About 2 weeks ago I stupidly drove a nail into drywall in the area directly above an outlet (about 4 ft above). The nail went in probably 1.5". At some point, I hear a noise like a coin or small piece of metal falling and dinging on the floor on the other side of the drywall. I immediately stopped and removed the nail.

Now I’m deeply paranoid that I’ve nicked a wire that will silently cause a fire. What could that noise have been? Is there any way for me to inspect for damage to the wire without cutting open the drywall? Might sound ridiculous but, can I just... not use this outlet?

This is a small, 3ft. wide section of wall between 2 doorways, so I’m assuming the wires are running up vertically from the outlet, right in the line of fire. Obviously never making this mistake again. Thanks for any help.

  • When the nail went in, did it go in about 1/2" then suddenly sink all the way, or were you hammering it the whole time? When you pulled the nail, did you have to use the claw of the hammer to yank it out, or were you able to pull it by hand? If the answer to either question is the 1st option, then you hit the stud and probably did not hit wiring. If the answer to either is the 2nd option, then you might have hit the wire.
    – FreeMan
    Jan 18, 2022 at 17:31
  • I was hammering the whole time, and pulled it out by hand... out of curiosity, why would it sink easily into the stud and then be difficult to pull out?
    – pabs
    Jan 18, 2022 at 17:46
  • If you pulled the nail out by hand (i.e. without using the hammer), then you missed the stud entirely and only drove it through the drywall. If you'd hit the stud you would not have been able to pull it without the hammer. That does mean that there's a potential for you to have hit the wiring. However, it it was properly installed, a 1.5" nail should not have made it to the wire. Getting the cable centered on the stud does take an electrician who is paying attention.
    – FreeMan
    Jan 18, 2022 at 17:49

1 Answer 1


If the outlet is dead, you know you hit a wire.

If the wire was installed correctly, then a 1.5" nail installed in to a stud should not damage the wire: the wire would be deeper than that or a metal nail plate would be installed on the face of the stud.

The only way to know for certain would be to open the drywall.

If the circuit has an AFCI breaker, then you have that protection if you damaged the wire enough to cause arcing.

Based on your description, I would not suspect you damaged the wire.

Builders leave lots of crap in the walls, intentionally or otherwise. What you heard was probably a dropped screw or nail falling. I once found a soda can on top of a switch box.

  • Could have been something sitting on top of the junction box that got rattled off by the force of the hammer hitting further up the wall. (Just to make it clear - took me a sec to work it out.)
    – FreeMan
    Jan 18, 2022 at 17:32
  • Yeah a metal knockout cover on top of the outlet... Jan 19, 2022 at 3:37

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