So we have a single light in our living room that can be turned on/off from four different switches at various entrances to the living room.

We're currently replacing all the switches in our house as we update things and I'm wondering exactly what type of switches I need to buy.

4-way? 3-way? Do they make a 5-way? I've replaces dozens of 1 and 2-way switches in the house already, but want to make sure I buy the right switches here.


Here is a diagram. You'll need 2 3-way and 2 4-way switches.

[North America]

(Note: This is North American terminology) enter image description here


enter image description here

  • great diagram. Excellent reference site. – shirlock homes Mar 8 '11 at 7:37
  • 2
    Note, if you're in the UK (I suspect Shpigford is, since he said "1 way" and "2 way"), subtract one number from X-way in this diagram: "3 way" in UK is called "4-way" in North America, and "2-way" in UK is "3-way" in NA. There is no "2-way" in NA, and we just call a "1-way" a "single switch" or something to that effect. – gregmac Mar 8 '11 at 17:15
  • @gregmac - Thanks for the update. The common term for these switches might be different, but determining which ones you need is fairly easy. A single switch (or 2-way???) will have two terminals (places to connect a wire, not including ground), a 3-way will have 3 terminals, and a 4-way will have 4 terminals. This might be where the North American terms came from, but I'm not sure of that. – Tester101 Mar 9 '11 at 12:33
  • In the diagram...what does the red line represent? – Shpigford Feb 4 '12 at 20:43
  • @Shpigford The red line is the red wire in the *x*/3 with ground wire. You'll be required to use cable with 4 wires in it, Black, White, Red, and bare wire. – Tester101 Feb 5 '12 at 2:39

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