I have a relatively new house (built 2014) with circuit breakers etc. I just drilled a couple of holes at around the same level as the electrical outlets and I put 1 5/8 inch screws in them. I probably should have drilled the holes below or above the level where the electrical outlets are. If I use a stud finder (with electrical charge detector) I do see the detection.

I just want to make sure that I did not damage any electrical wires behind the wall. How can I do that?

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    – isherwood
    Mar 30, 2018 at 17:25
  • You should post pictures of what you drilled. That will help in providing some level of information that is relevant to your specific situation. I will also post an answer for you that can provide some level of comfort without tearing up your walls.
    – Ken
    Mar 30, 2018 at 20:43

4 Answers 4


If it was built to code you are fine because there are nail plates covering any wire that is within 1 1/4" of the edge of the stud. Drywall adds 1/2" at least so you would be fine using 1 5/8" screws straight into the stud. The wire is already sitting at least the length of your screw away, or else is covered with 18 ga steel plate!

  • The holes are a bit away from the stud but at the same level as the outlets. I will be OK? Thanks Mar 30, 2018 at 17:13
  • Yes, the cable floating in the stud cavity would also be at least 1 1/4" from the inside of the drywall, and since its floating there's nothing behind it so even if you did poke it with a screw it just moves out of the way.
    – freshop
    Mar 30, 2018 at 17:20

The strict answer to your question is that you can't, practically speaking, at least without a visual inspection. You'd need a boroscope or access to the area. Partial severing of a conductor would not disable the circuit, but it could cause a hot spot in cases of high, sustained current flow.

Wiring is not run level with the outlet boxes. It's typically 8-12" above them, with drops into the boxes from above. The cables might also run along the studs from above or below.

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However, wiring is supposed to be bored through and mounted to studs at their depth center. Screws 1-5/8" long should not contact them.

  • Yes you are correct SHOULD is the operative word. And wire cables free floating in the cavity could be potentially hit - and I have seen this exact thing happen with a home built in 1997. So again I like your answer for that reason, the fact he might have a screw on a hot line - well that could be an issue if you touch the screw - easy enough to know with a meter on the screw and a neutral/ground somewhere.
    – Ken
    Mar 30, 2018 at 20:53

Carpenters aren't expected to have X-ray vision.

Carpenters are required to use 1-5/8" screws or shorter, and wires are required to be positioned so they have a bit of a safety margin from getting nicked by a 1-5/8" screw -- or they must be guarded by a metal plate.

So if you're ever drilling or screwing and it feels like you're hitting the worst knot in the world -- STOP. You hit a guard plate that protects electrical wiring.

From the electrician's POV that's generally done by using at least 2x4 joists and centering the electrical cable on the joists, then following with a 1/2" thick wall covering like drywall.

  • You are correct about the metal plates but op is not drilling into studs. One way to tell if they have screwed into the wiring is to measure AC volts from screw to hot, screw to neutral screw to ground. A Wire that is somewhat free behind the dry wall might not always be centered and I have seen a wire get caught in a home that was built in 1997. Better not to assume. There are tools now that do allow a person to look behind the wall and probably should be done before installing screws. Why such a long screw is also a question in my mind if just going through dry wall to hang like a picture?
    – Ken
    Mar 30, 2018 at 21:03

There are some answers that tell you about metal plates but those are on the studs not on the wiring. Another fallacy of that is to assume everything was done a certain way , or to assume where you were drilling the holes, for example a tv center might have some things different than say an outlet by the floor.

How can you know if you have drilled through a wire with out tearing out your dry wall ?

See through Walls with an Android App and this 3-D Sensor

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