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How to Install a Wire Nut :: DIY Home Improvement Essential Skills

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I remember a few times digging into old boxes or even into walls to find aged electrical wires twisted, sometimes loosely, with nothing more than electrical tape holding them together.

And maybe these are isolated cases, only found by those of us who like to poke around inside of housey things.  Or maybe, it was just a way they did it … back then.  idk … but this just wasn’t how I came up. Instead, I learned from the beginning that when joining voltage-bearing wires, you use a wire nut.

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But how to install a wire nut properly?

It actually took me many years to know.

How to Install a Wire Nut for Light Fixtures

As a punch out guy in the late ‘90s, I installed a ceiling fan, a fixture or two. It was easy enough, I’d make sure the power was off at the switch (though the breaker is better) and I’d install the light. Following the instructions that came in packaging, I’d use the orange wire nuts included in almost every box.

In most cases, it was simple – black to black, white to white and ground to green if I could. You hold the thin wire (usually a #14 or #16 stranded wire for the fixture) just a little long of the (line) wire you are tying into and twist away in a clockwise direction. And this was how I learned.

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How to Install a Wire Nut like a Pro :: Line Voltage

* Strip Wire Insulation & Hold Wires Flush

You can do essentially the same thing when tying two voltage-carrying wires together (usually #12 or #14 wire for in-home use). Like most sources suggest, you can start by stripping away about ¾” of insulation (using a wire stripping tool). Then, holding them this time perfectly parallel and flush, again you can twist away.  (Yellows or Reds are typically your choice in wire nuts here.)

And that’s exactly how I did it. That is – until I had the opportunity to work side by side with several real life electricians, a few years back.

* Take Side Cutters and Twist in a Clockwise Direction

Every pro electrician I have worked with uses a slightly different method. But packing a pair of 9″ side cutting pliers (aka side cutters), they’d strip (again using a stripping tool) a little long of that 3/4″ mark – 7/8″ say.  Then, holding the wire’s ends again flush, but set instead inside the teeth of the pliers, they’d use this tool to do their twisting.

* Snip off Tips & Screw on Wire Nut

Because side cutters are plier-tipped, the tip of wires get marred. But here is the beauty of it, just take those same side-cutters and snip off this damage (yep, about 1/8″). Not only can you now screw your wire nut on effortlessly, you can also be confident that you have a 100% positive and clean connection. Electricians’ Gold!

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And there you have it, in my eyes … if you are connecting line to line using a wire nut, it simply can not be done correctly without a good pair of side cutting pliers.

While I usually prefer Ideal‘s wire connectors, here is a best selling assortment on Amazon. A 158-piece for just over $10. Remember to choose the proper size for your job.

This article was originally posted as a partnered post with The Home Depot in conjunction with Klein Tools and featured a giveaway.

About Klein Tools:

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Essential Tool in Focus | Klein’s D213-9NE (on Amazon @ around $30):

Good luck & thanks for reading. For additional articles on Essential Skills, please see our Skills category. For more on working with Electrical, well, well our Electrical category. Cheers. ~jb

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