I have 3 light switches and one regular ceiling light currently in my living room. One of them is a light/fan switch and two of them (in a 2 gang box) are pretty old and I am not sure what they are for (as they do not do anything). The ceiling light box has 2 hots (fan/light), a neutral and a ground. I removed the old light switches to see what is going on one of them said it was a 3 way switch (strange because it only 2 screws) and they were wired pretty strangely as one hot wire was wrapped around both switches (see pictures). I would like to replace the fan/light switch with a dimmer switch as well as figure out what those 2 switches are for. I have a feeling the old light switches are a 3 way for the light fixture, but not sure how it would work.

Thanks for all of the help enter image description here enter image description here

1 Answer 1


You have a dangerous situation.

While it may not be knob and tube (an old standard that often poses serious risk), you have cloth covered wiring that is obviously deteriorating, posing a risk of short circuits and fire. For example, in the upper picture, the switch on the right has exposed wire that is a shock and fire hazard.

We could try to diagnose the switching issues (e.g., there are no three way switches illustrated), but you have a more basic problem. This is probably the time to call in a professional to discuss replacing some of this very risky stuff.

  • Thanks for the feedback. I am pretty sure its no K&T but the cloth is not in as bad of shape as the picture suggests. There is actually no exposed wires (except for the hot that had the cloth removed in the middle in the 2nd picture) so it could just be bad lighting. I am doing a kitchen renovation so considering having all of the rewiring done, but just replacing light switches for now. Additional, the switch on the left says "3 - Way Switch" etched into it but only 2 screws so didn't make sense to me.
    – yeedle
    Aug 9, 2016 at 22:26
  • The cloth is breaking down and the insulation looks very crumbly. Sorry, I am just not comfortable explaining how to wire a bad situation.
    – bib
    Aug 9, 2016 at 22:32
  • I agree with bib. I had wiring in my house that was not anywhere near as bad as cloth-covered wire, yet it still made me uncomfortable. The quality of the workmanship was also poor. I disconnected/abandoned all the existing circuits and rewired most of the house. There are some rooms that simply don't have power right now as I have not yet rewired them. Better safe than sorry.
    – William S.
    Aug 9, 2016 at 22:40
  • Got it. The electrician is coming tomorrow for the kitchen so I will speak to him about rewiring the house. I will leave the light switches alone for now. Can someone just explain to me how this could be a 3 way switch with 2 screws or what they could be controlling? I have been googling it all day with no luck
    – yeedle
    Aug 9, 2016 at 22:44
  • The ONLY sensible response to this question and photos is to state the possible danger here, and not to directly answer the question. I cannot say how important it is to leave the circuit switched off and call in a professional as soon as possible. Please do this - for your own safety. Do not attempt to rectify wiring problems here. One mistake and your house could be toast.
    – hazymat
    Aug 9, 2016 at 22:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.