We have 14/3 cord in our house. We bought a new 14/3 cord to connect it together from a outlet to a switched. The 14/3 that's already in our house does not have a red wire. The new one we bought has a red wire. How do we connect when the old one does not have red wire?

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    Cord, or cable? Might help if you'd revise to explain what you're doing.
    – isherwood
    Commented Feb 22, 2022 at 21:24
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    And what colors does the existing 14/3 have?
    – isherwood
    Commented Feb 22, 2022 at 21:24
  • What does the old one have? Usually can go with black to black, white to white, red to colour. An plain outlet usually does not need a xx/3 cable, nor does a plain switch. More info on what you have is good to put in your question.
    – crip659
    Commented Feb 22, 2022 at 21:29
  • Sorry I meant cable the old cable has colors black, white and ground. The new cable has red, black, white and ground. Commented Feb 22, 2022 at 21:32
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    It may be time to take a deep breath and start over. Please edit your question to explain your initial goal (adding a switched light by bringing power from an existing outlet?). Include a picture of the power source (the outlet?), then a diagram of the wiring scheme you're planning. Then ask your question for clarification, approval of the process, how to connect what to where, did you buy the right products, etc.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Feb 23, 2022 at 12:44

1 Answer 1


This is a terminology issue. The industry standard nomenclature in the US for NM cable (e.g., Romex) excludes the ground wire (bare or green). In other words:

  • 14/2 = Black + White + bare ground, 14 AWG
  • 14/3 = Black + White + Red + bare ground, 14 AWG

You thought "black + white + ground = 3 wires" and based on printing on the jacket confirmed that it is 14 AWG, so you ordered 14/3. But what you actually have is 14/2.

The good news is you wasted a few $ but no harm done. It is perfectly fine to just ignore (or preferably, cap both ends of the red wire with wire nuts, so no loose bits of metal can touch anything). Or return it and buy 14/2. Or buy 14/2 and save this for the next time you wire up a switched circuit that needs the red wire.

There are a number of situations involving switches where you need 3 wires (besides ground). There are also some where you absolutely don't need that red wire (e.g., black & white from existing circuit to switch box, black connected to switch, white connected to white going to light, black going to light connected to the other side of the switch).

  • What I was trying to do was use the outlet cable that does not have a red wire to connect it to a switch. I'm trying to add a light fixture under the staircase and is the red wire needed for a switch? Commented Feb 22, 2022 at 21:59
  • Black and white connect to black and white at the existing outlet (pigtails or second set of screws), in switch box you have this cable and another black/white going to the light. In the box, whites together, blacks to the two screws on the switch. At the light, black to hot/line, white to neutral. Commented Feb 22, 2022 at 22:01
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    You can use black or red wire for the hot(not both in your case). The one you don't use, use wire nuts on both ends. It is common to use the black and nut the red, but either one can be use as the hot. To prevent future confusion, should use the black only. Red is use for types of circuits(three way switches) that you do not have right now
    – crip659
    Commented Feb 22, 2022 at 22:23
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    Thanks everyone it was very helpful!! Commented Feb 22, 2022 at 23:22

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