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Repair Electrical Outlets: Fix Loose Outlets

Updated: Feb. 28, 2019

Repair this annoying—and dangerous—problem in seconds

outlet shimsFamily Handyman
Electrical switches and outlets that move around because the box is too recessed can be a safety problem. Outlet shims offer a quick and inexpensive solution.

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Unscrew the outlet

Outlet shims

Outlet shims solve the problem created when electrical boxes are recessed too deeply; use them as needed for new installations and for repairs to old, wobbly outlets.

Photo 1: Remove the screws

Turn off the power and check with a voltage tester to make sure there’s no power to the outlet. Unscrew the outlet and add enough shims to bring the outlet flush to the wall.

Photo 2: Shim and retighten

Screw the outlet to the box and reinstall the cover plate. Turn the power back on.

The constant movement of loose electrical outlets can loosen the wires connected to the outlet and create dangerous arcing. Luckily, the fix is simple. If the outlet is recessed less than 1/4 in. in noncombustible material, you can fur it out with outlet shims as shown. If it’s recessed more than 1/4 in., use a plastic extension ring. You’ll find both in the electrical department at home centers.

Plus: Find out how to stop drafts from coming though outlets.


Turn power off before doing this repair.

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Voltage tester

Required Materials for this Outlet Shims Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.

  • Outlet shims