Thread Number: 68459  /  Tag: Other Home Products or Autos
How to locate a hidden outlet
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Post# 912012   12/21/2016 at 10:14 (548 days old) by paulg (My sweet home... Chicago)        

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Lots of geniuses out there. Can you help me with my dilemma?
When our house was built 10 years ago, we had custom bookcases made along two walls in the den.
They are permanent and cannot be moved / removed.
Behind one of them is an outlet. It was accidentally covered up when the bookcases were built.
I'd like to find it again and have a hole cut so I can have access to it.
But how do I find it?
I cannot trace the conduit easily as the room is over the garage and the garage has finished walls.
All ideas, even crazy ones are welcome.

Post# 912018 , Reply# 1   12/21/2016 at 11:15 (548 days old) by MattL (Flushing, MI)        

Do you have a rough idea where it is?  That will help.  I know you guys in Chicago LOVE conduit, that makes things a bit harder.  One thing I would try is a stud detector, many of the better ones will indicate wiring, or pipes.  Depending on how the run was done you may find it that way.  However if the run is horizontal that may prove difficult.


What is on the other side of the wall?

Post# 912020 , Reply# 2   12/21/2016 at 11:33 (548 days old) by Yogitunes (New Jersey)        

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this may be far fetched......but it will glow/beep when placed near an electrical long as that source is powered.....

the range may be an issue here.....

another thought, but only if you know that a metal box was used, but something like a stud in locating the metal through the wall...

most homes, an outlet is usually 12 to 15 inches off the floor....


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Post# 912034 , Reply# 3   12/21/2016 at 12:27 (548 days old) by pulltostart (Mobile, AL)        

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Even if you successfully locate the outlet, unless you have access to the opposite side of the wall and can know EXACTLY where it's positioned, I think it would be very unlikely that you could cut through the back of the millwork and not end up with a mess.  If the outlet is behind a bookcase and you can get a reasonable fix on the location, you might need to be willing to sacrifice the rear panel within a specific zone (i.e., between two shelves and between two uprights), locate the outlet and then install a new rear panel with the correct opening.  As long as the edges of the new rear panel coincide with a shelf above and below and uprights on both sides, once it's all put back together no one will know what you've done.



Post# 912038 , Reply# 4   12/21/2016 at 13:07 (548 days old) by panthera (Rocky Mountains)        
Easy possible solutions

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1) Is there an outlet on the opposite side of the wall? Even if it's an outdoor outlet, most electricians will run boxes in the same place on each side of the wall or very close to each other.

2) The old stud finders from Black & Decker (and everybody else) with the primitive electronics fell out of fashion because they tended to trigger strongly on electrical conduit and boxes - you're bound to know somebody with one of the silly little orange things. Power it up and play with it around boxes you can see. You'll be amazed how well they work at finding boxes (and how awful they were at finding studs).

3) As no current is flowing through the box, don't place too much hope in most circuit sensors.

4) Blueprints to the house?

5) Other rooms with the same layout?


Good luck! Oh, and there's no such thing as 'permanent' It might be possible to figure out a way to pull one section of the bookcase out which is not readily apparent?

Post# 912039 , Reply# 5   12/21/2016 at 13:26 (548 days old) by kb0nes (Burnsville, MN)        

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I have two devices that would get me close at least.

First is a Fluke IntelliTone Pro 200 which uses a tone generator to energize the line and you follow it with a sniffer receiver. There are lots of toners out there but the digital ones are better as they don't hear electrical line noise/interference. I used this device to map all the cable TV coax runs in a friends house. The previous owners were very creative and the cable was run everywhere in the house!! A digital toner would get you in the ballpark.

The second device is a Bosch ultrasonic/magnetic wall scanner. It can somewhat see into a wall to pinpoint metal and wiring etc. I'm not nearly as impressed with this device but it might get you closer then the toner alone would.

Martin mentioned the outlet height and keep in mind it is likely consistent within the room. Measure the height of other outlets and that will help confirm one dimension at least.

I assume you plan on cutting out the back of the book case to access the outlet. I'd probably drill a hole where I thought the outlet is so I could adjust for error. One of those flexible "colonoscopy" viewers could be handy if there is gap behind the bookcase you need to peer into.

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