sorry, I am new to this site. I am in Northern New England (NH) I have added a couple pics. Any help would be greatly appreciated!!

Ceiling box with 3 lines in, 2 are to the switches, the one with the tape on it, powers my garage This is of one 3 way and the wiring in the wall

20 amp circuit at the panel. On one wall in my kitchen by the side door are two 3-way switches. One controls power to lights outside in breezeway, one controls two lights in the kitchen.

In the ceiling, there are three cables coming in. I assume one to the other 3-way switch by front door, one to the 3-way switch on the wall with the second switch I mentioned and the third I think is all the power to the garage, breezeway and outdoor lights. If I connect a light to the ceiling and to the wires that run to the two 3-way switches, everything works fine, but I have no power to the garage. If I connect all 3 wires in the ceiling and a light, the two lights stay hot (N) all the time and I have power to my garage and have to unscrew the lightbulbs.

Somewhere, someone wired a fan with light to the ceiling and unscrewed the second lightbulb to make this work... Kind of.

In the wall by the side door with the two 3 way switches, there is a bunch of wires and nuts in the box. Whites all nutted together and various combos of red/ black to the two 3-way switches. Also a combo of probably 80s two-wire with a ground and old sheath with no ground

Hopefully I explained it correctly and this is the only wiring problem in the house that has stumped me and beyond my skill set. There is also nothing grounded at the switches by the side door that I can see, there is a ground wire grounded in the old metal box from probably some time they partially updated or added the garage.

  • 4
    You need to provide a drawing that accompanies your question. It is confusing.
    – r13
    Commented Jun 7, 2021 at 20:51
  • Yes, can you provide either a drawing of the wiring configuration, or photos of the insides of the boxes involved for that matter please? Commented Jun 8, 2021 at 1:22
  • You should also include where you live as in the UK they have a preferred wiring arrangement for them and there are many ways to build an XOR gate from SPDT switches.
    – K H
    Commented Jun 8, 2021 at 3:36
  • Can you figure out which sets of wires in the ceiling box run off to the switch complex? Commented Jun 9, 2021 at 1:26
  • The 2 black and 2 white that are crimped together run to the switches on side and front doors, When I connect the light to these, the lights work fine and as they should. When I connect the third wires (the ones that have tape on them, they stay on all the time. If I keep the wires with the tape uncrimped, then I have no power in the garage. I assume that somewhere the power to the garage ended up in this ceilng box, when th complete wires were wired correctly, it all worked as it should. That;s why I added the pic with the 2 switches. I figured someone crimped them wrong
    – Keith
    Commented Jun 10, 2021 at 2:25

1 Answer 1


Start by gathering more information. By looking at only 2 boxes, we can only conclude that one box has red wires and the other does not.

In that case, it's possible your ceiling box has a power supply cable coming from the direction of the panelboard, a power feed continuing the circuit to one of your switch boxes, and switched power originating in the other switch box.

It's also possibly the other way around, where you have switched power coming from one box, unswitched power supplied by the other box, and the 3rd cable continues the circuit into other rooms.

It would be nearly impossible to identify all of these wires without detaching them from the switches. If you haven't yet determined which wires are hot with the switches disconnected and the circuit breaker switched back on, then you aren't ready to connect any lights.

As long as you keep track of the wire attachments to the switches, and assuming they are already correct, you will be able to put it back together knowing which wires are switched and unswitched.

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