In my current set-up I have a switch at one end of a room that controls the bottom receptacles and another switch on the other side that controls the light and fan in the room. I want to change it so my outlets are not on a switch and instead both switches operate the fan.

I was planning on simply running a 14/3 cable from one switch to the other through the attic and following the basic 3-way switch setup. Unfortunately the wiring setup does not seem quite a straight forward to me.

Both current switches only have one 14/2 cable in the box, with black on the top of the switch and white on the bottom. I am not overly familiar with using the neutral as a hot wire and was looking for some wiring suggestions on how to make this all work. Thank you in advance for the help

  • 1
    Can you post photos of the insides of the boxes involved please? Nov 5, 2020 at 4:24

2 Answers 2


What you currently have is most likely two switch loops. On both sides, the power is first arriving at the load (outlets or lights), hot, neutral and ground. The hot is spliced to the black wire going to the switch. The white to the switch is the "switched hot", returning from the switch to the load. Technically, the "switched hot" white wire should have a loop of black tape or paint at the ends bug many people skip this.

The easiest thing to do is, at the switch for the outlets, disconnect the wires from the switch and wirenet them together. This will make the outlets always hot. If you'd prefer, you can find the other end of this cable, disconnect both ends, label them "abandoned", wirenut the ends and stuff them back into the boxes. At the outlet, connect the now free wire to the outlet where the switched hot was connected originally.

At the other switch box, you have the hot and switched hot. Connect these to your three-way switches and new cable.

Edit: the three-way wiring should be as follows: incoming hot to switch 1 common. On your new 14/3, connect black and red to the switch 1 switched terminals to act as travelers and connect white to the incoming white as the returning switched hot. On switch 2, black and red travelers connect to the switched terminals and white switched hot to the common terminal.

In this arrangement, switch 1 switches hot between the two travelers. Switch 2 switches between the two travelers to provide switched hot back to the load through the box containing switch 1.

Don’t forget to add a black mark to the ends of each white wire to mark “switched hot”.

Edit 2: here's a diagram of what I wrote above: enter image description here

Note that grounds are not shown. Connect them appropriately.

  • What terminals/wires would I connect the 14/3 to then? I am used to connecting the neutral from the 14/3 to the 14/2 neutral that is already in the box. Since the one in the box is a “switched hot”, how does that change the wiring schematic?
    – Sparky
    Nov 5, 2020 at 11:53
  • @Sparky Please see my edit. BTW, a true neutral is never involved with 3-way switches unless you’re using a smart switch.
    – DoxyLover
    Nov 5, 2020 at 14:18
  • Thank you so much! Worked like a charm!
    – Sparky
    Nov 7, 2020 at 2:34

To add to DoxyLover's accurate description, I advise to get colored tape and label wires by their function. I recommend yellow for the 2 travelers and red for the switched-hot.

enter image description here

Like this, except move the light to the left and the left 3-way to the middle.

Code has a few requirements about the use of the white wire.

  • If you wire the 3-way spur so it's always-hot + 2 travelers, the physically white wire must be always-hot.
  • If you wire the 3-way spur so it's switched-hot + 2 travelers (as above), then the white wire must NOT be switched-hot, and must be a traveler.
  • Thank you for the input!
    – Sparky
    Nov 7, 2020 at 2:35

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