Ah the joys of new home ownership.

In preparing to prime/paint our family room ceilings, we took down some old (really old) speakers the previous owner had set up. We're not planning to use them so we cut off the two-wire connection going to them. As near as I can tell, the speaker wires aren't connected to anything else on the other end. I've looked all over the house and haven't seen any audio system whatsoever.

I'm paranoid though -- On the off-chance that they are connected to something else, do I need to do anything to them after this? Wrap the ends in electrical tape? Put wire nuts on them?

I realize the obvious solution would be to remove the wire's completely but I'm reluctant to do this yet as there is blown-in insulation in the attic and removing the wire and/or tracing them completely could be messy.

As for the speaker holes themselves, we're planning to keep them for now as we're considering using them later for recessed lighting.

Thoughts? Advice?


3 Answers 3


Speaker wire is low voltage. Yes, a meter would tell if they were actually hot, but it surely would say no here anyway. If you are truly paranoid, then feel free to put wire nuts on them, or even easier is electrical tape. It can't hurt.

In fact, I have some speaker wire hanging around myself, left by the previous owners of the house. It comes out of a corner near our staircase. Since I have absolute knowledge that it dues nothing, I've just left it there. One day when we redo the carpet in our house, it will get torn out.

  • 2
    You should safe off any dead legs - whether it's low voltage or not. Just good practice.
    – kkeilman
    Jan 3, 2011 at 22:34

If they were still hooked up to speakers, there's no voltage concerns, but I'd try to remove them first, check the attic or basement above or below if you haven't already. If you still can't find the origin, I'd try pulling with a little gentle, or not so gentle tugging. If they're there to stay, the safe thing to do is put a wire nut and/or electrical tape on them.

  • 3
    I'm not sure joining the wires in this case is a good idea. I'm no audio expert but if the source was ever connected to a new sound system, I would think it would damage the system (not sure what type of short protection audio systems have).
    – Tester101
    Nov 1, 2010 at 12:23
  • 1
    Not to mention heating up quickly if any serious voltage was put through it.
    – Doresoom
    Nov 1, 2010 at 18:09
  • @tester101,@doresoom valid points but I was always taught to do it since you are turning two unknown wiring paths into one. Hopefully anybody hooking something up to unknowns will trace them first to their ends before lighting them up with audio or voltage (using speaker wire for 120v behind walls is not to code, but I've seen it). But I've tweaked my answer a bit.
    – SqlACID
    Nov 1, 2010 at 19:00
  • 1
    If you've traced them and found both ends of your wire, there's no problem with capping them off. I can just see the worst case scenario of someone testing for voltage at one end, and not realizing the other end is hooked up to a switch somewhere. I always assume the original builder or the previous owner was out to make my life a living hell, and double check everything myself. :)
    – Doresoom
    Nov 1, 2010 at 19:19

If you're really concerned - i.e. is it possible that animals, children, etc might touch or otherwise be in danger should there could be something still hooked up to the lines, the best thing to do would be to short them out - i.e. strip a bit of insulation from each end, and twist them all together.

You'll find out pretty soon if there's any current in the wire - they'll heat up, or a fuse will blow. But you'll be making sure that the wires are safe.

  • 5
    I think testing them with a volt meter would be better for determining if they are live, shorting the wires and waiting to see if your house burns down is not a good method.
    – Tester101
    Nov 1, 2010 at 19:08
  • Well, the original questioner did mention that he's paranoid. The wire could be hooked up to something that's not always powered on. Also, I do seem to remember that some very old system provided power via the speaker wire. To be absolutely, 100% safe, shorting out the wires will work. Even ancient amps had fuses.
    – chris
    Nov 5, 2010 at 20:54

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