This all started when I tried to attach a fixture in my Mudroom to a Ceiling Box that I was told was ready for it. The house is older (1948) and undergone some "interesting" DIY additions by the previous owner(s).

The Ceiling Box had four (!) cables coming into it, so it was a little scary to look at for me; however, there ultimately was one black and one white wire hanging down seemingly "ready" for a fixture. But, testing my fixture after attaching it, the bulb did not turn on, so I set about mapping out where all the cables went.

I'm pretty confident my diagram below is correct for the boxes I have access to.

I'm most likely going to hire an Electrician, but, I'd like to know if what I want to do is even possible without having to run new wires, or tear open walls.

So, I'd like to know if it's possible to:

  1. Switch 1 (S1) operate the Garage Lights (E)
  2. Switch 2 (S2) operate the Mudroom Light (F)
  3. Mudroom Receptacle (D) be ALWAYS ON
    • Or, bonus points, turn (D) into a "half-hot" with Switch 2 (S2) operating the switched outlet

More Details from my troubleshooting and Googling:

  • I believe the Power In (A) from the Panel has an "Open Ground"
  • I believe the Circuit Breaker for this circuit is a Combination AFCI (black case with white button)
  • The Garage Lights were currently operated by Switch 1 (S1). However, there was A LOT of wire-nut gymnastics that seem unnecessarily complicated, so I'd rather start from an unbiased starting point and do it more simply (if possible).

mudroom electrical diagram

  • Can you upload pictures showing the wires going to the existing switches, receptacles and fixtures? Mar 1, 2021 at 5:20
  • @manassehkatz-Moving2Codidact -- I could, but it was obvious that things were "very" miswired. The only working component was the Garage Lights, S1 "worked" to turn them on/off; however, it only worked by a mess of wire-nuts and jumper cables in the box. Nothing else worked, so showing how it was probably wouldn't be very helpful to how I want it to be? When I get rid of all the insanity... you're pretty much left with the diagram I uploaded.
    – Dura
    Mar 1, 2021 at 6:36
  • Unfortunately, how it was with "wire nut gymnastics and jumper cables" is how things are often wired. They look confusing if you're not sure what you're looking at, but with experience and knowledge, they're pretty straight forward. What you're saying is that you've already disconnected everything and have no idea how it all went together anymore?
    – FreeMan
    Mar 1, 2021 at 11:55
  • @FreeMan -- I wrote it down -- but given the answers some are coming up with, I'm certain it was a DIY-er. I know wire color coding is not end-all-be-all, but when I say "gymnastics" -- I don't just mean "a lot of wires", I mean things like whites going to reds connected by a random jumper that's green and neither the whites were marked as hot (and, again, the only working component was the S1 switch and garage lights... nothing else worked.)
    – Dura
    Mar 2, 2021 at 1:00

4 Answers 4


for the extra credit you could wire it like this:

enter image description here

Cap the unused ends of the red in A , connect all grounds together at each location and connect them to the ground screws too.

don't forget to remove the live tab on the outlet, else you won't be able to turn the lights out.

  • 3
    You probably should explain what you did to make the outlet half-switchable. The OP might not understand breaking the tab like you did to make it work. Mar 1, 2021 at 13:27

Here is one way to wire your lights. The diagram does not include switching half the outlet because you don't have enough switches and wires. If you use S2 to control half the outlet, how will you control the mudroom light?

diagram without switched outlet

  • 1
    OP could certainly use S2 to switch BOTH the mudroom light AND half of the mudroom outlet at the same time (i.e. if the mudroom outlet has a lamp plugged into the switched side). But I'm not sure if that's what they meant, or if they were asking if they could switch 3 things with 2 switches.
    – Dan A.
    Mar 1, 2021 at 15:55
  • @Dan A.: Quite true. Jasen's answer covers that case. Mar 1, 2021 at 23:48
  • @A.I.Breveleri -- Thanks! And, yes, sorry I wasn't clear. I was fine with the Mud outlet being always ON, but, yes, I was wondering if I could operate it AND the Mud Light with the same switch, which does seem possible, thanks!
    – Dura
    Mar 2, 2021 at 1:03

Yes. Wire nut together all the whites in the switch box. Wire nut together all the whites in the ceiling box (including the one from the light fixture)

Connect the Black (? - is this the live hot from the panel? You have 2 potential current carrying conductors, so I'm just going to assume the hot from the panel is black) to the top of S1, top of S2, and Red in B.

Connect the bottom of S1 to the Black in C. Connect the bottom of S2 to the black in B. We'll call B the S2 (mudroom) bundle and C the S1 (garage) bundle

In the ceiling box, connect the Red from B to the Red in D. This sets up the always hot to the mudroom outlet.

In the ceiling box, connect the Black from B to the Black in D as well as the Black in F. This sets up the switched hot for the mudroom lights (and outlet).

In the ceiling box, connect the Black from C to Black in E. This sets up the switched hot for the garage lights.

In the mudroom outlet box, connect the Red from D to the bottom half of the outlet. Break the tabs between the outlet halves and connect the Black from D to the top half of the outlet.

Connect all grounds from all switches and outlets together in all boxes. I don't exactly know the situation about the open ground - but that possibly means there is no ground connection from the panel to the first box.

  • Thanks @Aaron! I'll have to make sure I understand your instructions after my coffee tomorrow :) But, to answer your question (I updated the diagram, too) -- the Black (A) from the panel is the only hot -- the red doesn't carry any current from the panel. I believe Red (A) is unused after quickly skimming your instructions... I assume I would just wire-nut and cap it off, correct?
    – Dura
    Mar 1, 2021 at 5:58
  • As for the open ground, my understanding is that since the whole circuit is protected at the panel with an AFCI, then I might be OK... but I plan on consulting an Electrician, perhaps they'll be able to ground to a conduit somewhere or something.
    – Dura
    Mar 1, 2021 at 5:58
  • @dura yes just cap it off on both sides (panel and switch box). I'm not as familiar with AFCI to speak authoritatively about how they work. However, AFCIs protect against a different problem than a ground connection would, so they're not necessarily the same kind of protection.
    – Aaron
    Mar 1, 2021 at 16:13

Yes, but for best results you'll need a 5-pack of colored electrical tape.

White is neutral in all cases. (that was easy)

In cables A B D, black is always-hot, and RED is defined as switched-hot for switch 2.

Except the red in cable A is not used, it gets marked with invisibility tape, and capped off solo with a wire-nut, since it may be energized at a future time or under different conditions. (e.g. someone throws the 3-way switch you don't know about yet). (Invisibility tape is not part of the standard 5-pack, you may need to get that from your local magical supply).

The hot wire in the mud-room light gets re-marked with RED tape. It is now a red wire.

In cables C E, the black wire on both ends is re-marked BLUE. This is defined as switched-hot for switch 1.

The mud-room light gets its black wire re-marked blue.

Switch 1 and switch 2 get a black pigtail. Their remaining screw will receive 1 blue and 1 red wire, respectively.

The receptacle gets white on a silver screw, the brass-side "tab" broken off, and red and black each on a brass screw.

Bind all same-color wires together and you're done.

enter image description here

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