If you have to unplug one appliance in order to plug in another one because you only have a single socket, or if you have to use an adapter plug so that you can have both appliances plugged in at the same time, you can easily change a single socket to a double. Multiple sockets are excellent: not only do they look tidier but they are also safer. Examine your sockets carefully: if you find any cracked or broken faceplates – often caused by vacuum cleaners running into them or furniture knocking them in a house move – they should be replaced. Replacing a damaged socket with a new similar one is very straightforward.
While any style will fit a flush-mounted box on a surface-mounted socket – the ones most likely to be damaged – check the replacement carefully because the faceplate may have squared corners, which won’t fit exactly onto a round cornered pattress, and vice versa. In such a case it’s a good idea to buy a new one, with a matching pattress as well.
You should also think about replacing unswitched sockets for switched ones: this can be done without having to alter any wiring or fixing. Switched sockets have an On/Off switch – and sometimes a neon indicator light – which give added protection as appliances such as TVs, radios and table lamps can be switched off ‘at the wall’ at night or when not in use.
In a straightforward replacement of ‘like-for-like’ single sockets, first switch off the power at the consumer unit and isolate the supply to the circuit by removing the appropriate fuse. Unscrew the fixing screws on the faceplate and pull it gently out of the box. Loosen the terminals and free the conductors. Make sure everything is in order inside the pattress, and then connect the conductors to the terminals of the new socket. Refit the faceplate, using the original screws if the new ones supplied don’t match the thread in the pattress.
1 Remove the old socket
Switch off the power at the consumer unit and remove the appropriate fuse to isolate the circuit you are working on. Remove the old socket: if the old single socket was flush mounted into the wall, release it from the metal box and disconnect the wires from all the terminals. Coil the wires inside the box. Mark the size of the new double box on the wall, over the old single box.
2 Fit the new box
To take the new double box, you will need to enlarge the recess in the wall. Prepare the new double metal box by removing the knockouts in the required entry positions and insert a rubber grommet into each to stop the sheathing from chaffing. Pass the cables through the knockouts, ensuring that the outer insulation is within the box, and screw the box into the recess.
3 Wire the new socket
For both flush mounted (left and far left) and surface mounted (above) sockets, coil the wires inside the box and make good any repairs to the wall, allowing any filler or plaster to dry completely before proceeding. Enclose the earth wire in green/yellow sleeving, wire up the new double socket, and secure the faceplate. Restore power and test both socket outlets.