How to Locate Electrical Wires in Walls

Written by pheori wiley
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When you are undertaking a remodel project it may sometimes be necessary to cut through the walls to make an opening, such as a doorway or window or even embedded cabinets or shelves. In this case you want to be very careful to not cut into the electrical wiring that runs inside almost every wall in your home. Finding where the electrical wiring runs through your home can seem like a challenge, but it is quite simple with the right tools and know-how.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Permanent markers in various colours
  • Stud finder with WIRE MODE function
  • Sketch pad
  • Pencil

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    Locate Obvious Signs of Wire Paths

  1. 1

    Make a note of the location of electrical sockets, wall switches and wall-mounted lights. These items are generally installed with one side of their junction boxes mounted flush to a wall stud, and the conduits are usually attached to the vertical studs inside the walls.

  2. 2

    Make a note of walls where there are windows or no openings at all. The wires usually run near the bottom of the wall in these areas.

  3. 3

    Note the location of walls that have built-in cabinets and shelving units; the conduits generally run near the bottom of the wall and are typically visible inside the lower cabinets. Look carefully inside the cabinets near the very back and top of the cabinet space. With floor-to-ceiling shelves they may run in the ceiling, especially if there is lighting for the shelves.

  4. 4

    Note areas where there are floor-to-ceiling windows. The conduits will usually run under the floor. Check the ceiling area as well because some installations may take the conduits up high. This is especially true if there are a number of recessed ceiling lights or motorised blind systems in place.

  5. 5

    Take note of walls with doors, archways or pass throughs. The conduits will generally run high up on the wall, sometimes as high as the crown moulding of the wall.

    Locate and Trace the Path of Hidden Wires

  1. 1

    Use a stud-finder that has a WIRE MODE and start with the locations that you have noted previously. Move directly up the wall stud above any wall outlets and switches. Some finders have a built in "blue chalk" roller ball that you can use to draw a tracing line. If yours doesn't then follow along with a permanent marker as you locate the wires.

  2. 2

    Pay attention to where the beeping stops as you move along the wire, and slowly move the finder around in a small circle to relocate the path. Continue to follow the wire, making your tracing lines as you go.

  3. 3

    Move around inside the "boxes" you have now drawn on the wall to locate any stray wires or "loops" that the contractor may have left for whatever reason.

  4. 4

    Be mindful of a wire that doesn't seem to lead to an electrical item you have noted. The line may lead to something in an adjoining room. Depending on the sensitivity, some wire finders will locate audio wiring, computer cables, TV lines and phone wiring.

Tips and warnings

  • If you do not wish to use marker on your walls, you can simply use sticky notes, pencil or chalk instead.

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