I'm tying into an existing outlet box to provide power for a new electrical outlet. The existing outlet already has 2 lines connected to it - one from "upstream" (to the fuse box) and one downstream to more outlets. The existing lines are connected to the "quick connect" holes in the back of the outlet, leaving 2 open terminals on each side of the outlet. Is it okay to connect the third new line to the side terminals, and the new ground wire in with the other two grounds?

So the new setup would consist of this:

  • 2 lines (2 white + 2 black wires) connected through the backwiring holes
  • 1 line (1 white + 1 black wire) connected via the side terminals (black on "long" side, white on "short" side).
  • all three lines' ground wires pigtailed, with the pigtail connected to the one ground terminal on the outlet.

4 Answers 4


There is no problem connecting wires to both the "back stab", and screw terminals of a receptacle. As long as the terminals are rated for the size of wire being attached. For example. Most "back stab" terminals are rated for 14 AWG solid copper wire, whereas screw terminals are usually 12 or 14 AWG solid or stranded copper.

With that said... It sounds like your receptacles might be hooked up backwards. The black ungrounded "hot" conductor should be connected to the brass colored screw, which is on the side of the receptacle with the shorter slot (at least in the US).

  • There are also back and side terminals (not stabs) with 2 holes at each screw and these are listed for 2 wires under each screw.
    – Ed Beal
    Feb 27, 2017 at 14:08

I recommend that you not use the back stab wire technique. There are numerous problems with these things - both long term and short term. More often that one would like these connections lead to intermittent connections.

I would remove all the wires from the sides and back stab holes of the old outlet. Connect the two existing hot wires with your third added hot wire and a short hot pigtail using a good quality wire nut at the back of the electrical outlet. Do the same for the existing plus added neutral wires. Then wire up a new outlet to the two pigtails using the side screws for the connections.

Note that whenever I open up an electrical box and observe that back stab wiring connections were used I routinely take it all apart and replace with new switches and/or outlets as described above.

  • New components as opposed to just cutting the stab connections flush? (I haven't opened these up, so I don't know whether there'd be any risk of the remaining piece falling where it shouldn't; I'm curious. And cheap.) ... But yeah, pigtails and wire-nuts is how I've always seen pros approach that situation.
    – keshlam
    Sep 28, 2014 at 17:15
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    Do you check if the outlets were Back-Wire outlets. ( The kind where you have to tighten the screw to hold the wires in the holes ) As they seem to be more secure than looped wires. The only reason I ever had to change them is that the outlet had become worn do to normal use. ( I totally agree on the spring loaded backstab connections though ) Sep 30, 2014 at 0:22
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    @BradGilbert - I have on occasion used the rear entry screw clamp type of outlets. They still end up tending to make the front to back assembly dimension of the outlet plus wires a bit more than when side screws are used. This can make pushing the outlet down into electrical box a bit harder to do. Especially when 12 AWG wire is used.
    – Michael Karas
    Sep 30, 2014 at 1:52
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    Perhaps they should make the wires come into the back of the outlet at something other than 90°. Sep 30, 2014 at 3:03
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    @BradGilbert - Perhaps - But I still think the side screws of decent outlets, where the screws are the binder head type, are the best when used with a properly formed wire loop that goes around the screw the correct direction. I have never had one of these fail. I have replaced quite a number of outlets and switches where 14 AWG wire was used in back stab holes and became intermittent. Often the intermittent behavior was seen where two side-by-side back stab holes were used at the same time. Garbage they are in the cheap bulk outlets that builders use in mass building projects.
    – Michael Karas
    Sep 30, 2014 at 3:46

On a Leviton 20A outlet, couldn't use the "back stab" holes and the screw terminal at the same location at the same time. The holes wouldn't tighten around the 12 G wire as these were screw tightened. Seemed like the wires looped around the screws prevented the holes from tightening. Worked when the wires were removed from the screws and just the back holes were used for the double connection.


Thats fine to do. I always check my wiring with a plug in connection tester. If I wired it correctly I get two yellow lights. If i did something wrong they will light up in a different pattern and the tester labels what's wrong. good luck enter image description here

  • The op is asking about if it is legal to wire multiple wires not the end result. although in this case I think your answer has merit because it appears to be wired wrong.
    – Ed Beal
    Feb 27, 2017 at 14:19

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