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Paxan8's avatar

How can I find an outlet hidden in a wall?

Asked by Paxan8 (462points) September 20th, 2010

Can anyone help me? I have to replace my garbage disposal and dishwasher and they are plugged down behind a wall somewhere in my basement. I stuck a 6’ measuring tape down the small hole in the kitchen but I think it just wrapped around inside the wall. What is my best option to find that outlet? I cannot afford an electrician so that is not an option. Why do people do this?

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23 Answers

Dog's avatar

An electronic field detector might be the easiest way. They are a hand held device that can locate electrical currents behind plaster and drywall.

They range in price but I found one at about $12. On this site

Tropical_Willie's avatar


I would be very careful, the code for electric connections in my area requires that both of the types appliances in question be “HARDWIRED”.
That is to say there is “no outlet in the wall”, they go back to the fuse panel.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I’m with @Tropical_Willie on this. It would have been nonsensical in the extreme for anyone to have paneled the wall in the basement… and covered up an electrical outlet in use. Almost as unlikely as it would be to run a plugged connection to plug into an outlet on another level in the dwelling. Do you see how unlikely both of those scenarios are?

Even if electrical codes didn’t require that the appliances be hardwired (except in the case of a portable dishwasher) the idea of plugged connections as you expect is highly unlikely. You should be able to splice into the existing wiring for those appliances. But if you don’t know what you’re doing, then contract an electrician. Trying to save a couple of hundred dollars (at most) and risking your or your family’s lives is a foolish bargain.

Paxan8's avatar

That really really sucks. I never considered that. My kitchen is basically usless at this time. I just can’t afford someone coming to my house to get this fixed. I am so screwed.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Where are you getting the replacement appliances from?

Paxan8's avatar

I already bought the garbage disposal I can’t afford a dishwasher so I just want to get rid of it because it’s completely usless and just spilling water into my house. I think I am going to have to get a new pipe to replace the existing one without the dishwasher hose part.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

I’ve replaced several disposals and helped my dad install one from scratch (1955 ). They are not a plug and play appliance. They have plumbing issues and electrical. See what it costs from seller to have it done.

The first thing is to turn off the water to the dishwasher so it will not leak. There should be a valve on the water line to the dishwasher, it will be under the sink. Turn it to the right, make sure it is one “TO” the dishwasher.

Paxan8's avatar

Of course I turned of the water, but I can’t turn it back on until I replace everything. I’m not completely helpless. :) I looked it up online and it seems I can disconnect the electricity from the dishwasher itself instead of the wall. I’m still not sure about the disposal yet though. I have all the tools, I am used to doing alot of DIY stuff as I am a single woman but this is my first home and I have nevery had either of these items in any of the apartments I have been in.

Cruiser's avatar

@Paxan8 Most built in dishwashers are wired directly into the dishwasher. There should be a flexible “whip” that is this power source to your dishwasher and or garbage disposal unit. Look at the back where the existing wires connect and there should be a removable access panel that will allow you to disconnect the current power source. Of course turn off the power at the fuse box or circuit breaker. There should be a black wire, white wire and a green wire. There are all sorts of on-line tutorials at the manufacturer websites that should allow for a determined DIY’r to do this project. I have done both and they are really doable projects. Having the tools is really half the battle.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

@Paxan8 The only water you should have to shutoff is to the dishwasher, not to the sink.

Paxan8's avatar

Thanks, I just really could not figure out why someone would plug something behind or in a wall. I thought I was going to have to tear down my wall. It never occurred to me that someing was hardwired because I have never seen it before. Everything I looked up about replacing it only mentioned the mechanics and not that part of it so you can understand my confusion. I have asked a bunch of people at work and told them about the issue since I have been dealing with this for over a week and no one suggested that it might be “hard wired”.

Paxan8's avatar

there are only two shut off knobs and I turned them both off. The water from the sink is running into the dishwasher and spilling out to my floor.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Okay, but not. I understand what you are saying.
There should a line that goes to the dishwasher (from the hot water line under the sink) and on it there should be a small valve.

Is this new house bought or rented??

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Take a breath here and look at what you have.

The sink has shut-off knobs for both the hot and cold water… to the faucet. There should be separate shut-off/s to the dishwasher inlet, which probably feeds from the hot (and cold?) water inlet to the faucet. Shutting off the water to the sink doesn’t automatically shut off water to the dishwasher unless the dishwasher outlet leg is downstream (which, under the sink, paradoxically means “above”) the shut-off valve. Do you understand that so far?

That doesn’t seem to be the problem, though, because you say “water from the sink is running into the dishwasher and spilling”. Water from the sink should NEVER run into the dishwasher. In fact, there should not even be circuitry that allows that. Water from the sink runs down the drain. Water from the dishwasher drains, also. They drain into a common drain pipe, but they don’t drain “one into the other”. Something is wrong there, either with your hookup or (more likely) your description.

When you open the sink drain, what happens, exactly?

Paxan8's avatar

@Tropical_Willie it’s not really new, I bought the house 3 years ago but this is the first time something has happened that I don’t know how to fix.
@CyanoticWasp when I run the water into the sink…now rember the disposal is not working (and yes I have pushed the reset button and turned the breakers off and on the thing is done…)as the water slowly drains from the sink, it is running into the dishwasher and leaking out of the bottom of the dishwasher. That is exactly what it is doing.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Okay now I see….
There is a flexible hose about an inch and half in diameter that goes to the disposal from the dishwasher. This should a loop or at least be in a “U” shape with the high part up and just under the counter or sink. You need to make an “air gap” in the line to the disposal.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Yes the disposal should drain through the metal pipe to the sewer.
The flexible hose needs to be above where the drain pipe level is or the sink will drain through your dishwasher.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@Tropical_Willie is correct.

The drain from the dishwasher runs UP to the air gap, and from there DOWN to the disposal. The “air gap fitting” is usually a projection above the sink that looks like a spray hose fitting, but doesn’t move or “do anything”. It has to be provide a “break” in the dishwasher drain line so that water doesn’t siphon out of your sink and down to the dishwasher… as you describe is happening.

There should be no way for the disposal to drain into the dishwasher. You can google a lot of images for “dishwasher plumbing” until you find one that looks like what you have.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

If this fixes your immediate problem, you not have to remove the dishwasher.

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Hit the go pedal be4 I did a re-read. But will u tell us if the fix worked ? ? ?

Kayak8's avatar

This site has a great picture of the disposal and the airgap if that might help you visualize what you have.

Paxan8's avatar

Yes I will, I had to get back to work but I will give this a try tommorrow and let you know. I can’t thank you enough for the info.

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