I'll start with, I'm not an electrician. I have wired several different outlets and switches successfully though. Every one of these boxes seemingly have different wiring and this one has me perplexed.

I am replacing two switches in the same box. There are three black wires and three white. Previously, all three whites were 'capped' with tape. The hot wire and another black wire were connected to the left switch. They then had a - I'll say an 'independent' wire - attached to the hot which was then attached to the switch on the right. The switch on the left operates my porch light and right operates a light post in my yard.

I'm asking how I can get the right switch to operate without doing what they did with the extra wire.enter image description hereenter image description hereenter image description here

2 Answers 2


That extra wire was providing hot to the second switch. The preferred way to do this is to connect the hot wire to two short pieces of wire (“pigtails”) with a wirenut. Run these wires to the two switches.

Another way, which I would highly discourage, is to connect the hot to the screw terminal on one switch and the jumper into the backstab of that switch, using the internal metal of the switch to connect them. This is not recommended because many people have had problems with backstab terminal connections going bad.

By the way, I don’t like the unused neutrals being covered just with tape. You should use a wirenut on each. With a single wire, you don’t need to strip the end. Just screw it onto the insulation.


You don't. Wiring is not "designed neat" with all the right wires of all the right colors coming into the box.

If you had OCD that absolutely required that, then I suppose you could get a dual switch (2 switches on one yoke) that had a common side, then you could supply "always-hot" on the common side and each switched-hot to the 2 screws. And then you would get a coverplate for your switch on one side and blank on the other.

But still, the white wires would need to be put back together. They are not "spare" (nobody puts unnecessary wires in walls) or "capped" (they were tied together so they could do their job). The fact you don't know this, with seeing different boxes as different, objecting to the pigtail, and expecting colors and wire counts to cooperate -- says that you see the right things, just need the book knowledge to fill in the holes. For that, you need a well-rounded primer on the subject: and for that, I recommend an actual book. Go to the library and see what book feels most accessible to you, and devour one. Google cannot serve as a substitute because it only answers questions, and you need a primer to know which questions to ask.

Once you're in the know, different things will bug you. You will want to know why the last guy didn't pigtail the always-hots on the switches. You'll want colored tape for marking wires by actual function, instead of taking the default manufactured colors.

Anyway, get a foot of black wire (solid, if in doubt #12) and a sampler pack of wire nuts. Ideal brand is electricians' choice.

  • Put a 6" pigtail on one screw on each switch.
  • wire nut all the neutrals together. If it falls off without tape, tighten more and use new wirenuts.
  • wire nut the two pigtails with the black wire from supply.
  • Mark the blacks to the lamps with colored tape (optional) and land them on the remaining screws on the switches.

Use screws, not stabs. When loosening screws, when they get about 3/16" out, they will start to resist turning. Stop: they are captive screws. Forcing them out wrecks the switch in many cases.

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