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Old 02-10-2009, 10:45 PM   #1
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Help with 3 way switch wiring


I have a foyer light connected to two switches. Coming into the box is 12-2 and 12-3.

I hired an "electrician" (hack) to re-hang this fixture for me a while back. He botched the job and now I'm going back to hang it again (this time with a box and the medallion).

The way he had it wired worked, but I wasn't sure if it was correct. It sure looks funny.



On the 12-3:

Red to black on the fixture
White to white on the fixture
Black tied to black from the 12-2

On the 12-2:

White capped off
Black tied to black from the 12-3

Ignore the blue masking tape, but the yellow tape on the black...does this mean the black is being used as a white? Or what?

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Old 02-10-2009, 11:11 PM   #2
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Help with 3 way switch wiring


Be careful. I have never heard of a black being used as a white. In switches it is usually the other way around. The white being used as a black. And I am not sure you should be "capping off" a white as all circuits need a neutral. Hold on, this is a common topic around here and I am sure some of the guys will help you out soon.

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Old 02-10-2009, 11:18 PM   #3
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Help with 3 way switch wiring


The 12/2 would appear to be a power feed to another part of the circuit. I don't know why the white would be left disconnected. Are there some other items that don't work? If you disconnect the black does some other items stop working?
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Old 02-10-2009, 11:21 PM   #4
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Help with 3 way switch wiring


This isn't correct, there might be a couple things going on like 2 12/2's between switches and onward power . I agree with Joed with that part.

Can you get us good pictures of the wiring at the 3 way switch boxes?
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Old 02-10-2009, 11:24 PM   #5
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Help with 3 way switch wiring


After my initial post, I went back and started taking the relevant switches apart. This is a complete botch job on the part of the guy I hired, so I need to back all the way up to the beginning and go back to my old photos.

I can't even remember why I took this fixture down in the first place, but this is how the wiring was back in the day:



Downstairs switch:



The left switch controls the front porch light and has 12-2 coming into it. Its white is capped off. The bottom of that switch uses the white from the 12-3 in the middle. The dimmer controls the problem fixture.

Upstairs switch (the one on the right):


Last edited by pmoe; 02-10-2009 at 11:26 PM.
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Old 02-10-2009, 11:33 PM   #6
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Help with 3 way switch wiring


My previous post showed how things were back in the day. That is how the fixture was wired, but it wasn't working for some reason after I took it down (this has been many months ago, I don't remember the details).

So I hired a guy to fix this and he cobbled together the mess you see in my original post. Here is what he did to the switches:



So the white that was capped off is now going to the 3 way switch.

This is where things get really fun. He ran a jumper wire from an adjacent switch over to the 3 way switch upstairs and capped off the white coming into the 3 way switch. Pretty sure this isn't up to code...

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Old 02-10-2009, 11:48 PM   #7
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Help with 3 way switch wiring


Assuming that that bare wire in the first post is really ground you've got 4 wires to figure out at the controlled lamp's socket.

Disregarding colors for the moment, if you find two wires that turns a test incand. lamp on and off alternately while going through all four combinations of the two switch positions, these wires are what the controlled lamp should be hooked to.
You've got 1 chance in 24 of hitting it the first time.
Then you need to figure out which is the hot wire because that wire goes to the center of the lamp socket. With one lamp wire to the ground, the hot wire will switch the lamp on and off by the switches.

Last edited by Yoyizit; 02-10-2009 at 11:52 PM.
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Old 02-11-2009, 08:49 AM   #8
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Help with 3 way switch wiring


Need connections in porch light. I wonder why they only used the black wire going back to the porch light. There must be power in the porch light.
It apears that the dimmer is only wired a single pole switch. One of the wires is capped off.
We need to determine where those three wire cables go. There are three ends(light, sw down, sw up). there is one end missing. Where is it? Do you know where the power feed is? Is the 12/2 at the fixture power feed?
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Old 02-11-2009, 11:20 AM   #9
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Help with 3 way switch wiring


Yeah Joes right you have your work cut out for you because there is a lot wrong with your wiring when professionals cannot figure out what you have by looking at the connections. That's a mess and I'm not so sure looking at it that the aren't neutral switching or some thing by accident and trial and error. I'm willing to bet with capped whites and cross connected cables you have a hot backfeed going on and two circuits using neutrals other than their own.

Your going to have to figure out the cables and where power is coming from and if they are combining hot wires from two branch circuits to get the 3 way to work.

My best guess is that in the problem fixture based on the fact that 3 wire cable with the switched red was existing the other cable at the ceiling with the black and white is your power feed but I would expect another 3 wire in that box making the fixture inbetween the switches wiring with incoming power at the fixture.

Anyway your going to have to identfy your cables and where they go or your never going to get it right. My guess is your going to have to add a cable to make it correct.
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Last edited by Stubbie; 02-11-2009 at 11:23 AM.
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Old 02-11-2009, 01:02 PM   #10
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Help with 3 way switch wiring


A real electrician would fix it up in about an hour. That's my sggestion.


If you want to try and fix it yourself, here's what you need to do.

Pull all switches out, untangle the wires and take pics of each switchbox. We need to see exactly what's in the boxes.

Great pic quality BTW If all the switches were pulled out we could get a good idea of what you have there.
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Old 02-11-2009, 01:21 PM   #11
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Help with 3 way switch wiring


Ummm, if I may....

The first thing that I'd do is run an extension cord to that room and rig up some temporary lighting. It's always easier to troubleshoot a wiring problem when your wife isn't yelling at you because she just smacked her knee on the buffet because she can't see in the dark.
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Old 02-11-2009, 04:25 PM   #12
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Help with 3 way switch wiring


Here's a little update.

I originally paid a guy $200 to do two jobs for me:

1) fix this foyer light ($100)
2) install two ceiling fans on the front porch ($50 each)

He came in while I was out of town for surgery and I left him cash for the jobs. I had metal raceway here, but not the hangers for it, so the porch ceiling fans could be surface mounted. He told me the metal raceway was the wrong stuff, so he never hung the second ceiling fan. The first fan was hung from an existing pancake box.

I bought the hangers for the metal raceway and put it up myself. I also hung the second ceiling fan myself.

He made the foyer light work, as it is wired in the pictures above, but it was hung without a box, with one screw holding the bracket to the joist, with the grounds not hooked up, and without the medallion.

He was supposed to call me back at some point a while back, but I never heard from him. (He claims I was supposed to call him, and never did.)

After seeing how the switches were done, I called him today and told him the jobs weren't complete and some of the wiring was wrong. I told him I'd like my money back and he said "good f***ing luck" and that he was an electrician with 25 years experience, everything was done right, and I didn't know what I was talking about.

I said there was a green wire jumpering hot over from one switch to the other and he said "What the hell difference does it make? A hot is a hot is a hot" followed by another round of telling me I didn't know what I was talking about.

He said the wire coding originally here wasn't right, but he just fixed everything back the way it was and it worked, and it didn't work before he got here.

I pointed out that the foyer light was hung without a box and he tried a handful of arguments:

1) there was no box on the foyer light when he got here (which is true, because the fixture was already down when he got here). but I bought a new pancake box and left it here for him, plus I still had the old box that came down.

2) it's not uncommon to have lights hung up without boxes in old houses

3) he left it like that cause he'd have to come back and put the medallion back up anyway

(At one point, he encouraged me to cut the medallion in two and glue it up around the light.)

I pointed out the one porch fan was hung without a fan rated box and he said it could be hung with anything as long as it was affixed to a framing member. Followed by another found of me not knowing what I was talking about.

Lastly, I pointed out that he took money for hanging a ceiling fan that he never hung. He said he never had an opportunity to come back and finish (presumably because I didn't call him?) and that I didn't have the right hangers for the raceway when he got here. (Which is true, but he's the one who told me it wasn't the right raceway. He said it was for office furniture.)

At one point, he called me a "f***ing crook."

I finally had to stop and ask him to stop using profanity.
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Old 02-11-2009, 04:57 PM   #13
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Help with 3 way switch wiring


After being cussed out, I decided to take some more pictures!

Here's the upstairs 3 way switch, sans switch and jumper cable:



Here's the downstairs switch:







Here's the porch light:

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Old 02-11-2009, 05:50 PM   #14
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Help with 3 way switch wiring


There is no way this guy is an electrician...he needs to be reported, this guy needs to be off of the streets.

I would take legal action.
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Old 02-11-2009, 07:17 PM   #15
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Help with 3 way switch wiring


I looks like there is a nick on the black wire in the 3 gang box. Don't forget to tape that up before you put everything back together.

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