Seeking Electrical Repairs

How To Find Wires Inside Drywall

If you are remodeling, or adding new outlets and switches, you will need to know where the electrical wiring is located. Since wiring can be dangerous, it is often hidden behind walls out of sight. Accidentally drilling into a wire in the wall damages the wall, and it poses a shock risk. There are ways to take the guesswork out of finding the wires in the wall without damage by following these tips.

Prepare to Find the Wires

To locate wires inside of drywall, you need a cable detector or stud finder, a pencil, and a screwdriver. Turn off the electricity to the room, so if you do accidentally hit a wire you won't get shocked. Make note of wall switches on the interior and exterior of the wall, which is a strong indication of wiring. 

The wiring should not connect crosswise on the floor or run upward from the floor. Use the screwdriver to detach the outlet screws, lay parts aside, and study the direction of the wires. If you have an attic or basement, inspect the top and bottom of the wall plate for wiring. Make markings of suspected wire locations with a pencil.

Turn on the Cable Detector

A cable detector or stud finder can be purchased from a hardware store or home improvement center. Cable detectors don't have to be expensive, but check the features to get the most out of it.

Some models may be able to detect live and dead wires while other models may be able to locate wires, but  they will also find other metal objects. Borrowing a cable detector or renting one is ideal, if you don't remodel often.

Read the manual before using it to understand the best features. Insert the batteries, or charge the unit, if the batteries have already been inserted. There should be an LED light to indicate a fully charged battery. Weak batteries can cause no readings or faulty readings.

Find the Wires

Start searching near outlets and switches by pointing the head of the wire detector at the location. If there are no obvious outlets or switches, start searching on a corner of the wall. Make smooth, sweeping motions, and cover the entire area, marking wire detection with a pencil. 

Cable detectors or stud finders commonly indicate finding wires with a series of lights that increase intensity as you get closer to the wire. Some models may give an audible beep upon detecting wire. Reinstall outlet and switch covers when you get done. 

Be aware detector heads activate when wires are directly below it, and not all models can find low-voltage wiring, such as door bells. Contact an electrician, if you have concerns.