How To Find Electrical Wires In Walls-Quick Start Guide

You have bought a new wall frame or purchased a new shelf for your living room. And  you  want to hang it in your home. 

Maybe you are involved in some DIY home improvement projects where drilling is necessary. Then you would like to know how to find electrical wires in the wall before drilling.

According to the survey conducted by Craftsman, a Stanley Black & Decker, Inc. brand, 21 % of Americans learn to drill for the first time during the Corona pandemic.

Therefore, before starting any drilling project, always identify the wires in the walls to avoid electrocution.

There may be chances of damaging electrical wiring, electrical conduit, gas pipe, PVC pipe, or any studs.

If you encounter such a case and would like to understand how to find the electrical wires in walls, this article will help you locate your wires behind the walls. Make sure to read the complete article.

How to find electrical wires in walls during home improvement DIY?

The complete connection of every cable installation in our house wiring system is called electrical wiring. It will include various switches, plugs, and lighting fixtures.

Power will be delivered throughout the house via cables in the home’s electrical wiring.

When the house is under construction, it is easy to discover all the wiring.

All of the studs, lines and circuits are visible.

However, if the house is fully furnished and you need to hang light fixture shelves or place a TV or picture on the wall, it won’t be easy to see where the cable is running because all of the wires are hidden within the wall.

Tools : How to find the electrical wires in walls

There are three types of wires in the household circuit. They are called “hot wire,” “neutral wire,” and “ground wire.”

 Many types of detection devices are available on the market to find these wires in walls. 

They all perform the same tracing function, either via an electric or magnetic mechanism. You can easily find these tools at local hardware or home improvement stores.

There are two kinds of tracing done by these devices.

Wire tracer

A wire tracer can assist in locating live or non-live wires, cables, and circuits.Wire tracer comes for both energized and de-energized wire.

A wire tracer will assist in locating the wires and cables that run through the walls.

Wire detectors are used to test the wiring of a wall socket if you are unsure about the wires inside and their output.

Live wire tracers cost somewhat more than non-live wire tracers.

While drilling in the wall, it is pretty handy to identify the wire.

Some detectors can also detect the electrical and plumbing systems.

Stud finder

It is a very convenient tool for locating studs behind walls.

It finds the stud behind the wall using an electrical or magnetic sensor.

As technology progresses, these locators also include phone-based apps that allow you to view your objects.

Deep scan type electrical detectors

Other detectors can identify items (wood, metal, or wire) up to 3/4 inches, but these deep-scan ones have twice the scanning intensity up to 1 1/2 inches.

Method -How to find electrical wires in walls

Wire Tracer – Step by Step Guide

Below are the steps for finding wire in wall through Wire tracer:

Inspect the wall area

First, mark the location on the wall where you wish to drill. By determining the wall area ahead of time, you can complete your task swiftly and efficiently.

Disconnect the power supply from the main circuit breaker.

Ensure that you have disconnected the correct circuit breaker for the area you will inspect.

Main Circuit Breaker
Disconnect Circuit Breaker

Set up the device( Transmitter  & Receiver)

Open your electrical wire detector set. You will see there is a transmitter,  receiver, and a probe along with the manual.

Read the wire detector’s manual attentively to learn how to connect your device.

The transmitter is considerably larger than the receiver.

The receiver is much smaller than the transmitter and is equipped with a probe.

Please calibrate the wire detector according to the instructions in the handbook.

It’s a good idea to do some basic transmitter and receiver testing before you actually connect the tracing wire.

Connect device to the inspect wall

This device will help you quickly trace cables or wires within a group.

With the transmitter, it will send a signal to the target wire, and with the help of the signal strength, you will know the location and direction of the target wire.

Connect the alligator clip cord set to the transmitter.

Attach one alligator clip from the transmitter to the tracing wire.

Now, turn on the transmitter.

Turn on Receiver

Refer to your manual to check the details about the receiver.

Turn on your receiver.

Hold your receiver and trace the available end of the target wire.

The receiver will induce the signal to the target wire.

Move your receiver on wall & Identify the signal

Place your receiver on the wall. Check in your manual which part of the receiver you must put on the wall: only the probe or the complete receiver.

If the receiver’s position is not proper, it will give a false indication. Once you figure out the correct position of the receiver.

You can easily identify the signal by the beeping sound of the receiver and also mark which direction the signal is going.

Slowly move your receiver on the inspection wall. Try to move your receiver in forward and backward directions so that you can identify the location and direction of the running wire.

In this way, you will trace the running wire in the wall.

Stud Finder – Step by Step Guide

Below are the steps for finding wire in the wall through the stud finder.

Pick appropriate Stud finder 

There are many types of  stud finders  in the market. Some are Magnetic Stud Finders and some are electric Stud finders.

Magnetic stud finders are also called magnetic stud detectors. They will use a magnet to locate the stud behind the wall.

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B000IKK0OI&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=besthomeupgra 20&language=en USir?t=besthomeupgra 20&language=en US&l=li3&o=1&a=B000IKK0OI

An electric stud finder is one of the handy tools that you can use to find the wires even if there is no power. Most electric stud finders will help find the stud in the wall, but some of these tools in the market will also help to find the wires on the wall.

An electric stud finder will locate a stud through an electric field.

There will be a probe in the electric stud finder that will help in locating the wire and also help in finding the direction of the current. It will identify the studs or wires depending upon the density of the wall.

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B01HTFHOEI&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=besthomeupgra 20&language=en USir?t=besthomeupgra 20&language=en US&l=li3&o=1&a=B01HTFHOEI

So choose the stud finder as per your requirement for the home improvement project .

Set up your stud detector

Your stud detector will help you detect or locate studs, metal, or wire-carrying AC.

Select the selector switch in your stud finder to the “stud,” “metal,” or “AC wire” position.

Always have a look at the stud finder you will  use to find the wires.

Take your own time and read the manual thoroughly. 

Before using the detector, check if the battery is completely charged; otherwise, it will give a weak signal and a false reading.

Some tools need calibration before use, so read the manual carefully.

To avoid damage to your stud finder, remove your batteries if you are not using them.

Identify the wall  location 

Place stud finder on wall

Choose the area where you want to use the stud finder. This step will assist you in determining the point of the wire or stud.

If you want to hang a painting on the wall, pick the ideal location and mark the point where you want the artwork to be placed.

The stud finder can then be used in that region.

Before starting up, make sure there is no moisture in the inspection wall.

Turn on  and move your  stud detector 

Turn on the detector.

Hold your stud detector against the wall and make firm contact with the wall.

Slide the stud detector slowly across the wall in a straight line.

Identify the signal & mark the spot

Identify signal and mark the spot
Identity signal and mark the spot

Detector will alert through some light or sound .Once  the device will find the stud ,it will  give a signal.

Mark the spot with a pencil.Pencil is convenient  for marking as it can be erased if not required .So it will not cause much damage to the interiors.

You can repeat the marking process to ensure the correct spot is identified.

If you face a problem with the signal, try to change the battery and repeat the marking process.

Mark the first spot and move your stud finder vertical position up and down to recheck the location of the stud.

Method: How to find electrical wires in concrete walls

As the concrete walls are made up of concrete blocks, they don’t need a wall stud. They are piled up and bonded together with the help of a wet mortar.

However, drywall is made up of some wood and wall studs.

You can easily identify in your house whether it is a concrete wall or drywall by knocking on it. A dry wall will give a hollow sound, whereas a concrete wall will provide a solid sound.

As concrete walls are thicker than dry walls, it is easier to locate wires in the drywall compared to concrete walls.

Some of the methods mentioned below can find the electrical wires in a concrete wall.

Architectural drawing

Architectural drawing

An architectural drawing of the building will help you to know the ins and outs of the building.

Drawings will help you know which areas need to be drilled.

This drawing will also provide information about plug sockets, switches, and light fittings, and it will also provide information about other electrical fittings.

It will act as a blueprint of the house’s electrical wiring.

Electrical wiring in other rooms

Look at the wiring of other areas of the house. It will give you an idea of the house wiring.

See all the switches, sockets, and fixtures’ locations and try to find out the wire running route.

Before starting any drilling in the wall, make sure to disconnect the power supply.

Start drilling the concrete wall slowly and make a shallow drill. And check if any pipes are there or not.

Drill the concrete wall

This method is time-consuming. So if you are unsure about the house wiring, try to switch to the method of using the electrical wire detectors.

Deep scan type electrical detectors

Concrete electrical detectors/Stud finder – Step by Step Guide 

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B09MRTS7J8&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=besthomeupgra 20&language=en USir?t=besthomeupgra 20&language=en US&l=li3&o=1&a=B09MRTS7J8

Deep scan type electrical detectors have high enough intensity to detect the wires inside the concrete walls.

They are costlier than standard wire detectors as they use advanced scanning  technology.

These detectors usually scan metal, iron rods, or gas pipes in concrete walls. It is ergonomically designed, so it will provide comfort while holding it.

Inspect the concrete wall area

First, check the concrete wall area to see if it has any switches, sockets, or light fittings. If any electrical item is there, try to avoid that location and drill in other areas with a lot of caution.

Set up the detector device

If you are using any type of electrical detector, first read the user manual and get an idea of the device’s setup. Also, learn all the controls on the device and how they will operate.

And if you are using a stud finder, try to assemble it as per the manual.

Please make yourself comfortable with the device before using it on the walls.

These detectors will detect metal, wood, live wire, and plastic pipes in concrete very deep also.

They have different detection modes, such as concrete, drywall, metal, brick walls, etc.

Plug and Move the device 

Plug an electrical detector into the circuit to be traced or position the stud finder over the wall.

Connect the detector into the circuit to be traced on the concrete wall. Turn on the transmitter. 

The transmitter will give a signal to the receiver through a circuit. .

Position the stud detector over the wall.

Move the detection tool slowly over the presumed object in the wall.

Hold the receiver over the wall 

Set the receiver device and start scanning on the wall surface.

Rotate receiver device to obtain highest numerical reading possible.

Changing the position of the receiver slowly is necessary for checking the strength.

If the object is under the sensor area , it will appear in the sensor range of the display .

Identification of  material depends on the size and depth of the object.

For exact marking of the  wire on the wall,move the detection left or right until the wire is found.

When it identifies the object , the detection tool will emit an audio /visual signal.

Mark the spot

Places where signal strength is high .

Mark appropriately with markers on the concrete wall.

In this way , you can finally spot  the running wire on the concrete wall.

Safety measures  for how to find wires in walls

While working on any electrical wiring at home, we should keep in mind that there is some real risk involved in doing any electrical work.

Before you begin any electrical project, make sure you turn off the power at the circuit breaker. This will turn off the power of all the electrical devices on that circuit.

Always assume electricity is on until testing proves it is off.

Always refer to your national electrical code and also check with your local building code for your area to see if it requires any kind of permit for electrical work.

Tips for using detector device

  • Avoid drilling around the light switches and sockets. Electrical wiring can run in horizontal and vertical directions from the socket or any light switch.
  • Take the idea of electrical wiring in the house from the attic or basement.
  • Be cautious while drilling the wall that connects your bathroom or kitchen. As there may be chances of a water pipe in the wall.
  • Always keep your detection tool clean and dry. Please do not use any cleaning agent over it.
  • Do not immerse your detection tool in any fluid.
  • Make sure not to use stud finders over wet or newly painted areas.

Wrap up- How to find electrical wires in walls

Finding electrical cables in walls might be a difficult chore for you because you have no idea where the electricity cables and water pipes are hidden behind the walls.

Whether you want to hang a frame or put a shelf on the wall, finding wires in the wall might be difficult.

During any drilling project or home improvement, there is a chance of destroying your wall or any piping.

That’s why I have prepared this detailed guide to help you find the wires in your walls.

Your wall could be any drywall, concrete wall, or brick wall. So you can use the ways mentioned above to find wires in these walls.

FAQ: How to find electrical wires in walls

It is difficult to locate electrical wires in walls. As a result, many individuals have a lot of questions.

That can be resolved easily. That is why I have included some of them in this post to provide appropriate answers.

How are electrical wires run in walls?

Electrical wires can run in either the horizontal or vertical direction of the electrical fixtures. Typically, wall studs are about 16-24 inches apart in many houses. You can even use a stud finder to find the wires in the walls. Avoid using a stud finder when the house is freshly painted, as it will be difficult to scan due to paint moisture.

How to trace a wire without power?

You can trace the wire with the help of a battery-operated electrical wire detector. This wire tracer device will have a transmitter and a receiver. Connect the transmitter to the tracer wire and take the receiver to the bunch of wires where you want to trace the wire. Once it traces, the wire receiver will give the audio or visual signal.

How to trace a wire with a multimeter ?

1. Disconnect the power at the main breaker panel.
2. Turn on the multimeter device and set it for resistance (ohms) with continuity mode.
3. Now connect one probe of the multimeter to one end of the wire.
4. And connect the second probe of the multimeter to the tracing wire. If the tracing wire is far, attach a temporary wire for a longer distance.
5. When the continuity of the circuit is complete, it will give an audio sound.
6. If the multimeter gives a buzzing sound, you have successfully traced the wire with the multimeter.

Over the years, she has perfected her expertise in various aspects of home improvement, from crafting inviting kitchens to revitalizing entire living spaces. Through this blog, her mission is to generously share the wealth of hard-earned knowledge, experiences, and insider tips, empowering readers to enhance their homes and turn them into their dream living spaces.

Leave a Comment