I am doing the wiring in the basement, and have messed up. I did not run the necessary cabling to do the 3 way switch the traditional way.

I have 14/2 cable that comes from the breaker to a 3 way switch. Off that switch is 14/3 cable that goes to a light fixture. Then I have 14/3 cable that goes to a second light fixture, and finally 14/3 cable that goes to the second 3 way switch.

Everything I can find online says that I am a cable short of doing this successfully. (I need 4 wires to have that second light fixture)

Running extra cable is difficult now, so can I..

A) connect through the 14/3 bypassing the second light, and then run new 14/2 cabling from the second switch to the second light fixture?

B) Accomplish my goals by using smart switches instead of traditional 3 way switches?

Any advice to this is greatly appreciated. It seems having the lights in the middle of a 3 way switch is uncommon which is my mistake.

Thank you!

2 Answers 2


Smart switches to the rescue. Easiest if you use a wireless second switch. Lutron Caseta with a Pico remote will do the job, but there are certainly other options as well.

Smart switch goes in box 1.

  • /2 black to line connection on switch and to the /3 black.
  • /3 red to load connection on switch
  • whites connected together

In each light fixture box:

  • blacks together
  • reds together and to hot connection on light fixture
  • whites together and to neutral connection on light fixture

Switch box 2:

  • cap the red wire with a wire nut
  • if you use a switch that requires power connect to black (hot) and white (neutral)
  • you can install a receptacle or extend power to elsewhere (If running new cables is such a problem, being able to connect another convenience receptacle is a nice bonus. That receptacle could be in the switch box at switch height, or you could extend it down to typical wall receptacle height with 14/2 and another box.)
  • if you don't use a powered switch or install a receptacle, cap the black and white wires

It's more of a mess than you think. Any time you have a light between 3-way switches, you need 4 wires from the first switch (hot, neutral and two travelers) - I'm ignoring ground throughout. From the light to the second switch, you actually need five wires: hot, neutral, two travelers and switched hot back from switch two. (The neutral isn't used in the second switch but is required by code to allow a smart switch in the future.)

To get away with /3 cabling between the switches (neutral and two travelers), all lights must be past the last switch. Clearly, the answer to question A is "no".

As for question B, the most wired smart switches can do is eliminate one traveler. You're still short one wire.

The only way I can see to do this without running new cabling is to use RF smart switches. One wired two-way switch with an RF remote switch, battery operated. What you would do is place the wired switch in place of switch one. From there, run switched hot and neutral to both lights. (The location of switch 2 becomes a junction box.) Then, around where switch 2 would be, mount the battery RF remote on the wall.

The only concern with this is if code requires a real switch where the battery remote switch is located, this might not pass. You may need to check with your local code authority.

  • To the downvoter, could you please comment way? Is there a mistake in my post? I’d really like to know what was wrong. Thank you.
    – DoxyLover
    Jan 10 at 18:54
  • 1
    There's two mistakes I see: NEC 2017 404.2 C) doesn't require a neutral at the second switch location provided OP's entire floor space is "visible from the single or combined switch locations", and there are wired smart switches for a second location that require only two conductors (example but not production recommendation, Jasco 46199). Between the two, OP should be able to get a working smart switch solution.
    – kg333
    Jan 12 at 0:30

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