How to Find Buried Copper Wire

Written by joshua smyth
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How to Find Buried Copper Wire
Copper wire is often found buried under lawns and buildings. (spindle of copper wire on white background image by phizics from

Underneath most front yards, there is likely to be buried copper wiring of one sort or another. Television cables, phone lines, electrical cables and the electrical wires for irrigation systems all get buried underground. This can be quite an inconvenience when you would like to dig any kind of hole in the yard; without knowing where the wires are, you risk cutting them. Just as frustratingly, breaks in buried wires can shut down the system to which they're attached. The first step to repairing and removing these wires is finding them, which is easy with the right equipment.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Wire locator
  • Inductive antenna
  • Shovel
  • Multimeter

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  1. 1

    Buy or rent a wire locator. These devices are available from electrical equipment suppliers; some home-improvement stores may also rent them. There are a wide variety of such devices available, from basic units that will beep when close to a wire to advanced units that can find nicks and breaks in the wire.

  2. 2

    Locate, if possible, an exposed end of the wire you are trying to find. If you are looking for a television or phone cable, you can catch the wire where it enters the house. Electrical wires will come into the breaker panel, while irrigation wire will run to the irrigation control box.

  3. 3

    Connect the transmitter unit of a wire locator to the exposed wire end, according to the locator model's manual. This transmitter sends a signal down the wire the receiver handle can then pick up, allowing you to follow the path of the wire. Some locators will tell you the depth of the wire as well.

  4. 4

    Turn on the receiver and carry it slowly around the area where you think the wire is. It will beep or light up to alert you when you have found the wire.

  5. 5

    Use a unit with an induction antenna that can be planted in the ground. This will send a signal through the ground into a wire, which the receiver can then pick up. It eliminates the need to track down the end of the wire to patch in a transmitter.

  6. 6

    Dig carefully once you have located the wire. The locator may not have exactly pinpointed the wire's depth, so you risk cutting it if you stomp too hard on your shovel.

  7. 7

    Press the probe of a multimeter to any wire before touching it. Buried live wires could be an electrocution hazard.

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