Tracing wires in walls

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1,408
Location
Ohio
Thread starter
Some yutz who had my house before me did some amateur wiring in the basement. Trouble is, the house has aluminum wire, but he added in copper. Based on the Cu-Only outlet that burned up because it was attached directly to the aluminum, I'll bet he didn't know anything about aluminum and just joined the copper and aluminum together. Second problem is, I don't think he did the junction inside any of the existing outlets or switches, because I can't find where the original aluminum meets the new copper; all the boxes I've looked in either have all copper that looks new or all aluminum that looks original. Is there a nice way of finding where the wires are routed without having to take down the drywall? The gizmos that plug into an outlet and have a sounder to trace it all look ridiculously expensive; it would be cheaper to just replace all the basement drywall.
 
Messages
3,649
Location
Worst Case, Ontario
You need a wall scanner. It sounds like this is a job that would be worthy of a purchase, but that's not a tool that will be used much after this job although it would be handy to have. You could try renting one, but I think hiring someone might be more expensive than the tool itself. https://www.amazon.ca/Walabot-DIY-Plus-Advanced-Smartphones/dp/B07XP94548/ref=dp_ob_image_def I googled wall scanner and this came up first, I thought they were much more expensive than that.
 
Messages
24,807
Location
Upstate NY
There are a 1000 and one ways a wanna-be electrician could have done wiring not up to code. Boxes buried behind drywall is up there on the list. Non grounded boxes. Using 14-2 with ground when you needed 14-3 with ground. Using the "quick" outlets where you shove a wire in the back and a spring loaded contact makes the connections and hold the wire in place. Putting electrical tape over a switch or circuit breaker (don't use) but never fixing the problem. Wires jammed into a box vs neatly folded. Twisted hot or neutral wires and then duct tape over connection. Junctions not in a box. Branch box with combined ground & neutral bus. One way to get your home safer (in my view) is to install all arc-fault breakers for every 15 and 20 amp 110V circuit. That way if something does happen the arc-fault should catch it.
 
Messages
14,185
Location
Central NY
Originally Posted by Donald
Twisted hot or neutral wires and then duct tape over connection. Junctions not in a box.
Had that sitting on the ceiling drywall above my living room.They just twisted the wires together and taped over them. Wonder why the lights flickered when the washing machine ran.
 
Messages
24,807
Location
Upstate NY
Originally Posted by Miller88
Originally Posted by Donald
Twisted hot or neutral wires and then duct tape over connection. Junctions not in a box.
Had that sitting on the ceiling drywall above my living room.They just twisted the wires together and taped over them. Wonder why the lights flickered when the washing machine ran.
WIre nuts cost money. Tape is cheap.
 
Messages
979
Location
SE PA
Originally Posted by maxdustington
You need a wall scanner. It sounds like this is a job that would be worthy of a purchase, but that's not a tool that will be used much after this job although it would be handy to have. You could try renting one, but I think hiring someone might be more expensive than the tool itself. https://www.amazon.ca/Walabot-DIY-Plus-Advanced-Smartphones/dp/B07XP94548/ref=dp_ob_image_def I googled wall scanner and this came up first, I thought they were much more expensive than that.
Does this scranner really work? I don't know why but it sounds too much like a gimmick.
 
Messages
251
Location
Missouri
You could have a real (dangerous) mess on your hands. Like Donald said, there are a million and one things that a hack could have done. You might want to hire a licensed electrician to look it over.
 
Messages
3,649
Location
Worst Case, Ontario
Originally Posted by diyjake
Originally Posted by maxdustington
You need a wall scanner. It sounds like this is a job that would be worthy of a purchase, but that's not a tool that will be used much after this job although it would be handy to have. You could try renting one, but I think hiring someone might be more expensive than the tool itself. https://www.amazon.ca/Walabot-DIY-Plus-Advanced-Smartphones/dp/B07XP94548/ref=dp_ob_image_def I googled wall scanner and this came up first, I thought they were much more expensive than that.
Does this scranner really work? I don't know why but it sounds too much like a gimmick.
I have no idea but I know "real" wall scanners are a few hundred bucks. The reviews do not look so good for that one, but you could always just return it if it didn't work.
 
Messages
3,649
Location
Worst Case, Ontario
Originally Posted by Oily_Thing
You could have a real (dangerous) mess on your hands. Like Donald said, there are a million and one things that a hack could have done. You might want to hire a licensed electrician to look it over.
I wouldn't want to pay electrician's wages for that job. Any idiot can fish new wires. Also, they will most likely indiscriminately destroy drywall, increasing the price and scope of the work. Electricians don't like working on houses.
 
Here is a few wild ideas. Remove and check any ceiling light fixtures and check in the box. Check plug boxes even if they are in adjacent rooms. Does your basement have a hanging ceiling? If so remove a few panels and take a look up there.Buy one of those circuit testers you plug into a socket and check all the sockets for problems. Good luck.
 
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Messages
456
Location
Ceciltucky
Harbor Freight has a cable tracker for about 30 bucks. Here is a cut and paste of a review. Sounds like it might help you: Tells you where the wires are! UNDER sheetrock even Wow! We lost a circuit in the house we recently moved into... really strange, circuit breakers all intact, no tripped breakers... break in wire in wall? hooked this tracer up to the dead circuit (after shutting off master power to house) and within 10 min was led to a GFCI outlet in the garage I never knew about! Resetting it had power to the circuit again. Saved possibly thousands not calling an electrician... even if they had found it quickly they would have charged many hundreds of $$. Now I have a very useful tool in case of other electrical problems. Win-win.
 
Messages
1,408
Location
Ohio
Thread starter
Thanks Oldtom, I'll check out the HF one, looks like I can't go wrong on the price. Thanks all, it's been interesting so far, I've gathered from the realtor that the house was a flipper. He may have made it look pretty, but took shortcuts and didn't do anything to improve it structurally.
 
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