How to Find an Electrical Cable in Your Walls

Cables on a grey background.
  • 1/2
  • Beginner
  • 0-30
What You'll Need
Electrical cable detector
What You'll Need
Electrical cable detector

It's essential that you learn how to find an electrical cable in your walls because many DIY projects involve drilling holes. Accidentally cutting through one of these cables could make your project take much longer in a best-case scenario, and in a worst-case scenario, could actually be deadly. It's essential that you are always on the lookout for electrical cables, pipes, and any other obstacles in your walls. Being careful will save you a lot of time, and also help protect your life.

Step 1 - Study the Wall

Look out for any signs of obvious dangers in the wall. If there are any switches or electrical outlets on the wall, then there's a very good chance that there will be wires and cables in the wall. It's also worth trying to guess where the pipes will go through the walls so that you can avoid drilling into them.

Step 2 - Turn Off the Power

You must ensure that the power is switched off before doing any work in your home. By switching the power off you will be able to take the faceplates off safely. It will also mean that even if you drill through a cable, you will be safe.

Step 3 - Look at Outlets

If your house was wired properly, then the wires should drop down from the ceiling, and there should not be any connections made horizontally or connected from the floor upwards. However, you can't take this for granted. Use a screwdriver to take the faceplates off of outlets and sockets.

When the faceplate has been removed from the front of the outlets and switches, you will be able to take a look at the direction of the wire. If the wires run up the wall, then you should know roughly where the cables will run. If possible, mark the location of suspected cables on the wall in pencil.

Step 4 - Detect Wires

Use your electric wire detector to find out exactly where the wires run through the walls. Use the wire detector and concentrate on the specific areas where you suspect wires to be.

A wire detector is simply a type of metal detector that is able to detect the presence of metallic objects in your walls. This means that pipes and wires will be discovered by these systems.

Step 5 - Drill Holes

Once you've marked the rough locations of wires on the walls, you should be able to avoid them. When fixing a shelf or anything else onto the wall, simply remember not to drill through that specific portion of the wall. This will ensure that your home's electrical systems and plumbing are not harmed in the process.

No matter how careful you are, there is always the possibility of making a mistake and drilling through a cable. If you do, the key is not to panic. You might also need to hire a professional to help you re-wire your property.