I am trying to put my basement lights onto a three way circuit and can not find any examples of how to wire the circuit correctly. I have power (12/2) coming into a box with a three way switch, then a 14/3 line going to an outlet, then another 3 outlets until finally going to a box with the other three way switch.

How do I wire the outlets correctly?

  • Can you clarify exactly what you need, because it sounds like you already have the outlets wired properly.
    – Niall C.
    Commented May 4, 2014 at 3:10
  • are the outlets switched now? Commented May 4, 2014 at 9:09

2 Answers 2


First off, you CANNOT use #14 on a circuit wired with #12. If you do you'd have to replace the breaker with a 15A and this is simply foolish IMO. Why loose 5 potential circuit capacity amps over such an issue?

OK, you need to forget the physical orientation of the items. The fact that the receptacles are physically in between the switches is irrelevant. You can wire it this way, but not with what you have and it gets complicated.

You should re-wire the receptacles with the proper 12/2 wire from one of the switches. Then use 12/3 between the two switches and feed the other switch. The only problem with this is that all three receptacles will be switched. This does NOT seem like a convenient setup, unless of course that is exactly what you want.

You can follow this wiring scheme shown as it is the easiest for DIYer and beginners, but remember that there is no one correct way to wire things. If you Google "3-way wiring" you'll find hundreds of diagrams people have drawn with just as many ways to wire.

Just think of your receptacles as the light in this diagram and continue on to the rest.

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Doing it with 12/4 wire

Color codes will be white/neutral, black-red/messengers, and blue/switched hot. You'll need 12/3 from the first 3-way to the first receptacle, and 12/4 past the first receptacle all the way down to the other 3-way.

White is actually neutral and goes to all the receptacles and the far 3-way switch as required by code now.

Red-black run all the way through everything, from the first 3-way to the second. These are messengers their entire length.

Blue is switched-hot. It starts at the far 3-way where it is connected to common. It comes back to each receptacle in turn, tying to the hot side of the receptacle and being daisy-chained from there.

Doing it with dual 12/3

This is not legal today becuase it will not bring a neutral wire to the far 3-way. To comply, use 12/4.

Run a 12/3 direct from the first switch to the second. Black and red become messengers, a remarked white become common for the far switch.

The first switch takes always-hot as its common. Switched-hot returns on the common (marked white) of the 12/3 direct from the other switch.

In that same box, you feed 12/3 to the outlets. Black is always-hot. White is actual neutral. Red is switched hot. These daisy-chain forward to each receptacle. The presence of both always-hot and switched-hotll makes it easy to punch down the receptacle to be either switched or unswitched.

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