I've checked that my problem is not a duplicate of this

Electricity passes through a bulb holder, even when the switch is off because I don't have a backlit light switch.

The kitchen light fitting, below the bathroom, got flooded with water, water was pouring through it. Naturally this tripped the breakers for the downstairs lighting circuit.

There are 2 light fittings on the kitchen light, only one got waterlogged.

The bulb has been removed, and the light switch is in the off position, but the breaker for the whole downstairs light circuit won't let us turn it back on - when we do, there is a spark from the fitting, and the breaker goes off again. Clearly, there is some current passing through it, but why?

Does this mean that the fitting has been wired "Backwards"? i.e. the circuit goes live --> fitting --> switch --> ground?

  • Do the cables go first to the light then to the switch, or to the switch then to the light? Also, have you checked for water damage in the switch box? Commented Dec 18, 2016 at 21:15

1 Answer 1


If there are sparks, something has gone wrong and that breaker is doing its job and preventing your house from burning down.

Most likely the power runs into the box where that light is first, then to the switch. That's a completely normal thing. Look up the term "switch loop" for details.

First step is to remove that fixture and check for any water damage and damaged or loose wiring - both in the fixture itself and in the box it was mounted to. Since that's where the sparks are flying, it's almost certainly where the problem is. Before disconnecting any wiring, take lots of photos showing exactly where each wire comes from and goes to - you'll be grateful for those when you go to wire it back up.

Then it's just a matter of fixing whatever has gone wrong. Might just be a wire that has come loose and needs reconnecting. Or it might be severe damage to the wiring and require replacing. Won't know until you get in there.

If somehow that doesn't turn up any problems, do the same for the other fixture. Then the switch. Then anything else that is on the same breaker.

  • The OP asked if the switch is off, then the fixture should not be energized regardless of the circuit breaker. Is that correct? Since it appears that the fixture is energized even when the switch is off, its probably not wired correctly. I don't think that part of the question (the main part, imo) was addressed.
    – Octopus
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 18:52
  • @Octopus I did address that. It's not wired incorrectly, it's perfectly acceptable for power to go to the fixture box, then to a switch, and back to the fixture itself. But it means turning the switch off is not enough to kill power to that box.
    – Grant
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 22:43
  • Sure a switch loop is acceptable, but how are the wires twisted together? I believe that's the Q. ie. is the switch on the live wire or the neutral wire. His description seems to imply the switch is on the neutral.
    – Octopus
    Commented Feb 10, 2017 at 23:01

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