Ok, so we are new in this house and have found numerous dead outlets. It is not usually the entire outlet, meaning both plugs, but usually just one. I know one in particular is a GFCI, but without the TEST/RESET buttons, meaning it is protected downline somewhere. The top plug does not work, but the bottom one did until today when I was trying to plug something else into it. I have searched other outlets that are GFCI and have the RESET button, but only found one in the vicinity of the protected one, in the kitchen and I reset it. The bottom plug started working again, but top one is still dead. I would imagine it is possible that there is something wrong with just the one plug in all of these outlets and not the entire outlet? I mean, there could be a loose wire that needs tightening or maybe the outlet just needs to be replaced, period. I have checked the breakers and there are none tripped and there is no GFCI breaker either. Should I bother with an outlet tester or just cut the power and pull the outlet and check it?

  • Sometimes duplex outlets are split to allow one socket to be controlled by a wall switch and the other to be always on.
    – mike65535
    Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 17:16
  • These receptacles might be "backwired" with the old spring loaded push in clamps. If so, this could lead to bad connections. Definitely get an outlet tester, but you will surely end up pulling out receptacles for examination. The outlet tester will tell you if it's the neutral or the hot side missing and this will be a help. Do you own this house? if so, you may want to upgrade the receptacles to tamper resistant when you have the receptacle out. Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 17:18
  • One socket out of two is broken? In several places? Switched split outlets. Turn the light switch on, voila. Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 18:05
  • Yup, you know what? There was one switch in the living room that did nothing, but of all the outlets that it would control, never would have thought that it was the one on the other side of the room. That may or may not be the case for the rest of them, but not that many rooms with extra switches, but I will check. It did occur to me of course that that might be the case, but can't remember now if I tried them or not.
    – Manfred33
    Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 18:26
  • 1
    Is this switch a simple on-off switch or is it a 3-way switch? If the receptacle that this switch controls is on the other side of the room, there might be a pair of 3-way switches controlling it. Especially if there are two different points of ingress/egress. Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 19:39

1 Answer 1


Since 1 outlet worked when the gfci was reset and the other did not look for a light switch that could be controlling the upper outlet this is quite common. If there is no switch close by pull the outlet and see if the connecting tabs on the side of the outlet is/are broke. if broke and a wire goes to the upper section there is a switch some place or a circuit breaker is tripped, yes it could be a bad back stab but I would look for a switch or breaker first because 1/2 of the outlet is working.

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