I have a light switch (single pole) in my dining room that controls an outlet. I want to separate the switch from the outlet while still providing power to the outlet. The switch I would like to use to control new light fixture being installed in the room.

The switch box has 2 switches in it one to the outlet and one to my upstairs hall lights (3-way switch) How can this be done and what is the red wire for?

Currently all neutral are wired together and grounds (bare) are the same. There are 4 circuits going into the box from what I can see.

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  • Red usually is the same as black (hot). The correct way to do this is to remove the wire that goes from the switch to the current outlet and hard wire the outlet to it's source without the switch in the middle. After that you would need to run the wire for the new lamp. To cobble it all together without redoing it would have wires joined in different locations and just have future people guessing what they go to. I believe both options are up to code but may be wrong just thinking about doing it right
    – Eric F
    Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 19:37

2 Answers 2


Leave the 3-way switch alone!

Colors don't mean half as much as you'd like. Actually, they are there to distinguish wires in cable. Only ground has a reserved "color", though if present, neutral must be on white.

The red wire is nothing but a pigtail, it could be purple for all it matters. People tend to make pigtails with any old bit of scrap they have lying around.

Actually on this switch, both the screw and the backstab are in use, which is sloppy but it means the black backstabbed wire and the red pigtail are connected. So all of these are connected together:

  • the black wire going to the backstab on that plain switch
  • the red pigtail going from that wire nut to the plain switch
  • the black wire going from that wire nut to the wall
  • the black wire going from that wire nut to the smart switch.

I would rend the wire out of that backstab and put it under the wire nut, as this will make the wiring easier to understand. And also because the backstab and screw method is bad, and also because backstabs are lousy in the first place.

So now, the clump of blacks (and red pigtail) are almost certainly the supply hot coming into this box.

Now it becomes clear: the solitary black wire on the switch is the switched-hot wire going to the receptacle.

You can take it from here, I trust.

  • Thanks you ... that was it red was the Hot to the 3way switch and the other switch upstairs. removed the 1-pole switch added another pigtail for new fixture/switch and called it a day.... Commented Jan 30, 2019 at 23:44

This is not a direct answer to your question, but more of a helpful opinion. I will never push wires into the back of a plug or a switch. This connection is all dependent on a tiny knife-edge cutting into the side of the copper conductor. Now add a load. This will create heat, and the smaller the connection the greater the electrical resistance there will be. Result; more heat, maybe even melting of the switch. Not good. IMHO these "back stabs" should be banned. Use the wire binding terminal screws instead of back stabbing.

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