How to identify frayed wiring

One of the biggest electrical hazards facing both homes and businesses is undiagnosed frayed or damaged wiring. 

Indeed, frayed or damaged wiring can pose a huge risk for issues such as power shorts, electric shocks and even electrical fires. 

But, unfortunately the most dangerous instances of this damaged wiring will often happen where you can’t see it (inside your walls and ceiling). 

So how can you tell if your wiring needs to be mended or replaced?


It’s quite clear when your appliances wiring has started wearing out - you can literally see the casing breaking and the exposed wiring underneath. As soon as this happens you know you should no longer use the appliance or get the wire replaced if possible. 

However, when it comes to your properties electrical wiring you will not be able to see the damage. 

Here are some warning signs that you might have damaged or frayed wires in your electrical system:

  1. Flickering lights

Flickering lights could of course just be a sign that you need a new lightbulb - however, if you have replaced the light bulb and your lights are still flickering it could be an indication that there is something wrong with your electrical wiring. 

If this is occurring it is important to turn off the lights that are flickering and get a licensed electrician in as soon as possible to assess the issue. This will reduce the risk of sparking and electrical fire that could occur if you are unknowingly using exposed or frayed wiring. 

  1. Sparking outlets

If your power outlets spark - either while you are plugging and unplugging appliances or when you are flicking the switch on and off it is a sign that there may be something wrong with your wiring.

Sparking outlets can very quickly lead to electrical fires. Indeed, any type of sparking around switches or outlets pose a risk of electrical fire so if this is occurring (when any appliance is being plugged in - if it is just the one appliance causing this issue it may be an appliance fault) it is important to turn off the power to that electrical circuit and get an emergency electrician in as soon as possible.  

  1. Switchplates and outlet covers that are hot to the touch

Electrical outlets and switch plates should never be hot to the touch. This could be an indication of an issue with your wiring or switchboard. If this is occurring in your property you should stop using the switch or outlet in question and call a qualified electrician immediately. 

This heat could be an early warning of power issues that can cause melting, burns or even electrical fires to come and should be dealt with ASAP.

  1. Odd smells coming from your power points or switches

Your electrical system should not produce any smell, if it is you will need to stop using the switches and power points in question and call a qualified electrician immediately. 

The smells we are often made aware of are things like burning, or melting plastic. Again, these are definite signs that something in your electrical wiring needs to be fixed or replaced. 

  1. Smoke, scorch marks or discolouration around outlets

These will often occur as the result of sparks when turning on and off or plugging and unplugging appliances. They are a clear sign something is wrong with your electrical wiring and that your property is at risk of electrical fire. 

These outlets and switches will need to be replaced and the wiring in their electrical circuit will need to be checked for fraying/damage and fixed or replaced. 

  1. Buzzing or crackling sounds

An unfamiliar buzzing or crackling sound coming from your switches or power outlets (might be most common when you first turn things on) could be an indication of damaged electrical wiring or another hazard within your electrical circuit. 

Despite what you may have been conditioned to believe, buzzing lights is not normal and is often the symptom of a brewing electrical hazard. 

You can never be too safe when it comes to mysterious buzzing noises coming from your electrical system. 


If you have any frayed wiring in your home do not touch it or try to fix it yourself! This is not only incredibly dangerous but electrical DIY is actually illegal in Victoria (to ensure peoples safety). 

The best way to deal with frayed or damaging wiring is to turn off the switches, outlets or appliances that may be connected to those wires. 

If the switches are making a buzzing sound, are very hot, are sparking or flashing when turned on or off, give off any odour, you will want to disconnect the power supply by turning off the main switch in the switchboard and calling an electrician immediately. 

PLEASE NOTE: If there is a buzzing sound, any sparking or flashing or any odd smells coming from the switchboard do not touch the switchboard and call an emergency electrician immediately. 



You may think that wiring in your electrical system is less susceptible to fraying or damage as it is not being moved or as exposed to the elements as often as the wires powering your appliances. 

This is true, however, it can still be damaged and break down to the point of being dangerous if not well maintained. 

There are a couple of common reasons frayed wiring can occur: 

  • Deterioration over time - including the plastic case wearing out and cracking
  • They could have been gnawed at by pets or rodents

The easy way to ensure you are not using frayed or damaged wiring in your home is to get your electrical system checked annually by a qualified electrician. 

As with most things, regular checkup and maintenance will allow your system to function reliably and safely for much longer and will therefore save you money in the long run (as well as providing peace of mind!). 


Electrocution can cause serious injury and in some cases can even be fatal.

Yes. As mentioned previously in this post frayed and exposed wires can leave your property vulnerable to electrical fires.

The CFA responds to approximately 3,000 house fires in Victoria every year, many of which are started by an electrical fault including frayed or damaged wiring. 

These are entirely preventable by having your electrical systems routinely checked and properly maintained by licensed electricians. 

And it’s not only fires you need to be wary of. Frayed wires mean that the electricity that comes through your home is completely exposed - if you come in contact with a frayed wire you could be electrocuted. 

This is especially important for businesses that use a lot of power or operate high voltage equipment through their electrical system. 

Increased load and heavier usage means the wires are more susceptible to wear and tear which in turn may cause fraying. 

To avoid this, we suggest a yearly electrical safety check of your home or business. 

This annual check is a Victorian legal requirement for rental properties and therefore is a good measure of how frequently you should get checked to ensure adequate protection. 

In this check the electrician will test every element of your electrical system and will catch potential issues before they become hazardous including wiring that is getting to the end of its safe use life. 


If you have frayed or damaged wiring in your workplace you may be in breach of Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) standards if you don't take quick action to fix it. 

Often the damaged wires are not visible and therefore it is incredibly important to have your whole systems regularly checked by a licensed electrician. 

If you don't ensure your workplace is up to code and one of your workers is injured you could be subjected to a lawsuit. If there is even the slightest risk of damaged electrical wiring in your workplace we recommend booking one of our qualified commercial electricians to review your system and provide a certificate of electrical safety as soon as possible. 

Ensure your properties wiring is safe 

To ensure the safety of your home or business 181 Electrical recommends yearly electrical safety checks. 

These checks will ensure your wiring is not frayed/damaged, is well maintained and safe for use. 

Not only will these checks offer you peace of mind but a well maintained electrical system will help to prevent electrical emergencies which can be very dangerous and cost a fortune to fix. 

So what are you waiting for? Contact us on 0403 734 299 or via the button below and book a qualified, friendly electrician from our team today!

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