 gauge multistrand
(flexible) wire between the old wire and the
outlet and use the smallest wire nuts that fit.
If you really can't get the wire back in the box
(can't see how that would be likely) then you need
a bigger box. A box extension, which means the
outlet extends from the wall, or removal of the
box and installation of a larger box, which could
Try using backfeed type outlets. These are the type where you push the wires
in the back and then tighten the screws on the side like what a GFCI has.
(Not to be confused with the cheaper 'backstab' outlets were the wire are
held only by a spring clip).
If that does not work then you may need to replace boxes. I just pry the old
box off the stud and let it fall into the wall cavity. Then replace the old
box with deep boxes. Even a new standard size box will have more room than
those old boxes. With new boxes, you should have enough room to 'pigtail'
new wire onto the old. Don't be tempted to splice behind or outside of the
Other options would be to move the box up or down a few inches and repair
the wall. Put in a double box, or a single new box at a different location,
maybe in the same wall cavity a few inches away, then splice into the old
box and put a blank cover plate on the old box.
install new empty box nearby and wire boxes together, install blank
cover on box with wires too short.
yeah old work boxes are often jammed, new box is easiest best and cheap
this has occuered here, original wiring very short:(
Solder and heat shrink tubing (and a twist of electrical tape for good luck)
. Good as a original and no extra bulk (just a bit less flexible).
backstab outlets are a good option but pose their own reliability problems.
AL wire? better not solder
I have to toss in that I'm extremely sceptical about using crimp
connectors on solid wire- you have to crimp hard enough to deform the
wire, and I don't think your run-of-the-mill,
looks-like-a-pair-of-pliers crimper is going to exert enough force.
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