Find Outlet Under Sheetrock

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Old 12-09-16, 07:03 PM
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Find Outlet Under Sheetrock

To recap: Our house flooded in March 2016. When remodeled, IDIOTS... covered an outlet in living room with sheet rock & didn't cut out the hole.

In an attempt to put up our Christmas tree today, we discovered the outlet is missing where we normally plug up the tree.

I am hoping for advise on finding exactly where the outlet is.

I have a stud finder that detects metal but I am not sure if its metal or plastic box & it didn't detect anything where I thought the outlet was.

I found 3 pictures that we had taken during demolition after we had removed the sheet rock. The problem was, there was something blocking the area where the outlet was.... in every single picture. Two pics did show some romex, but not enough to make a definite determination of which stud the outlet was on. In other words, I see the romex running along the wall, through the studs, but the last two studs, where the outlet is... is blocked by packing boxes, tool boxes etc. So, I still cant be certain which stud the outlet is really connected to.
I will say that I am almost certain, it is connected to a "double stud" window facing / window frame. This is a large window that goes from almost the floor to almost the ceiling.
I switched to "stud finder" mode & I think the stud finder is finding the outlet next to the double studs, where I think the outlet is.
Even if it is detecting the outlet behind the sheet rock, the stud finder I have is rather large & I don't know precisely where the "eye" is on the stud finder that detects the stud/outlet. So, I don't want to drill a hole in the sheet rock & be just a little high or low because I don't know where the eye is. I dont know if its center, top or bottom & that is about 6" difference.

I am wondering if there is a gadget or old electricians "trick of the trade" to find where I need to be confident to drill a hole.

My theory is, that if I can find the general area within a couple of inches.... for certain.... I can drill a small hole & poke around in there to "feel my way around" to figure out where I am on the outlet, then begin to cut a little larger & larger hole, until I know exactly where to cut out around the outlet so I wont cut outside of the outlet & end up with too big of a hole that I will need to patch it.

Keep in mind... this is a brand new remodel. I really don't want to screw this up.

I did run my hand across the wall to see if I could feel where there might be a bulge where the outlet is & I couldn't feel or see any bulge at all.

I'd appreciate any relevant advice.
 
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Old 12-09-16, 08:13 PM
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It would be easier if the cable wasn't running horizontal. I don't know of any tool that will detect a box. The height shouldn't be a problem.

I will say that I am almost certain, it is connected to a "double stud" window facing / window frame.
This would be a good guess. Especially good if you think it's on the outside of the double studs, not under the window.
Another assumption when trying to find a box is that the electrician nailed the box into the right side of a stud. Not always true but a good place to start.
 
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Old 12-09-16, 08:14 PM
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There are electrical voltage testers that might detect the current through the drywall. Google that... it's the first thing I would try.
 
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Old 12-09-16, 08:30 PM
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Suggestions, in estimated order of likelihood to work:

Radar wall scanner ($$$$)
Fox and hound toner (if you know which circuit it is)
Circuit breaker identifier (used backwards....connect the transmitter to the circuit at the panel, use the receiver to track the cable, and again, you need to know circuit)
Non-contact voltage sensor (if circuit is live)

Another option: Carefully remove the baseboard, drill a small hole where you think it is, and use a borescope to verify. You could also drill up from below if you have access.

Also, try putting a 4 foot level across the area sideways and up and down...hard to believe there isn't a bit of a bulge.
 
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Old 12-09-16, 09:42 PM
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Thanks guys. A lot of good ideas there. I appreciate it. I did google non-contact voltage detectors & while going through the list of hits, there was a youtube video where a guy was comparing 4 various brands of these. There was a Sperry brand with an adjustable sensor that just might work. While most of them had to be pretty close to the electrical source, this one Sperry model had a sensor adjustment, that would allow me (in my case) to adjust it to the highest setting to find what area the outlet is in, then continuously turn down the sensor, until I got down to an exact location.

As was mentioned above, this demo wasn't through dry wall/sheet rock, so I don't know for certain that it will work for me but with the sensor on the highest lever, he could detect voltage from an outlet about 10 or 12 inches away. So, I am hoping that it will detect the current from the outlet, through the 3/4" dry wall at minimum. Hopefully a few inches away through the 3/4" dry wall.

I'll also try the 4 ft level idea.... except with a 3 ft level... cause I don't have a 4 ft one. I'll let you know how I come out with that.
However, I think I'll try the Sperry non-contact voltage tester. I don't have one of those, so it'll give me a good reason to get one to have on hand for those other pesky honey-do's to come. Once I do, I'll let yall know how I come out tomorrow.

In the mean time, if anyone else has any idea's in case this doesn't work, please post them.

Handyone: In my case, if it is on the double stud window casing, it would be on the right side, as the window is on the left side. Its not going to be under the window in my case.... it could be, but I would be surprised indeed if it were. Good tip though, I'll keep that in mind for other situations.
Additionally, the romex is coming from another outlet from the right to left, to this outlet. So, by that, & assuming the electrician was right handed, the hammer or drill would be in his right hand when attaching the outlet to the stud & would be awkward to nail or drill from the left for a right handed person.... so, good idea. Thanks.
 
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Old 12-09-16, 11:16 PM
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Using a stud finder takes some practice. Lots of times the garage is a good place to practice as you have unpainted drywall where you can see the nail heads. Turning the stud finder 90 or upside down sometimes helps. When you do find the stud center remember the box will normally be 3x2 to one side of the stud.

Other crazy options: Try a really large magnet as the receptacle has some metal in it. Try a metal detector. Then later take it beachcombing.
 
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Old 12-10-16, 03:34 AM
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If the electrician was consistent, the receptacle will be at the same height as the rest in the room. You can set up a laser level at the height of the other receptacles which will hopefully give you the correct place vertically. Using a stud finder move from stud to stud. My stud finders will denote electrical behind the wall so you can avoid it. If you get an impulse indicating electricity, below your laser line, you should be pretty close.
Zircon MultiScanner HD900 OneStep Multi-Function Wall Scanner-66232 - The Home Depot
 
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Old 12-10-16, 04:01 AM
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a 4 foot level across the area
That's what I would do. It doesn't have to be a level as any straightedge should pick up the bulge in the drywall. The box is typically set out 1/2" [or a tad less] past the stud so it will be even with the installed drywall. As Larry said, all the boxes should be at the same height.
 
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Old 12-10-16, 04:54 AM
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I have done the straight edge trick many times. I have had rockers cover my boxes many times. It doesn't need to be a level, any solid straight edge will work. Level, piece of straight wood, etc. The longer the better.

The bump may be hard to find if the taper had to really lay on the mud to make it smooth. After I find where I think the box is, I cut a hole with a drywall keyhole saw big enough where I can see or stick a finger in to see if there is wires or insulation. If you do find the box, you can then cut the hole bigger until you know exactly where the box is. Then using your saw, cut the drywall around the outside of the box. Sadly you will have to do some patching because after you cut out the box the drywall will suck in and the screws will pop out.
 
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Old 12-10-16, 06:38 AM
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I use this magnetic stud finder. The magnets are very strong and will find the nails in the studs.
An electronic stud finder isn't needed in most cases, although using one in electric warning mode as Larry said is a good idea.
There should only be a few studs in the area that you suspect the box is located so there's a good chance of finding it.
I don't think a non-contact tester will work, mine needs to be very close to a hot wire to alert, like 1/4" or less.

Attachment 74229
 
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Old 12-10-16, 08:27 AM
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Like Tolyn said, the long straight edge, is the way to go. You'll find the high point by rocking the level back and forth. You should know the height from the other outlets. Using a stud finder, find the center of the stud. Turn the circuit off. Take a small long tool and work it through the drywall. If you hit the box, you may be able to feel the wires by probing left to right. Measuring the depth with the probe can also help. Measure the depth of another outlet box. Add 1/2" for the drywall not being cut. If there's no box, the depth will be deeper than the box. A 2x4 wall will measure 4"=3 1/2" stud + 1/2" drywall, a 2x6 wall will measure 6".
 
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Old 12-10-16, 11:06 AM
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After using the straight edge, I push a 1/8" drillbit into the spot I suspect . The back of the box will stop the bit and you can hear the sound.
 
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Old 12-10-16, 12:46 PM
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Ok, update: Job complete

After using several methods & advice provided, I repeated several options over & over until I was satisfied I had narrowed it down with some certainty. I had done all I could do. So as I mentioned in my initial post, once I had my mark, I took a small drill bit & drilled into the area. It went just inside the sheet rock & stopped. I pretty much knew I had hit the outlet itself. So, I drilled one about an inch above that hole & one an inch below it. Using those three holes to feel my way, I took a dremmel tool & began to make the initial hole larger & larger until I seen the beige outlet in there. From there, I continued to expand the hole about a 1/2" or less at a time on each side, until I knew where I was & I was good to go, to get the outlet out rewire a new one & replace.... All good!
I replaced it cause during the remodel, we updated all light switches & outlets to the light almond square/rectangle style, to go with our new colors/decor.

Thanks to all who provided insight & advice.... much appreciated. As always, I learned a few new tricks.
 
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Old 12-10-16, 08:32 PM
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Happy to hear it all worked out. Thanks for letting us know.
 
 

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