How to fish electrical wire through a ceiling

Updated May 25, 2017

Electrical wire can run behind a ceiling to conceal it when a new receptacle is added. Usually, the cable extends across the ceiling to a wall, then down the wall to a switch. If you have access to an attic, fishing the line to the wall is fast work, requiring only a minimum amount of holes in the drywall. But if access to an attic is unavailable, several holes must be cut to bring the wire to the wall plate and down through the wall space.

Drill a hole up through the ceiling in the centre of the spot where the receptacle will be located.

Thread the end of the wire cable up through the hole.

Enter the attic and find the cable. Pull it through the hole and between ceiling joists to the wall plate above the wall where the cable will be sent.

Drill a 3/4-inch hole into the wall plate so that the cable can be threaded through the wall.

Drill a hole up through the ceiling in the centre of the spot where the receptacle will be located.

Visualise how the cable will need to travel between ceiling joists to the wall above where the switch will be placed. Determine the point where the cable will need to transition from moving across the ceiling to downward through the wall.

Draw two boxes, each about 2 inches wide and 4 inches long: one for the ceiling and one for the wall at the point where the cable will transition. Use a pencil and ruler for the layout.

Score the drywall with a utility knife and cut it away with a drywall saw. The top plate of the wall now should be exposed. The top plate is a two-by-four stud that runs along the top of the wall and to which the wall studs are nailed.

Cut two parallel lines in the top plate with a drywall saw. The lines should be about 3/4-inch apart and the cut should go about an inch deep into the plate. Remove the material between the two lines using a hammer and chisel to create a notch for the cable to run through.

Run a fish tape up through the receptacle hole in the ceiling and push the tape down between the ceiling joists until you find it at the openings made in the wall and ceiling. Pull the end of the fish tape through the opening. A fish tape is designed for pulling wires through walls and ceilings and is available at home improvement centres.

Attach the electrical cable to the end of the fish tape, then reel the tape back into its holder. The cable will come along as well. One end of the cable now should be at the receptacle hole and the rest of it at the wall.

Push the cable into the notch created in the wall plate and cover it with a metal nail guard.

Things You'll Need

  • Power drill
  • 3/4-inch spade bit
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Utility knife
  • Drywall saw
  • Sabre saw
  • Hammer
  • Chisel
  • Fish tape
  • Nail guard
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Robert Korpella has been writing professionally since 2000. He is a certified Master Naturalist, regularly monitors stream water quality and is the editor of, a site exploring the Ozarks outdoors. Korpella's work has appeared in a variety of publications. He holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Arkansas.