When we had an outbuilding built, the electrician put in a box with a run from the breaker panel and another empty (i.e. completely disconnected) run from the box up the wall because we didn't know if we were going to want a single light over a medicine cabinet or lights along the side. He said he left the other end in the wall somewhere. Now, 15 years later, I don't remember where he put the wire. Is there a way to find it without tearing out the drywall?

  • 3
    I know it is too late for you, but in case this will help anyone else, whenever you are building new, or remodeling 'down to the studs' take pictures of all your walls after electrical and plumbing are in place and before the drywall is up. It will save you from having to ask a question like this.
    – Glen Yates
    Feb 17, 2022 at 14:26
  • 2
    @GlenYates Of course, taking pictures of "everything" is far more routine (and easy and essentially free) for most people now, in the age of smartphones, than it was 15 years ago. Feb 17, 2022 at 14:36
  • What is the current status of the wall? Does it have a medicine cabinet (or other fixture covering a large part of the wall)? If so, is that removable? If not, are you planning on adding anything? Or do you have a blank wall and want to add just a light fixture? Feb 17, 2022 at 14:38
  • If you have access to at least one end of the wire then get yourself some wire tracers. How much money you're willing to spend is up to you.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Feb 17, 2022 at 14:54
  • The wall is currently a plain wall with a 2-gang box at "the height you would put a box if you were to eventually put a sink there" height. We don't have any immediate plans for a medicine cabinet, but yeah, that would be an opportunity to find the end. I've looked at cable finders but too pricy for a one-off. I was hoping some place would rent/lend one but I haven't dug into that idea yet.
    – Duston
    Feb 17, 2022 at 15:21

2 Answers 2


If you're not completely opposed to buying something, you can get an inexpensive inspection camera. The end of the camera can be jammed between the existing box and the drywall, then manipulated to look above and below.


Pull out the two-gang box. Should be just a couple of nails or screws holding it to a stud. Fish around in the wall cavity for the cable. Assuming the box was installed at the same time as the cable was run, it should be in the same stud bay.

As far as wire finders and other relatively unusual tools that you don't want to buy for a one-time use (which I totally understand), that's what neighborhood email lists are for. Even pandemic issues shouldn't affect that - you can arrange a not in-person dropoff/pickup.

  • The nails holding the box to the stud are behind the drywall.
    – Duston
    Feb 17, 2022 at 16:19
  • 1
    Yeah, this won't work, assuming a new-work box with a nail flange that's outside the box. If it's a metal box and it was screwed in, you might be able to remove the outlet and get access to the screws with a bent screwdriver. The second tip about social media is a really good one, though. Someone you know will either have what you need or know someone who does.
    – FreeMan
    Feb 17, 2022 at 16:23
  • @FreeMan Well, if it is a new-work box with a nail flange outside the box then a little bit of drywall work is going to be needed at some point anyway. I really don't understand this one though: If you put in a box, stick the coiled end of the cable inside the box. If you don't put in a box (which is why I asked) then I understand "cable in the wall somewhere". Feb 17, 2022 at 16:40
  • 1) I didn't put in the box, the electrician did 15 years ago. 2)The wire has two ends, one of which is in the box, the other is in the wall somewhere in such a way that when the day came, it would minimize tearing out drywall to find it.
    – Duston
    Feb 17, 2022 at 20:09
  • I know it was the electrician. The point is the electrician should have stuck the end of the wire (minimum 8", but ideally a few feet coiled up so that the box could be moved a bit if needed) inside the box. Feb 17, 2022 at 20:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge that you have read and understand our privacy policy and code of conduct.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.