I have a bath fan with a main light and night light. It is currently supplied by one piece of 12-2 from a wall switch. Since this configuration makes the night light completely worthless, I'd like to split the three devices onto separate switches.

I'm comfortable with wiring, and adding another 14-3 line and switches would be no problem if it wouldn't require tearing out, replacing, and repainting a bunch of the drywall.

I looked at Insteon controls, but it doesn't appear that there are any single modules that can control three devices. I could get three separate modules and a four-device switch, but that would around $220. Way more than I'd want to put into this project.

So the best I can come up with is to mount a couple of pull cord switches on the fan unit. The pull cords would control the fan and the main light, and the night light would be direct to the wall switch. So the wall switch would turn the night light on an off, and with the switch on I could use the pull cords to turn the main light and fan on and off.

Any suggestions for a better way to achieve what I want to do?

  • Can you get access to the space above the fixture? if so, you may be able to snake in a new line with little or no drywall damage.
    – bib
    Commented Sep 7, 2013 at 19:42
  • Not easily. The ceiling angles up between the shower where the fan is and the wall with the switch.
    – Joe
    Commented Sep 7, 2013 at 21:33

1 Answer 1


Plasterboard Work

It is often possible to run a new cable between a fixture and a switch without tearing up large sections of drywall.

If you can visualize the wire going up the wall from the switch and then from the corner of the wall/ceiling to the fixture, you may be able to snake a new wire.

Cut a small hole in the ceiling in in the plasterboard immediately above the switch.

The issue will be whether the hole in the ceiling allows you a straight run to the fixture box (along or between a ceiling rafters). If not, you nay need to cut more small holes where the cable would have to cross a joist/rafter.

If it is a clear run, you may be able to run a cable from the ceiling hole to the fixture box. Then you can cut a small hole in the wall immediately below the first hole.

You also need to be able to drill through or notch the framing (without seriously compromising a load bearing wall) to allow a cable to pass through. If this is feasible, you can drop a cable down to the switch box, thread the other end through the hole or notch in the framing, and extend it to the fixture box. If you are notching or if you are drilling at less than 1.5 inches in, you need to put a special metal plate over that spot to protect the cable.

Later you can patch the small cutouts, tape over and paint.


You can continue to use the existing cable to power one circuit and use a 14-2 cable to provide the hot leads for the other two circuits (they will all use the neutral already on the circuit. Since both wires in the new cable will be hot leads for a circuit, the white wire needs to be marked at the switch and fixture to show that it is hot.

You can find three switch units that fit a single gang box, or expand the switch box to double gang.

  • Thank you for a very detailed answer. The problem is that the ceiling is angled between the switch wall and the fan. The fan is on a flat ceiling in the shower stall; it angles up from there for about 4' laterally, then flat again for about 2' to the wall. So it's possible, but I'll have to figure how many holes it would take.
    – Joe
    Commented Sep 9, 2013 at 0:13

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