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I recently bought a house built in the 60s and am updating all the switches to be uniform and rocker type. I have a single gang box with a triple switch where all are 3 way. Does this even exist anywhere? I can't find it online or much information. I believe the old one is called a Despard switch.

What is the best course of action? Do I need to have an electrician separate into multiple gang boxes?

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  • That does sound a bit unusual. Turn off the breaker. Unscrew the switch and pull it out without disconnecting any wires. Upload pictures showing the wires going into each side of the switch and the wires going into the back of the box. Dec 5, 2021 at 18:14
  • Double 3-ways are easy to find. Triple singles are easy to find. I found one 2-single + 1-3-way. Dec 5, 2021 at 18:17
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    Yes, I have found all those other switches as well. I'm not yet ready to pull it out of the box as I'm worried about not being able to immediately replace and then not being able to get it back into the box
    – Newbie
    Dec 5, 2021 at 19:27
  • All three switches are three way switches?
    – Kris
    Dec 6, 2021 at 20:52
  • What does each switch control?
    – Kris
    Dec 6, 2021 at 20:53

1 Answer 1

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It's totally illegal to have that much stuff in a 1-gang box.

Let's be graceful and assume all three 3-ways are ends of a switch loop. So 9 conductors + 1 allocation for ground + 1 allocation for switch yoke, plus (gracefully) 0 allocations for cable clamps. That is 12 wire allocations. Gracefully assume the smallest wire size, so 2.0 cubic inches per allocation = 24 cubic inch box.

Every 3-way that isn't the end of a switch loop will have at least 2 more wires I didn't count, possibly even 4.

Forget about it. Virtually no 1-gang box has that much space even for the "most graceful assumption". Realistically you will have more wires and they may be #12 with a larger volume demand. You would need a crazy-enormous box, like

  • A 4x4x2-1/8" box + 1-gang mud ring (35 ci)
  • A 4-11/16" square box + 1-gang mud ring (46 ci)

I'm not even slightly surprised that wires are packed so tight in there that you are afraid to pull it out. That's illegal.

Also, those old Despards had a way of getting brittle. Pulling them out, you are likely to snap off some of the critical plastic grooves that allow the latching mechanism to hold the switch into the frame.

Also the switches are different colors for a reason: to help the user identify the light being controlled.

Despard replacements are obscure and costly

Yes, they were a neat modular system, and the only option for triple 3-way switches on one yoke.

You will never find a triple 3-way in another format.

The only way you will find Despards for real is mail order... and all-in, a triple 3-way switch will be over $60, and this does NOTHING to solve the cubic-inch-in-box problem. So you would still need a large box like a 4-11/16" with a 1-gang mud ring on it.

Your best bet is to replace with a 3-gang box. You could do it with a 2-gang box, but I'd strongly recommend the steel 4-11/16" box with a 2-gang mud ring, so you have enough cubic inches.

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  • "You'll never find a replacement for Despards" Yet here they are kyleswitchplates.com!
    – Glen Yates
    Dec 6, 2021 at 15:36
  • Wow, @GlenYates, they're even UL listed (as stamped into the switch frame, not just according to the web site)! Unless, of course, that's an unauthorized stamping...
    – FreeMan
    Dec 6, 2021 at 16:59
  • Look at that. They still don't have three 3 ways though and I'm also updating to rocker style
    – Newbie
    Dec 6, 2021 at 17:59
  • @Newbie Yeah, the closest you can get is on the second page, two 3-ways and 1 S/P.
    – Glen Yates
    Dec 6, 2021 at 19:35
  • @Newbie they do have 3-ways, but you'd have to build it yourself with a frame ($4) plus three 3-way switches ($18 each). All-in, over $60. Dec 6, 2021 at 20:19

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