I believe the configuration in the image below is what I need in order to power a ceiling fan and recessed lights on two separate switches out of a two gang box using the existing cables.

enter image description here

However, what is different from the diagram is that I have a 2 way cable in the switch box that leads to all the outlets in the room, so it will need constant power. How can I achieve this?

2 Answers 2


If you can run a new power line to one of the outlets, it may be an easy way to re-use the rest of the existing wiring without having to break walls open too much (less than if you run a new wire from the switch to the ceiling boxes).

The feed would essentially come from the outlets, to the switch, then to the lights/fan, and the existing feed would no longer be used.

enter image description here

You might need to cut an access hole below one of the outlets and then fish a line from underneath, or cut a hole on the wall opposite the outlet, or if you're really lucky, one backs onto an unfinished space. It's very hard to say without actually being there.

Some tips:

  • Try to avoid opening exterior walls, as they have insulation and vapour barrier that makes repair much more complicated.
  • If you can get at the wire from the opposite side in a closet or similar discreet space, that can make things much easier.
  • Unless you painted very recently and have leftover paint, even color matching you probably won't get it 100%, and if you just paint over a spot on the wall, this is usually noticeable. Instead, if you paint the whole wall, the fact that adjacent walls (around corners) don't match 100% is not noticeable. Keep this in mind when choosing where to cut (eg, choose smallest walls possible).
  • It may also be possible to get at the wire somewhere directly:
    • If outlets cross doorways, there's a good chance the wire runs under the floor, and if it's an unfinished ceiling underneath, you can tap into the wire there.
    • You might also be able to get at the wire in the wall, but this may be a bit of a guessing game. Non-contact circuit detectors (many stud finders have these) can help. Cut a small hole to inspect before cutting a bigger one to work in.
    • You'll probably need two junctions to have enough slack. Keep in mind all j-boxes must be permanently accessible, so you may need to add an outlet or blank faceplate to make this work.

Small variation is you could disconnect the outlets from the switch, and keep the circuit you drew for the switches/lights in place exactly as-is. This could be good depending on how you want circuits loaded out (eg, the lights/fan separate from the outlets) and what you have available -- it's very hard to say for certain without being there.

  • If you can avoid it, it's best not to have receptacles on a lighting circuit. If you try to warm your feet and make toast, you could find yourself in the dark with cold feet and bread.
    – Tester101
    Oct 21, 2013 at 12:12
  • Thanks Tester and gregmac! The space is a converted garage room and there is access above, but I can't feed a new wire to the switch box. Is should be able to run a two way cable to one of the outlets though, and per gregmac's variation I will cap the existing two way cable in the switch box. That way my lights and outlets will be on separate cables. Much appreciated! Oct 21, 2013 at 17:00
  • Additional question: Can I go into the ceiling access, pull the existing hot cable from the fan box and put it into a junction box that splices two new hot cables: one for the fan box and one to my accessible outlet? Or should I pull the additional hot cable for the outlets from a different source? Oct 21, 2013 at 17:23
  • @BrianMoore yes, you can use the existing feed for this -- just keep in mind code requirements for junction boxes in attics and if you're going to cover junction boxes with insulation, some inspectors may not like it (I personally wouldn't cover them in insulation, and avoid the issue). Junction boxes must be permanently accessible, which means you must not have to disassemble/destroy structure to get at them.
    – gregmac
    Oct 21, 2013 at 19:11

With the setup you have you cannot achieve branching non-switched wiring off to the outlets. You would need to pull another cable with more wires between the ceiling power source box and the dual wall switch box. As a minimum you will have to send a neutral wire in addition to the three you already have in place. So that means either running a 4-wire plus GND cable or else running an additional 2-wire plus GND. In the latter case the added two wire cable could be deployed to route Hot and Neutral to the switch box and stop using the confusing white wire for this purpose as depicted in your picture.

  • 1
    Per code, the white wire needs to be marked (usually a band of black or colored tape) at both ends, since it's not neutral. Additionally, as of 2011 NEC, neutral is required at all switch locations, so if you're going to run a new wire anyway you'll be able to do that.
    – gregmac
    Oct 21, 2013 at 4:41

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