How to Repair a Shorted Electrical Outlet – Part 2

How to Repair a Shorted Electrical Outlet: Insulate the wire with 600 volt rated heat shrink tubing and wiring the new outlet.

This repair is continued from How to Repair a Shorted Electrical Outlet – Part 1.

Heat Shrink Tubing Wire Insulation Repair

Before proceeding make certain the electricity is shut off the circuit breaker panel to prevent electrical shock, injury and/or death. If in doubt, hire a licensed electrician.

As described in Part 1 of this project, the insulation on the NM-B 14/2 copper wires will be repaired with Raychem heat-shrink tubing rated for 600 volts and 275°F (135°C), Part #CPGI-RNF-100-ASRT-4N-BLK.

NM-B 14/2 Electrical Wire Insulation Repair: Raychem Heat Shrink Tubing

The NM-B 14/2 copper conductor wire insulation will be repaired with two pieces of heat-shrink tubing: 1) 3/32″ section against the wire and 2) 1/8″ section over the 3/32″ piece for a double layer of protection.

The larger piece of 1/8″ diameter tubing about 1-1/2″ in length is slipped over the 14 gauge wire first well away from the end so it’s not prematurely heated and shrunk. The smaller 3/32″ diameter tubing is next positioned over the wire according to the strip gauge on the back of the Leviton Heavy Duty Outlet Model 5252 to expose the correct amount of wire lead. The new outlet will be back wired using the screw-and-clamp method.

Leviton Heavy Duty Outlet #5252: Strip Gauge and Heat-Shrink Tubing

Heat-Shrink Tubing

I used a butane torch lighter to carefully shrink the 3/32″ tubing over the wire. Specialized heat-shrink butane torches or an electric heat gun may also be used, however a large heat gun is difficult to control due to the wide cone of hot air. The advantage of a butane torch lighter is the torch jet works in all positions, including upside down for even heating of the heat shrink tubing. Do not use an ordinary Bic butane lighter because it does a poor job of projecting the flame downward.

Work carefully while keeping the end of flame at about 1 inch away while applying heat to all sides of the tubing with a back-and-forth motion to avoid overheating which will cause the tubing to become brittle and crack. I held my other hand about 2 inches behind the wire to judge the amount of heat applied by the torch lighter. The Raychem tubing shrinks at 203°F. Practice heat shrinking first on a scrap piece of wire.

Shorted Electrical Outlet Repair: Heat-Shrink Tubing Wire Insulation Repair

After the 3/32″ inner layer of tubing has been heat shrunk, slide the 1/8″ inch section of tubing into place and heat-shrink it with the butane torch lighter. Notice how the heat-shrink tubing squeezes tightly around the wire:

NM-B 14/2 Wire Insulation Repair with Heat-Shrink Tubing

I coded the repaired white (neutral) wire with a piece of white electrical tape for anyone working on this outlet in the future to indicate it is still the neutral side of the circuit. Otherwise someone might think the black heat shrink tubing on the white neutral wire means it’s been re-purposed as a hot wire. The black (hot) wire insulation has also been repaired with heat-shrink tubing:

NM-B 14/2 Wire Insulation Repair: Code the Neutral with White Electrical Tape

Back Wiring the New Wall Outlet

The new Leviton heavy-duty outlet model 5252 is back-wired using the screw-and-clamp system. Each pair of NM-B 14/2 wires for the same circuit are installed in matching positions. I installed the line-side wires from the circuit breaker panel in the middle position of the outlet for a minor degree of electrical balancing for the two feeder circuits on either side; this is just a personal preference.

Shorted Electrical Outlet Repair: Back-wired Leviton Model 5252 Outlet

Receptacle Testing

After checking the wires are securely back-wired to the outlet and the clamp screws are tight, the wires are carefully folded into the outlet box to avoid kinks. The new Leviton model 5252 outlet is fastened to the wall box by the two mounting screws, then power is turned On at the circuit breaker.

The outlet wiring is checked for correctness with a receptacle tester. The two orange lights indicates the outlet is wired correctly:

Shorted Electrical Outlet Repair: New Receptacle Testing

The cover plate is attached and the receptacle is checked again:

New Wall Outlet Wiring Verification with a Receptacle Tester

Arc Fault Circuit Breaker Upgrade

My home was built shortly before the National Electrical Code (NFPA 70) required Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI) for circuits serving bedrooms and other locations. An AFCI breaker would have tripped when the loose outlet wires in my son’s room caused the arc short.

I purchased several Eaton 15 Amp Single Pole Combination Type FIRE-GUARD AFCI BR Type Breakers that matched my electrical panel (your panel will likely require a different breaker model) for about $38 each and replaced the standard breakers to reduce the future risk of arc shorts. Most homeowners will want to hire a licensed electrician for this advanced task which requires shutting off the power the entire home at the service entrance.

Hope this helps,

Bob Jackson

Copyright © 2016   Reproduction strictly prohibited.

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7 Responses to How to Repair a Shorted Electrical Outlet – Part 2

  1. Tony March 13, 2014 at 12:48 pm #

    This exact same thing happened to me a few weeks ago, accept it destroyed the entire outlet and melted the box, charring the stud. No bigger fire thankfully.

    I have since inspected 30 outlets I my home, and found 11 boxes with chewed up/sliced/exposed wiring, 16 cracked switches and outlets, and another arc that never tripped.

    Most of the slices are too far back for a splice, so is electrical tape sufficient to cover the insulation damage around each wire?

    Thanks for this excellent article/series!!

    • Bob Jackson March 13, 2014 at 9:00 pm #

      > …found 11 boxes with chewed up/sliced/exposed wiring…
      So the goober who wired the outlets sliced strips of insulation off leaving exposed copper wires?!

      > Most of the slices are too far back for a splice, so is electrical tape sufficient
      > to cover the insulation damage around each wire?
      In Part 1 of the project, I wrote:

      “To confirm if electrical tape or heat-shrinking tubing were acceptable conductor insulation repair methods, I called the Southwire Company, the manufacturer of Romex® NM-B cable, and explained my problem to a product support engineer. The engineer said that stripping off the burned insulation and wrapping the wire in electrical insulating tape would be an acceptable repair, but liked heat-shrink tubing better. Adhesive shrink wrap tubing would be best to prevent any possibility of the tubing slipping on the wire, however adhesive tubing in such a small diameter (1/16″ to 1/8″) probably wasn’t available.”

      Since the “slices are too far back for a splice” I recommend UL Standard 224, 600V/125˚C rated heat shrink tubing instead of electrical tape because tape might work loose over time. Use a heat gun set on the lowest temperature that reliably shrinks the tubing tight on the damaged wire. Install two layers of heat shrink tubing if you can. Heat shrink tubing also looks better for a quality repair IMHO.

      Also consider upgrading to Arc Fault Circuit Interrupt (AFCI) breakers. AFCI’s are required by the Electrical Code in new homes and will trip when it detects and arc fault to prevent a fire. You might want to hire an electrician for work on the main breaker panel, especially if that has it’s own set of wiring problems.

      Thank you for the compliments! Glad to help.

  2. Phillip December 16, 2014 at 10:34 am #

    Just an FYI. You mention that the outlets are connected in series, but in fact they are connected in parallel. The two hot wires that enter the outlet are connected to themselves by a shunt inside the outlet, and they are also connected to the neutral wires when something is plugged into the outlet. Hence, the outlets are wired in parallel. If they were wired in series, there would be one wire going into the outlet and one wire going out (ignoring the ground), but outlets are rarely wired in series because the outlets at the end of the circuit would be useless unless there was something always plugged into the other outlets in order to complete the circuit.

    • Bob Jackson December 16, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

      Hi Phillip,
      I understand what you mean by the “shunt inside the outlet” which bridges the wiring terminals. The shunts or bridges are shown in Electrical Outlets: Side Wire versus Back Wire where I dissected two popular outlets.

      > Hence, the outlets are wired in parallel.
      That is correct from an electrical engineering circuit analysis perspective but not from a branch circuit wiring practice point of view because a failure of a single outlet or it’s wiring connections will result in a “series” failure mode (downstream outlets lose power) instead of a “parallel” mode where the downstream circuits remain powered.

      Compare the Series and Parallel wiring diagrams. Parallel wiring in this definition will survive an outlet failure by virtue of the pigtail connections.

      In How to Replace a Worn-Out Electrical Outlet that was referenced in Part 1 of this project, the back-wire screw & clamp outlet is wired in series with pigtails to avoid losing power to downstream devices should the outlet fail.

      > but outlets are rarely wired in series because the outlets at the end of the
      > circuit would be useless unless there was something always plugged into the
      > other outlets in order to complete the circuit.
      Great point as to why I don’t like series wiring! Avoids strange things like “Honey! I unplugged the radio and there’s no power in the bedroom!”


      • Phillip December 16, 2014 at 9:10 pm #


        Thanks for the thorough explanation. I understand now what you mean by “series” from a branch circuit wiring practice point of view.


  3. Narkulus April 29, 2015 at 5:29 pm #

    Not a fan of backstabbing in the wires, a few of the outlets in my house suffered overheating and melting and they were all at the backstabbed connections. The screw terminals just seem to contact more of the bare conductor when installed properly.

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