Hand Tools Archive

Hiding Electrical Outlets
Response To:
Wall Thingy ()

Don Stephan
Thanks for a significant effort to share photos and explanations, and congrats on the finished product.

However, . . .

For 23 years I was a part time firefighter/EMT in my community, and a few times we responded to a residence for "an electrical smell," as if something was overheating. Our response was to point our infrared detector at all the wall switches and outlet - an arcing short produces heat which is registered by the IR detector. We tried to ask if the homeowner knew of any switches or outlets that were covered up, but if only a baby sitter was in the house that information wouldn't be known.

One time we were called to a residence for a light smell of smoke. We searched and searched the basement, the first and second floors, and the attic for more than 20 minutes, before fire burned through the basement ceiling. Eventually we discovered the cause was an electric switch box, with live wires spliced with wire nuts inside, that had been almost completely filled and then covered over with a thick layer of plaster during a remodel. Plaster is an excellent insulator, and prevented the IR detector from finding the arcing behind the plaster fill.

I'm not saying take down the piece, or take out the panels behind the shortened drawers. The point is simply to raise awareness of the (admittedly low) risk of "hidden" electrical boxes, so that everyone can make more informed decisions.

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