3-way challenge with old wiring

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  #1  
Old 11-08-05, 12:57 AM
ishmael
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3-way challenge with old wiring

Hi folks,

As part of a basement wiring project, I've had to convert a switch controlling two lights to a three way. The good news is that I succeeded: 3ways switches at top and bottom of stairs nowcontrol both lights. The bad news is I've lost power to the lights/switches in three rooms on the main floor of the house. Power comes in at the basement switch and then via 14/3 to the switch at the top of the stairs. From there, the old wires take over. There are just two coming into the switch. Before I did this work, there was a third old wire coming up from a basement junction box. It was hot and coupled to one of the remaining wires on one side of an old single pole switch. I had to do some serious damage to run the 14/3, and I'd like not to have to strip the entire house down to the studs! I hope there's a simple solution, and appreciate the help immensely.
 
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  #2  
Old 11-08-05, 03:50 AM
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If power comes in at the bottom switch and then you have 14-3 to the upper switch then you do not have unswitched power to use for anything else. But perhaps I misread your post.

Start again.

Tell us all the cables that come into each switch and the light and tell us how all the wires are connected. Be explicit. Tell us wire color and how the wires are connected.
 
  #3  
Old 11-08-05, 05:48 AM
ishmael
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Sorry I was too vague...

Here's how it was before I converted to 3-way. A single switch at the top of the stairs controlled two lights, one at the bottom of the stairs and one in the ceiling at the top of the stairs. Hereís how it was wired: a 14/3 from power source enters junction box 1. A 14/2 connects furnace shut off switch to power in JB1, black to black, white to white. Red was connected to a single old red wire (I think, the colors are difficult to determine) that went straight to the single pole switch at the top of stairs. Another old wire travels from JB1 white into JB2, but appears to have another white spliced into it that travels up to the first floor, direct connection unknown. In JB2, there is another old black wire that also goes up to the first floor, direct connection unkown. These two wires in JB2 are connected via 14/2 to the light at the bottom of the stairs. Finally, at the switch at the top of the stairs, in addition to the black wire coming from JB1 red, two addition wires entered the switch. I cannot be certain of the color of these old wires, nor what they are directly connected to. One shared a terminal with red from JB1, and the other was on the other terminal. Again, I donít know where those wires go directly, but I do know that the first floor lights shared that power coming into the switch from JB1 red, but bypassed the switch. At the light at the top of the stairs, white connects to white, black to black.

Now, Iíve removed the wire that went from JB1 red to the switch. Power now goes from JB1 to a new 3way switch at the bottom of the stairs via 14/2 (the red wire connecting to the black wire then attached to the common screw). 14/3 runs from the switch to the replacement 3-way switch at the top of the stairs in standard fashion. One of the old wires coming into that switch at the top of the stairs now connects to the white wire of the 14/3, the other connects to the common on the 3-way switch. Both switches now successfully control both lights, but as you say, now no unswitched power comes into the switch at the top of the stairs. And no matter the positions of the switches, no power appears to come to the other lights on the first floor.

I hope this is sufficient detail, and hope I have some options!
 
  #4  
Old 11-08-05, 06:34 AM
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I still have no idea what you have. You need to discuss cables and then wires.

However, I don't think you can do what you did.

The easiest way to convert an existing setup from a single switch to to three way switches is to add a 14-3 (or 12-3 if appropriate) cable from the first switch to the new switch. You then make the appropriate connections. It can almost never be done with existing wiring.
 
  #5  
Old 11-08-05, 07:41 AM
ishmael
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a clue?

Thanks again for trying to help. I talked about all the cables there are. When I speak of wires, they are just single wires--it looks like old NM, because there is a cloth wrap and a rubber sheath, but only single wires travel in them. In any case, perhaps this will provide a clue: on the upstairs switch, I just swapped the two old wires that were coming from the upstairs lights/switches. That is, I switched the position of the neutral and common wires. Now, the two lights controlled by the three way switch don't work, but the rest of the lights on the main floor that didn't work before now do.

If I make a similar change at the 3-way switch at the bottom of the stairs, might all the lights work? Does my experiment provide any clue?
 
  #6  
Old 11-08-05, 07:45 AM
ishmael
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one more detail!

I should have added that with the swapping of the wires the lights on the main floor are all controlled now both by their own switches and by both three way switches. If the three way switches switch the lights on, then the switches in the rooms will control the appropriate lights. If the three ways switch the light off, then the switches in the rooms do nothing.
 
  #7  
Old 11-08-05, 10:25 AM
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Sounds like have a mixture of old knob and tube and new wiring. You should consider replacing all the old knob and tube.
Originally you had an unswitched hot wire supplying power to the upper switch box. You removed that wire. Now you only have switched power at that box. You need to replace the removed wire. Since you can't run a single wire you need to run a new cable.
 
  #8  
Old 11-08-05, 01:14 PM
ishmael
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thanks!

That's right. I've run another 14/2 to the box, and all is well. Thanks to all for your help!
 
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