Are You Striking The Wires Behind Your Walls?

by / / electrical stories, Fire Prevention


A few days ago, Marc Gibson – a specially trained and licensed electrician at Birnie HOME SAFE – was sent out on a service call to inspect a Mississauga home that lost power in the kitchen, the main-floor bathroom and in the living room.

“When I arrived at the Sorensen home, I started with some preliminary testing. I noticed I was getting unusual voltage readings between rooms … after some investigating I had a pretty good idea what caused the power outage,” Gibson said.

According to the electrician, the homeowner hung up a picture frame, a few days prior, in the living room and struck a live wire behind the wall.

“The homeowners would have never thought that hanging a picture of their grandchildren could jeopardize the wiring in their home, it’s a good thing they called an electrician when they did,” Gibson said.

Truth is, most of us have hammered, mounted or drilled something into our drywall without giving it a second thought.

“There may be hundreds of homeowners out there who’ve struck their wires and are living with compromised electrical systems,” Gibson explained, “When you start drilling into your walls you need to be worried about hitting pipes, ductwork or in this case electrical wiring.”

According to Marc, homeowners should only drill into the studs that rest behind the wall especially when hanging pictures, mirrors, shelves and television mounting systems. These items should all be fastened, with special brackets, to the stud. how-to-find-studs-in-walls-hero

What are studs? (and we don’t mean our electricians)

Studs are an integral part of the home’s building structure, they are in place to hold up drywall on interior walls and wood sheathing on exterior walls.

How do you find a stud?

This is where things get tricky, many of us don’t know how to locate studs just by looking at a wall. Sure you can knock on the surface and listen for hollow vs. non-hollow spots and presumably the non-hollow noise would indicate the presence of a stud; but Gibson recommends that homeowners invest in a quality stud finder.

“A stud finder is a great tool that reduces your risk of striking an electrical wire,” Gibson said. The device is designed to locate wires, copper, and the edges of the stud.

As for the Sorensons, Marc had to replace the damaged wire from the panel to the corresponding outlet.

What many homeowners don’t realize is that you can start a fire behind your wall if A: you start hammering aimlessly and, B: if you don’t check the electrical after striking your wire. If you do hit your electrical wire, you need to have a licensed electrician inspect the circuit right away.

Marc lists some of the common warning signs of a punctured wire:

  • Flickering lights
  • Loss of power
  • Outlets not working
  • Burning smell coming from wall
  • Constant tripping breaker
  • Power cutting in and out

“You can’t ignore the warning signs,” Marc says, “a punctured live wire can definitely start a fire… think about it, you have an open heat source nestled against insulation, wood and other flammable objects.”

If you are experiencing some of these warning signs, it is important that you request for a Birnie HOME SAFE no-fee electrical assessment. Our specially trained electrical experts can advise if your home is in need of some electrical maintenance.

Gibson also cautions homeowners who are undergoing renovations in their home. “This is also an easy way to puncture and compromise your wires… you’ll probably have two or three different contractors moving things around putting things up in your home. You should always have the electrical checked after a renovation.”

And before you commit to any structural changes or additions in your home make sure you have a licensed electrical contractor assess the changes and advise if the re-wiring is possible.

Remember faulty wires cause fires, let the professionals at Birnie HOME SAFE take care of the guess work.

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