My living room area power is apparently controlled by 1 switch.

When on it powers all outlets and a light above the tv. Also, the switch has to be on in order for outdoor light to function and for 3 way stair lights to work.

I've taken the switches off and am currently staring at wires. There is ONE hot wire (bottom center), 2 ground, 4 load/travelers. One of the load wires had the wire covering cut off so that it was on BOTH gangs. The left switch only worked if the right switch was on. I tried to draw out a diagram to show what was done.

How do I get the outlets to work on their own?

DrawingSwitch W/O Hot[![Wire From Gang 1 to

2]3]3[Right Switch HOT TOP]4

enter image description here

  • 4
    Did you take notes ( or a photo ) on how things were wired together before you took it all apart ? You say ONE switch but that is a two gang box and it appears that the wires indicate there were two switches in the box.
    – Alaska Man
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 20:30
  • 1
    I would say you need to put it all back together and then determine which switch the outlets are on and what else that particular switch controls. Because we do not know that info and we can not try to answer without all of the pertinent info. Take a photo when ( and if ) you get it back the way it was and provide as much info as you can.
    – Alaska Man
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 20:38
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    OP the problem is box wiring is documented by how the wires were connected previously. When you simply tear it all apart, you annihilate all that information. Reconstructing it from scratch has a high difficulty level, and needs a lot of measurement and testing, which means you need a skilled person on-site. Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 21:03
  • 1
    OK Pictures are great but need the rest of the story. " it works but not how it should" what does that mean, not the way it was or not the way you want it to. ??? Now in the way is was/should be, what switch controls the outlets and what if any other device is on that switch ?
    – Alaska Man
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 21:14
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    Nikki, tagging on @Alaska Man, can you draw us a 'map'? What is each switch affecting? If you can draw a quick diagram that doesn't need to be pretty but just clear in showing the info. No need to show the room etc, we just want to be able to all understand your words, easier to draw than say
    – Ack
    Commented Mar 23, 2020 at 21:19

1 Answer 1


You definitely have a hard one here.

And it really isn't helping that "the last guy" was plainly nuts, because it casts shade on all the previous work.

The best we can hope is "the last guy" changed the switches for aesthetic reasons, and either bought the wrong switches or connected them wrong.

But we have a few clues.

First, all the white wires go together. There are lots of other arrangements that are more complicated, but fortunately, we don't have any of those. No switch loops, no weird 3-way stuff etc. (well possibly one straightforward 3-way).

Second, the hoppy white wire which goes to both switches -- that is certainly an always-hot supply wire. Let's mark this one black with tape because we know it's always-hot.

Third, you detected a different always-hot supply wire. Let's also mark this one black with tape. That tells me the above (hoppy) wire is actually carrying always-hot power onward to other locations. This is a huge lucky break. Normally onward wires are difficult to identify. But now we know (well, we hope) that no matter what, the above two wires are always-hot, must go together, and they must land on one terminal on each switch.

Now, we have 3 wires remaining, which is one more than we expect. Weirder, there are two /3 cables in the box. What I suspect is that the three wires go to:

  • One of the lights or switched receptacles
  • Another light or switched receptacle
  • Onward always-hot power to other outlets.

Well, honestly, it doesn't matter if we switch all three of them.

So I'm inclined to have you get a duplex switch (2 switches on 1 yoke) and do exactly that. And see what happens.

Hooking it up

So... the two "supply hot" wires need to connect to each other, and to 1 terminal of a 1-way switch, and to the common terminal of the duplex switch. You seem to know how to do that well enough. I would actually have the "loop through" wire go to the duplex then onward to the single switch, that'll let you finish with an extra terminal for always-hot.

Each of the 3 remaining wires goes onto one of the switch outputs.

Now, you will have 3 things under control of switches. Two will make sense, and on one, it will be obvious that it should be always-hot. Once you identify it, move that wire to an always-hot terminal. At that point you'll have 2 things switched, and you can go back to plain switches.

  • Nice ! this is where i was trying to go. Will Nikki, the OP, understand or get an answer to his/her question "How do I get the outlets to work on their own?" by reading your answer
    – Alaska Man
    Commented Mar 24, 2020 at 15:41
  • @AlaskaMan Yeah, I cleaned that up. Also I stared at it more, and it's clearly not a 3-way switch. Nikki seems competent. Commented Mar 24, 2020 at 16:26

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