Background: In my mom’s kitchen she had 2 ceiling fans that were controlled by two three way switches at opposite ends of the room. One of the ceiling fans burnt out and she opted to go with a light fixture instead of another ceiling fan.

The Issue: The trouble is that she has to keep the light fixture on in order to run the ceiling fan in the kitchen. It would be ideal to install a switch that simply controls the light and another switch that controls the fan.

What I am looking to do: Convert both three way switches to single pole switches, with one controlling the fan and the other controlling the light.

Where I’m at: I took a look at the switches and I am certain that they are the original switches installed around 1982-83 when my folks renovated the house. As mentioned above, each switch is a 3 way, i.e. 2 wires on one side and single wire on the other side.

The house itself was built in 1927 and renovated in 1983, so as you can imagine the wiring isn’t exactly modern. I tested the wires at each switch with a multimeter and I know which one is “hot” or common. I am assuming that the other two wires are travelers.

Does anyone have any advice on how to accomplish this scenario?

  • 1
    Can we get a picture of the wiring in each fan box and in each switch box?
    – bib
    Jul 10, 2016 at 1:28
  • Sounds like an easy problem. In what order are the boxes connected by the cables? Is it switch <--> light <--> fan <--> switch? Where does the mains power enter the circuit, at one of the switches or at one of the ceiling boxes? Jul 10, 2016 at 3:14

1 Answer 1


If the travelers travel through the ceiling boxes, then it's do-able, and you won't need to pull additional cable. Start by opening the ceiling boxes to make sure you have two travelers in both boxes and identify which fixture has a single switchleg connection (and which fixture box has the switchleg traveling though it). It is also common to have the Home-Run power/feeder in the ceiling.


Mark the switch with the hot/power as Switch 1. Mark the other switch (with the switchleg) as Switch 2. Identify the travelers A and B.

Switch 1: Disconnect the Hot and Traveler B. Connect the Hot, Traveler B, and a pigtail together with a wirenut. Connect the pigtail to the common screw.

Switch 2: Disconnect Traveler A and cover the end with a wirenut. Exchange Traveler B with the switchleg (in other words, move Traveler B to the common screw terminal and move the switch leg to the traveler terminal).

Now, you need to decide which switch you want to control which fixture. Call Fix 1 the fixture that Switch 1 will control and Fix 2 the fixture that Switch 2 will control.

Identify the ceiling box with "two" switchlegs that connect both fixures; in this ceiling box, there will be two wires connected to the fixture-power-supply via a pigtail, or you may also find two wires connected directly to the fixture-power-supply wire. Disconnect the two switchlegs from the fixture, and identify the side connected to Switch 2. The other side of the leg is connected to the other ceiling fixture. Mark the leg attached to Switch 2 as Leg 2. Mark the other leg as, "Fix Leg"

Identify Travellers A and B. Traveler B is now the Hot for Switch 2. Traveler A will be the switchleg for Switch 1. Disconnect Traveler A. Mark the side connected to Switch 1 as Leg 1, and put a wire nut on the side of Traveller A that is going to switchBOX 2. This side of Traveler A is not being used anymore. Personally I would mark that wire as "dead" or "chicken" or "banana".

Now, it's time to employ your descision making skill. Is this ceiling box for Fixture 1 or Fixture 2?

If you are working in Fix 1, connect Leg 2 and Fix Leg together (so that Switch 2 is powering Fix 2).

OR: If you decided that this ceiling box belongs to Fix 2, then connect Leg 2 to this fixure (and don't connect Leg 2 to Fix Leg).

Now connect Leg 1 (from Switch 1) to either this fixture or Fix Leg (whichever one is left over from the previous step).

Double check your work before closing the boxes: Traveler B is now marked hot for Switch 2. The switchleg for Switch 2 was moved to a traveler terminal and should be identified as, Leg 2. Leg 2 is connected to Fix 2- does it travel through the ceiling box of Fix 1? Traveler A from Switch 1 has been marked Leg 1. Leg 1 is connected to Fix 1. Does Leg 1 travel through the box for Fix 2? The remainder of Traveler A (from which ceiling box to Switchbox 2?) is no longer in use and both ends have a wire nut.


There are several ways to accomplish rewiring in a more expedient manner (than described in the previous directions). However, describing the intention is perhaps the simplest direction.

Each switch will need power supplied to the common terminal.

Each switch only needs one leg to supply power to one fixture.

The fixtures should not be connected, but since they are on the same circuit they may share a neutral.

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