Safety Tip: How to Know Where Electrical Lines Run in Your Walls

We have access to electrical energy throughout our homes thanks to electrical lines that run through our walls. By hiding these lines behind drywall, we have homes that look great and lines that are protected from the potential for accidental damage. However, this comes with a flaw: you don’t actually know where the lines are located. Electrical lines are typically attached to the wooden studs that make up the framework of your wall.

However, those same studs are what you will likely use in the event you are looking to hang a heavy piece of wall art or you need something stable to attach some cabinets into. Accidentally piercing an electrical line with a screw could be disastrous, resulting in damage to your electrical equipment, potential injury to yourself, and the potential for damage to your home as a result of fire or excessive heat. How can you know where one of these lines are? Check out our blog for a few helpful tips you can count on.

Look for Outlets on Your Wall

One of the strongest indicators of the presence of an electrical line is a nearby outlet your wall. Outlets are typically attached to the studs inside walls with nails that tack them into the side of the stud. Therefore, you can pretty much guarantee that there will be a stud located immediately to either side of an outlet. However, this isn’t the stud you want to drill into, as the electrical lines that feed the system are typically run directly down this stud. If you can use the next stud over to either side, the chances of you accidentally nicking an electrical line will be much, much lower.

Get a Stud Finder with Electrical Power Sensing

Stud finders are simple, affordable tools that help you locate studs in your walls without the guesswork. They are surprisingly accurate, and today’s models often have an extra feature that allows you to detect where electrical lines are as well. The flow of electricity creates a magnetic field that is fairly easy to detect, and many stud finders combine this technology with the stud-locating device in order to offer you even further peace of mind when it comes to certainty that where you are drilling is safe.

We strongly recommend picking one of these tools up from your local home improvement or hardware store and looking for one with the ability to detect electrical currents. If you find a stud that the finder pings for electrical current, then move to a different stud before drilling in.

Make Use of Drywall Anchors

Drywall anchors are small plastic devices that essentially grip into drywall from behind, giving added stability to any screws that are drilled through but not into a supporting stud. Drywall anchors cannot support the full weight of something that is particularly heavy or bulky, and that means they should not be used as an alternative to drilling into a stud. However, if you need to hang something that isn’t particularly heavy, a drywall anchor might be the best choice. Likewise, drywall anchors might be the best choice for providing additional support for something that requires multiple screws. While your primary screw should always be into a stud, using a drywall anchor to secure the second point will add stability and help you avoid the risk of accidentally tapping into an electrical line.

Always Drill Into the Center of a Stud

Finally, if you want to avoid the risk of drilling into an electrical line, drill into the center of a stud. Electrical lines are typically run down the space inside of studs because the drywall itself is hung directly onto the studs. That means there is no space for an electrical cable to run directly down the front of a stud, where you might be drilling into. Therefore, if you always make sure to drill directly into the center of a stud, you should have no risk of clipping an electrical line. However, use caution when drilling nonetheless—always make sure your screws or nails are going in straight—going through at an angle can pierce any lines running on the side of a stud and that could lead to disaster.

Looking for help with the electrical lines in your walls? Whether it’s a repair or new installation, make the call to the team at Lightning Bug Electric by dialing (404) 471-3847 today!