I'm installing 3 light pendants above my island. They are connected to a single pole light switch. I installed 2 of the 3 and noticed the junction boxes for both have 2 black, 2 white, and 2 ground wires. I connected both black to the black of the fixture and same for the other wire sets. The lights don't turn on so I figured something is wrong with the connections but just not sure what I did wrong. I stopped installation and did not do the third since the other two weren't working. This is a new build (2018) and nothing was connected before.

Update: Installed the third light, still nothing.

Update: Tested the switch connections and looks like their both dead. No action. Time to call the electrician. Thanks everyone for your help!

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  • Does the box for the third fixture also have two black, two white, and two ground? Jun 16, 2019 at 6:51
  • 1
    Also, look inside the switch box. Does it also have two black, two white, and two ground? Jun 16, 2019 at 6:52
  • Have you checked for a supply? Is the breaker off for that circuit?
    – Solar Mike
    Jun 16, 2019 at 7:59
  • Also, are there any red wires? Jun 16, 2019 at 12:07
  • 1
    Can you post a photo of the inside of the switch box? Jun 16, 2019 at 13:27

2 Answers 2


Based on your description, the likely configuration is:

  • incoming power -> switch -> light 1 -> light 2 -> light 3

That would put two sets of wires on light 1 (switch & light 2) and light 2 (light 1 & light 3) but only one on light 3. If that's the case, then all blacks (switched hot), all whites (neutral) together at each of the lights would be correct, and any one light not installed (or bulb burnt out or whatever) would have no effect on the other lights. So that leaves the switch.

Based on the pictures:

  • Your wires are coming in via cables rather than conduit.
  • There is a Big Bundle o' Neutrals and a Big Bundle o' Grounds. Those are perfectly fine, and since you are using (for now anyway) ordinary "dumb" switches, leave those "as is".

Assuming all wires (except ground) are black and white, the way to wire it is:

  • Unless you are already 100% sure, determine which of the incoming cables is incoming power vs. switched to light:
    • Turn off the breaker
    • Disconnect all wires to the switch and make sure all ends are separated
    • Turn the breaker on
    • Use a non-contact tester to determine which of the black wires is hot.

Do not continue unless you have identified exactly one hot wire.

You now know which black is hot. The matching white is neutral (should already be in the Big Bundle o' Neutrals). The other black is switched hot. The other white is also neutral (should already be in the Big Bundle o' Neutrals).

Turn the breaker off again and then:

  • Connect the hot wire to one screw on the switch (if it is a simple switch then it doesn't matter which screw, if it is a smart switch then this is "hot" or "line")

  • Connect the switched hot wire to the other screw on the switch (if it is a simple switch then there will only be 2 screws, if it is a smart switch then this is "switched hot" or "load")

  • If this is a simple switch, connect the two white wires (neutral) together with a wire nut. Unless you took apart the Big Bundle o' Neutrals (which would be a bad thing to do), this is already done.

  • If this is a smart switch then use a pigtail (there may be one already as part of the switch, if not then make one) to connect the two white neutrals together with a pigtail from the neutral connection on the switch.

  • Turn on the breaker and test.

If things still don't work right, you need to (carefully) check the power. Use the non-contact tester to see if power flows to the switched hot when you flip the switch. If it does not, then you have a switch problem. If it does, then check for power at Light 1. You may need to (with the breaker off) take apart the groups of black & white wires at Light 1 (and 2 and 3, but do one at a time) to figure out where each cable goes.

  • I Iike to feed the bottom of the switch and load out on the top. When i go back to any thing I do it is all the same.
    – user101687
    Jun 16, 2019 at 14:34
  • @RobertMoody That makes perfect sense. But in this case, we have no idea how the original wiring was done - and it sounds like it was done by the builder for future use. Jun 16, 2019 at 14:41
  • Yes it does and just need to find out were he left it. Got to ring it out with toner or continuity meter.
    – user101687
    Jun 16, 2019 at 14:45
  • With light bulbs in switch on breaker off should get continuity back to panel. If no tone circuit not complete trace it down till you find it.Be careful you are not feeding other loads on circuit if house not completed
    – user101687
    Jun 16, 2019 at 14:50

Install the third light to complete circuit. If not working see if breaker is on or even hooked up. If still not working may not be hooked on to switch and check splice to see if neutrals are on wire nut. the third light may only have one wire, and that points me to breaker or switch. After all that look into outlet boxes and switch may need to be spliced in. A meter would be very helpful here and anyone doing electrical work should always have one.

  • Installing the third light - which only has one set of wires and therefore can not connecting from power or switch to the other lights - should not matter. No difference between "not installed" and "installed but bulb burnt out". That is NOT necessarily the case for lights 1 & 2 because of the multiple sets of lights. Jun 16, 2019 at 19:24
  • Got to trace it out.Left steps to check. Does switch even have power to it ? If not keep going. Could be wires way in the back of box of outlet and not spliced on. Or wire in panel.Doubt they would pull whole circuit for three lights . Check other switch boxes in area.
    – user101687
    Jun 16, 2019 at 19:32
  • Go done to panel with breaker off light bulbs in switch on. With a continuity meter get a tone if not .Missing splice or they may never were fed.
    – user101687
    Jun 16, 2019 at 19:41

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