I bought a new doorbell which required me replacing my transformer. My current transformer is attached to a receptacle that sits right below my panel. Turned the power off to it, unscrewed it, found my current transformer wires were backstabbed into the receptacle (and my ground wire was not secured to the ground screw as a nice bonus). My receptacle didn't appear to have a release hole so I tried to tug and twist to remove but both wires ended up breaking off with a small piece of the wire still stuck in the outlet. Below is a photo of that. You can see the broken off (stranded?) wires on the lower half of the receptacle between ground wire and neutral wire. There are other backstabbed wires but also an available neutral and hot terminal on the receptacle:

Broken backstabbed wires

From what I have read backstabbing is not code unless it's 14 AWG solid copper wire right? These seemed stranded to me. Is it safe to continue using this receptacle if my plan is to attach the new transformer wires to the terminal screws instead? I would also of course make sure to re-attach the ground wire.

  • Does this answer your question? Back stabbed outlets – MonkeyZeus Dec 30 '20 at 16:49
  • @monkeyzeus that example is solid wire, I could see that being used (I would not) but solid and stranded in a stab are different, a much higher risk with stranded as all of the strands would not be secured. – Ed Beal Dec 30 '20 at 16:59
  • @EdBeal The similarity between the post I linked and OP is whether or not it's safe to use an outlet with wiring broken off in the backstab. The answer to that seems to be yes. However, only 14awg solid is allowed in the backstab per instructions that I was able to find online for a common 15 amp Leviton. I do not know how this rule correlates with OP's situation. For safety, OP should absolutely replace the outlet. – MonkeyZeus Dec 30 '20 at 18:38
  • The difference between solid and stranded wire is a huge difference in my opinion stranded bits can fall out solid is locked in. And the advice is 180 of what your reply that it should be replaced. – Ed Beal Dec 30 '20 at 19:37
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    So I apologize to everyone since I was a bit ambiguous in my original post saying they "seemed" stranded. I wasn't sure myself and suspected they were, but since I am going to be replacing the receptacle and transformer anyways I cut and stripped one of the backstabbed wires, and confirmed it is stranded. Thanks for the answers and comments. – Cam G Dec 30 '20 at 21:06

I don’t use back stabs and although code allows them this is by far the largest cause of failed wiring in my experience (worse than aluminum wiring).

Since I don’t see a release I would NOT reuse because if the worst happens and the stranded wires start backing out they may contact the transformer or grounded box.

It would be a good idea to pigtail the Hots together then a single wire to a new receptacle and also pigtail the neutrals.

Cheap receptacles can be found for a dollar, good ones under 5 for commercial or spec (specification) grade.

in a low use area like an attic I would pigtail and use the cheap builders grade receptacle.

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    I am up to the task but just so I am 100% sure: Pigtail my 3 hots ( transformer hot included), tie them along with one more wire that'll ultimately go from the tie point to a brass screw on new receptacle. Then do same for neutral (but with silver/neutral terminal)? Additionally is it safe to say I can snip the existing wires to my receptacle and then simply re-strip and re-use them? I do like this approach as it feels it would be a lot more organized. Edit: Basically this but with one more wire involved: i.stack.imgur.com/VdACe.jpg – Cam G Dec 30 '20 at 17:17
  • Exactly correct on the pigtail, I don’t snip unless I have to twisting the wire can release it most of the time a light outward force as you twist and it will normally come out without more than a scratch on the wire if you have more than 6” from the back of the box then snip away. – Ed Beal Dec 30 '20 at 17:37
  • If solid wires broke off in the receptacle I would be concerned that the wires wire ringed with a grove too small on the wire stripper. If you see marks on the wires at the edge of the insulation I would cut and re-strip the wire. – NoSparksPlease Dec 30 '20 at 18:08
  • @nosparksplease I do agree if ringed this is where the wire will break but two many cut off as a first call and before long the wire is two short to work with. – Ed Beal Dec 30 '20 at 18:17
  • @user127887 Or you could simply step up to the $2.50 grade recep, which provides screw-and-clamp: it has 2 back-wire holes directly under each screw, and you tighten the screw (Firmly!) to clamp the wires. 2 holes per screw = 4 holes per side so lots of splice room. Really, any legal wiring method will suffice. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Dec 30 '20 at 21:58

Play it safe. Replace the receptacle. What else can you get these days for 71 cents? $1.24 if you get tamper-resistant (which nobody likes but you're supposed to use in many places now) and $2.18 for commercial-grade instead of residential-grade (electrically the same but built a bit better).

  • Personally I prefer the tamper-resistant outlets to having plastic outlet covers when protection of the outlet is required. Although insertion into tamper-proof outlets is kind of annoying, I don't do it often enough for it to bother me. – Michael Mior May 20 at 16:32

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