How Do You Tell if There Are Wires Behind a Wall?

When applying an improvement to your house decoration, like expanding your book collection by installing a new shelf on your walls. It’s better that you know if there are wires in the walls you are installing the shelf on before you start drilling into it; as a result, you will protect yourself from electrical shocks.

How Do You Tell if There Are Wires Behind a Wall?

You can tell if there are wires behind a wall through several ways, from using a magnetic stud finder to checking blueprints. Knowing where the cables are in your walls will help you easily plan your home improvement projects, arrange your appliances, and make interior decoration decisions.

Magnetic Stud Finder

A magnetic stud finder is a popular tool that most homeowners and professionals use; it detects the studs that support your walls. The magnetic stud finder consists of a magnet that detects screws and nails in the structure of your walls. In addition, it can be used to detect the wires behind your walls.

You will need to hold the magnetic stud finder and move it horizontally against your wall, as it’s the usual alignment for wire installation. Therefore, it will be easier to find wires by moving horizontally instead of vertically. When using the stud finder, you will need a tool to mark the areas it detects.

The most suitable tool to use when marking the walls is painter’s tape because it will leave no marks on your wall and can be easily installed and removed. So, when the magnetic finder detects something, you can mark the area with painter’s tape.

When you finish, you will find that you have marked many areas; these are the areas to avoid when installing a shelf or mounting a TV. It would help if you were careful not to hit a wire when drilling through your hole, as this can lead to you getting electrocuted.

Electrical Stud Finder

The electrical stud finder is similar to the magnetic stud finder; however, they differ in their work. The magnetic stud finder depends on a magnet that detects studs or wires; meanwhile, the electrical or electronic stud finder generates an electrical field that changes when it sees something.

The best tools used to detect wires behind walls are the ones that feature AC wire detection; these electrical wires will help you see electrical currents behind walls. In addition, the electrical stud finder will help you tell the wires’ location and direction.

The electrical stud finders are used the same way as the magnetic ones; you will need to move the stud finder horizontally along the walls. This is because the horizontal alignment is the usual alignment wires installed. When the electrical stud finder detects something behind the wall, its light will blink or produce a sound.

As discussed earlier, painter’s tape is the most suitable tool to use when marking the walls because it will leave no marks on your wall and can be easily installed and removed. So, when the stud finder detects something, you can mark the area with painter’s tape.

The areas you have marked every time the stud finder light blinked are the areas to avoid when drilling into your wall. It would be best if you were careful not to hit a wire when drilling through your hole, as this can lead to you getting electrocuted.

Scope Camera

Stud finders, whether magnetic or electrical, can be beneficial tools to locate your electrical wires; however, in some cases, you will need to see what it looks like behind your walls. The scope camera will require that you drill a small hole in your wall to give you a picture of what’s behind your wall.

The flexible scope camera will enter through the hole in the wall, and through the live picture, you will be able to determine your wiring system’s exact direction and location. As a result, you will be assured of what areas are safe to hammer or drill through and what areas are not.

The area behind your walls will certainly be devoid of lights; therefore, it’s best when you buy your scope camera to ensure it has a light feature. Night vision is a significant feature to consider when purchasing your scope camera, as it will help you see clearly in the dark areas behind your walls.

Another thing to consider when buying your scope camera is the video quality; if the quality needs to be better, you will not be able to see clearly, which brings no benefits from this method. If your walls have corners and obstructions, you must ensure that your camera is flexible enough.


The electrical blueprints of your house are considered one of the easiest and most convenient ways to find the location of the wires in the walls. The blueprints will help know the exact location and direction of the cables, the circuit breakers, and which is responsible for each room.

If you are considering renovating or modifying your house’s wiring system, the blueprints will be of significant benefit. Unlike stud finders and other tools, the blueprint will provide a clear picture of your house’s electrical system; they can be obtained from the construction company or your local government.


Electric Wire Detector

The following tool is the electric wire detector; the central concept of this tool is that it sends signals to detect if there is an active electrical current. It has several models; some models can only detect wires through drywalls, while others can detect wires even through concrete.

The detector consists of two parts: the receiver and the transmitter; it’s advised that if you use a live wire detector, turn off the circuit breaker for the area you are working on. Connect the detector to the nearest outlet where you are working; the transmitter is the part connected to the outlet.

The signal is sent from the transmitter through the wiring system of your house, and then the receiver, the part you use to detect the signal, will see the exact location of the wires. The starting point should be from the outlet, and then you move forward; the movement should be horizontal to match the alignment of the cables.

The proper position against the wall will help you quickly detect the wires, and after you detect an area, you will need to mark it using painter’s tape, as it will leave no marks on your wall and can be easily installed and removed. So, when the stud finder detects something, you can mark the area with painter’s tape.

How To Stay Safe When Detecting Wires Behind a Wall?

When working with electrical components, there is always a chance for harmful consequences; therefore, you must stick to basic safety precautions. The detection step in finding wires behind your walls is essential, and it has to be done before hammering or drilling into your walls.

Before you turn off the circuit breaker for a particular area, you will need to unplug the appliances in this area; keeping a flashlight by your side is a great thing to consider because you might have the insufficient light. If you use a scope camera, you must wear safety glasses and gloves when drilling into the wall.

How to Trace a Broken Wire in a Wall?

It’s a common issue to have a broken wire behind a wall, and this issue can happen due to several reasons, like rats and rodents chewing the cables or wiring torn due to aging. The multimeter is suitable for tracing a broken wire behind a wall; you will need to turn off the circuit breaker first.

Then, use the multimeter as you would use an electric wire detector or a stud finder, and trace the wall slowly, looking for an area with no resistance. The area with no resistance means that there is a broken wire in this area.


To summarize, there are several ways that you can use to find a wire behind your wall; for example, you can use a stud finder, whether electric or magnetic, an electric wire detector, or a scope camera. Detection of the wires behind a wall is essential before you drill into this wall. 

This will make you avoid hammering or drilling into a wire which can cause electrical shocks or electrocution. When trying to detect a wire behind a wall, you will need to take all the safety precautions, it might seem like an easy task, but you have to be careful when dealing with electricity.

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