Inspect the Wire and Surrounding Area
The first step is to carefully inspect the wire itself as well as the surrounding area. Look for any signs of damage, exposed copper, burned insulation, etc. Also check for moisture, corrosion, or other issues that may have impacted the wire over time.
Use a flashlight to illuminate the area and get a good look at where the wire is positioned. Is it near a source of water like a sink or bathtub? Is it located next to a heat source like a vent or appliance? Take note of anything relevant.
Turn Off Power and Test the Wire
Before doing any work, it's essential to turn off power to the circuit the wire is connected to. Locate the breaker box and switch off the appropriate breaker. Use a non-contact voltage tester to confirm power is off.
Once the power is off, you can test the suspect wire for any voltage by touching the probes of a multimeter to the hot and neutral/ground wires. You want to see no voltage present. Also check for continuity between hot and neutral to see if the circuit is still intact.
Remove Access Paneling to Expose the Wire
To get full access to the wire, you'll likely need to remove some drywall, paneling, insulation or other material from the wall cavity. Carefully cut and pry away just enough material to expose several inches on either side of the wire. This will allow you to inspect the full run and make repairs.
Use a utility knife, drywall saw, pry bar and other tools to remove material while minimizing damage. Protect floors and furnishings from debris.
Repair or Replace the Wire as Needed
Once exposed, assess the condition of the wire again. If it's damaged or degraded, it will need to be replaced. If intact, you may be able to just repair the small affected section.
For replacement, splice in a similar gauge wire using approved connectors. For repairs, wrap damaged insulation with electrical tape or heat shrink tubing. In either case, be sure all bare copper is fully covered.
Secure the Wire and Restore Wall Access
With the fix complete, you can reposition the wire safely back inside the wall cavity. Use staples or wire clips to securely attach it. Replace any access panels, drywall, insulation etc. that you removed earlier. Patch holes as needed with drywall compound.
Finally, turn power back on at the breaker box. Test the circuit to make sure it's functioning normally again. With the odd wire repaired, you can finally put this issue to rest!
When to Call an Electrician
While many basic wiring projects can be DIY, it's best to call a licensed electrician for:
- Major rewiring jobs
- Upgrading electrical panels or circuits
- Investigating unknown or very old wiring
- Handling aluminum wiring
- Working in close proximity to water lines
- If you are ever uncertain or uncomfortable
Pro electricians have the proper tools, testing equipment and training to safely handle tricky electrical issues. They can also ensure any work complies with local codes.