I have a situation where I have a switch at the bottom of the stairs that turns on a set of canned lights on the same circuit. The current wire used is 14/2. I am in the process of finishing the basement and my wife wants me to add a switch at the far end of the hall to shut off or turn off the same lights on the string. My question is will I have to purchase 14/3 wire and rewire everything or can I just add the traveler separately. I didn't by the 3 way switches yet so if there is a tip on how I should tackle this please let me know.

I have attached an image in what I believed was the correct approach. However, the power source is going to the fixture first whereas the power source is going to the switch first. Can I achieve what this picture is showing by adding a 14/3 wire from the one switch to the other? In the picture it shows one light but I have 6.

14/3 Wire Example

1 Answer 1


With traditional switches

You are using the word "traveler" in singular. 3-way switches do not work that way. They need 2 "travelers".

So if you are currently supplying hot and neutral down that /2 cable, you cannot simply add "a traveler" to the pair. You need to add 2 travelers, so you need /4 cable, which is expensive, or in some cases, /5 cable, which is unobtanium.

So you are actually better off leaving the /2 cable in place doing whatever it's doing... and adding a /3 cable between the two switch locations. This will keep the wiring simple.

With smart switches

Smart switches either need 1 traveler, or 0 travelers, depending on their particular design. With the right smart switch, you may not need to do any modifications to the wiring. Shop carefully and save yourself some trouble!

  • I was thinking about this a bit before you answered. I think that if this were a single light fixture then switched hot/neutral could become travelers + neutral with an additional wire (or 14/3 instead of 14/2) and just the right configuration. But with multiple fixtures ("string of lights") you're probably right - the switched hot ends at the first light and then (essentially) is just "hot" and having just the one extra wire wouldn't solve the problem. I'll delete my answer - yours is more accurate. But maybe add a line about "neutral in the switchbox for smart switch". Jan 8, 2019 at 4:26
  • Right now the light is using a single pole 3-way switch with 14/2 wire (common, neutral and ground). I was thinking of adding a 3-way switch at the end of the stairs and at the end of the hall that would control the hall light. It sounds like I will have to add a new 14/3 wire to make this work? Feb 10, 2021 at 18:45

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