Info on backstabbing

stash-hdyNovember 20, 2012

My home was built in 1995 and I have noticed that most of my plugs were backstabbed when they were installed. I have read over the years many comments on the use of backstabbing. My question is should I be concerned that these plugs were backstabbed?

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mike_kaiser_gw

If it were me and I had some free time, I would pull those wires and use the screws on the device.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 10:02AM
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greg_2010

I wouldn't be concerned. It is an approved method, it just isn't the best method.
As mike said, if you have the time and enjoy this type of work, go for it. Otherwise forget about it and don't lose any sleep over it.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 10:37AM
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brickeyee

"I wouldn't be concerned. It is an approved method, it just isn't the best method. "

Check your 20 A circuits.

Wile backstabbing was originally allowed on 20 A circuits with #12 wire it quickly proved to be a problem.
The holes for backstabbing changed to only accept #14 wire, and the NEC changed.

Under the high load on 20 A circuits the single spring supplying compression to the connection failed all to regularly.

Even for #14 wire it remains an ongoing source of poor connections.

It is worth the small amount of time required to move the wires under the screws.
make sure you loop them correctly, clockwise ONLY so they tighten as the screw is tightened.

Back fed using screws with metal clamp plates is still likely the best method of all.

It has all the speed of backstabbing and none of the spring induced issues.

The NEC is a MINIMUM set of requirements.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 12:23PM
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greg_2010

Don't get me wrong. I would redo all of the connections, but I enjoy doing that kind of work.
When doing new work (or renovating old work) I definitely suggest using the screws because it is way better and only takes a few more moments than using the backstab.

However, I have some friends that are really not handy. They have no skills in this area and no interest in it either. If they heard about the backstabbing problem, I would tell them not to worry about it. It isn't worth paying an electrician to fix and I doubt they would want to tackle it themselves. There is a possibility that the connection may fail in the future and you'll need to fix it but it isn't going to burn your house down while you're sleeping.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 1:52PM
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globe199

For those who don't regularly install receptacles, I take issue with the idea that it's a "small amount of time" required to redo them. If it was a quick/easy thing to do, then electricians would do it right every time and they don't! Getting four looped wires (plus ground) onto a receptacle is not an easy thing for a novice.

First you have to remove the existing recep. You can either (a) cut the wires and re-strip them, or (b) attempt to undo the backstab. Choice (a) is easier, but leaves slightly less wire in the box. Choice (b) is not always easy.

If you go with (b), there's a chance that not enough insulation has been removed to get the loop around the screw, so you have to strip off a tiny bit. Not that big a deal.

But then you have to make the loops, which is a process I hate. I use a wire stripper that has a small hole. If you get the loop too small or too large, it can be a big hassle to correct it. Now keep in mind you're doing this four times. Getting the first loop on the recep is the easiest. But the next three are trickier because you're anchored down by the first wire. By the fourth wire, getting it over the screw can be simply maddening. If you're inexperienced but being really careful, this whole thing could easily more than half an hour.

What I think the NEC should do is outlaw ALL backstab connections. The best and most cost-effective receps I've seen are the Leviton "preferred" which Home Depot sells for like $1 each in a box of 10. They're built tough and have side clamps for wires. If the NEC got rid of all the cheap kinds, the price for these preferred units would come down. And if contractors would install these, homeowners would probably NEVER have to open electrical boxes ever again. They would last essentially forever.

I made the mistake of converting all my receps to Decora. They look nicer, but getting receps with the side clamps are like $5 each. Otherwise it's screws which are a pain :) If I could go back I'd do the preferred "normal" looking receps.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 2:41PM
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randy427

Are you sure they are back-stab rather than back-wired?
The troublesome back-stab devices have the wires held by spring clips. The very reliable back-wired devices hold the wires by torqueing down on screws which tighten a clamp on the wire.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 2:43PM
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stash-hdy

They are back-stab devices, Thanks for the input. I am going to leave them and I did check the 20 amp plugs and they used the screws.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 8:16PM
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Ron Natalie

I don't know why you would use a STRIPPER to bend wires. I use a pair of needle nose pliers and have no trouble. Hopefully, you're using the required 6" free length/3" from front of box minimum wire lengths.

Note that if you are on a MWBS you should not be making the neutral connection using the the device.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 2:51AM
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petey_racer

"I don't know why you would use a STRIPPER to bend wires."

I do.

I use strippers to strip and loop. I use the hole in the tool there to specifically loop the wire. Comes out perfect every time.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 6:43AM
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brickeyee

"I use strippers to strip and loop. I use the hole in the tool there to specifically loop the wire. Comes out perfect every time."

You have to get the right strippers.

Not the low priced Chinese junk at the big box stores.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 11:40AM
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