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4-way switching in a confusing Raised Ranch with Upper, Lower, and Landing

4-way switching in a confusing Raised Ranch with Upper, Lower, and Landing

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  #1  
Old 11-25-13, 09:49 AM
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4-way switching in a confusing Raised Ranch with Upper, Lower, and Landing

I am not seeing the forest for the trees. I have looked at this a thousand times and I think I may have simply gone down the rabbit hole. It is simple:

Raised Ranch with a lower level switch, a landing switch, and an upper level switch. The load is simply a recessed light over the landing. Can turn it on and off from any location. Why don't I just follow what is already there? Well 11 years ago I replaced all the switches with smart switches and as they have slowly failed, I have no tolerance for the complexity any longer so I am going back to Decora mechanical switches. I seem to be one lead shy and believe that I am supposed to tie a jumper somewhere but I am not really seeing the obvious. I also am having trouble identifying the other end of a wire that's in the same sheath with two others. This is leading to the confusion. Attached is a simple drawing of the ends of my wires and the location. Of special note is the three wire from lower to landing (black, white, red) actually has the black end at the upper and the white and red are at the landing).

Another note is that the LANDING seems to have no Hot for another 3-way switch (for outside lights) which leads me to believe one of the black from my Upper to Landing is actually meant to be an extension of the HOT to the landing. There is no HOT or LOAD in the lower so that is leading me to believe that this is where my 4 Way switch goes with one 3 Way Upper at HOT and one 3 Way Landing to LOAD (the light in question is lit from a black wire at the landing).

[ATTACH=CONFIG]21894[/ATTACH]

So what I am thinking is taking one black from UPPER to LANDING and making that HOT. The other black from Upper to Landing gets tied to WHT or RED to give me two travelers to the lower where the four way goes. But I seem to be missing one traveler from the Lower to the Landing. Unless that unknown RED at the upper is tied to the other red somehow.

I know I am confusing but I hope it can be followed with my drawing. Again I think I have the right idea but I seem to be missing one traveler... Which as I write this has me thinking I have to check one other thing tonight..... Hmmm....

AGE
 
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  #2  
Old 11-25-13, 09:58 AM
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Can you check your labels between the landing and the top? Looks like black and black.

Can you also show all the whites?
 
  #3  
Old 11-25-13, 10:31 AM
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Yes... That is correct. Between the landing and the upper I have two Blk travelers. All the whites neutrals are tied down. Thanks for replying.

So at the Upper I have three black travelers. Two to the landing and one to the lower. The one to the lower is in the same cable as the RED which, again, I have no idea where the other end is. I will triple check this tonight. Again, the LOWER has a single cable with three wires. RED (to landing), WHITE (to LANDING) and BLK (to Upper).

I have no hair and if I did, I would have no hair left.

Just to keep it simple, normally there would be HOT on one end and LOAD on the other and 4way in the middle. But because my LOAD is wired at the landing (where the black lead for the light is), it leads me to believe that my 4way is actually at the lower and my HOT is where it truly is... at the Upper.

Keep asking questions and making statements and I will get answers....
 
  #4  
Old 11-25-13, 03:48 PM
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OK... So back to my drawing... One of the BLK TVLR in my UPPER to LANDING had to be the extension of HOT to that box.

Not on the drawing -- One of the black travelers of my three way need to be tied to common. I did that, added HOT to my 3 way common, tied the red and wht travelers to the second switch and led the common terminal to my black lead and that closed the loop. Both switches now control one common load no matter what the switch position.

Back to my drawing -- I tied BLK TVLR from my UPPER to the 4 way in the LOWER. I tied my BLK TVLR to LANDING and tied that to WHT TVLR to LOWER. That gives one side of my four way -- Both from the UPPER except one traveler takes a path across the LANDING -- tying two cables together. Then from LOWER the other side of the four way RED TVLR to LANDING to my 3way with common to LOAD. Yeah... still missing something. All lights work until one of the switches is off and then the others don't work... And still have no idea where that RED in my upper goes to. It's got to be a common somewhere. RED Common???

AGE
 
  #5  
Old 11-25-13, 04:52 PM
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Just one question while I ponder.. is this wiring in a conduit or is it 14-2 and 14-3 NM (romex) cable ?

If it's NM cable you're short some colors. Three wire needs three colors.
Like from the middle to the upper switch where you show three black wires.
 
  #6  
Old 11-25-13, 04:59 PM
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I can't get it to work out either. the colors are confusing. If this is a conduit system at least the OP has options to install or make changes.

To OP, can you revise your drawing to show the whites also?
 
  #7  
Old 11-25-13, 05:34 PM
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Maybe I missed it --- where does the line in feed orginate ?
 
  #8  
Old 11-25-13, 05:35 PM
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Looks like possibly the top switch.
 
  #9  
Old 11-25-13, 06:36 PM
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OK.. to answer some questions. No conduit, all romex and 14/2 or /3. All the neutrals are tied together where they should be. The only WHT I have is the traveler from my lower to the landing. Everything else is black with a red for good measure.

What is infuriating here are two things:

1) In my lower, the romex is a black sheath. At my landing, there are no black sheaths -- only white. At my upper, there is one black sheath but that has the hot so I presume that's not the home run from the lower but rather the run from my breaker.

2) At my lower, the 14/3 is BLK, RED, WHT. Continuity tells me that the RED and WHT are in my gang at the landing and BLK is now in my upper (BLK 3). The black that comes out of the RED, WHT (from my lower) is actually from my Upper (BLK 1).

So here we go with a new drawing:
[ATTACH=CONFIG]21932[/ATTACH]
AGE
 
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  #10  
Old 11-25-13, 06:50 PM
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And for the record... Yes, I know I am missing colored wires. The upper is a three gang box served by two breakers. One is a 3way switch and all that is working fine for years. The other breaker is in question and it serves two switches. One single pole and the other the 3 way of this 4 way fiasco.

Almost all are 14/3 (with the exception of the 14/2 for the single pole). But my lower is only a single 14/3. And this house was built in 1978. What I fear is that the original owner (who was a disaster of a do it yourselfer) has something wired in a junction box somewhere and is creating these oddities of continuity. I fear that my kids college education will be spent on an electrician on Wednesday morning.

I replaced the original mechanicals with Smart Switches and made it work without effort. My failure was not to document how it was originally set up. I thought it would be easy because really, how badly can you mess up pretty basic wiring....

AGE
 
  #11  
Old 11-25-13, 07:24 PM
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Wow !!

Without making assumptions at this point -- which are travellers , whether or not the 4 way is at the lower spot , etc. ---- lets try and look at the facts.


Lets review ...

There's romex being run

3 switch locations -- lower -- landing -- upper

1 light ( load ) in the middle

line feed is at the upper location

the *lower box* has only one 14/3 cable which runs to the *landing*
this 14/3 has the red & white ending at the *landing* and the black appears to extend to the *upper*

the *landing* has the 14/3 from below


If I understand this correctly.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

How many cables are at the *landing* ???

Is the wiring accessible at the light ??
 
  #12  
Old 11-26-13, 05:40 AM
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If we look at the bottom switch as a dead end 3 way the power would splice to the black that runs to the bottom. That means the previously unused red is now either the traveler or the common.
 
  #13  
Old 11-26-13, 06:22 AM
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Canuk and PCboss -

In order - Canuk - You have it correct. But the 14/3 that runs to the landing actually has the black wire ending at the upper while the red and wht end at the landing. What is infuriating is that the romex at the lower is black and there is no black romex in the landing. This means that somewhere the red and white (and a black) are junctioned which leads red and white to the landing and black to the upper. So I don't have a homerun between the lower and the landing with three conductors.

PCBoss - By doing this, all I do is reverse my dead-ends and lose a traveler. The 4way switch needs a pair of travelers from each end (load and hot -- unless there is some 1970s wiring plan that I don't know about). Load can't be put in the middle which forces the 4 way to be either up or down (away from the load or hot). As hot is already up, and load is landing, then it makes sense that 4way. In order to move the HOT or the LOAD to another location, I eat a traveler.

Honestly, PCBoss requests for the whites might really be the trick here. My gut is telling me that one of my travelers from UP to LANDING is a white that is currently tied to neutral and never marked with black tape....

At this point, I have lost too much sleep over this and I will spend two hours and $390 for a pro on Wednesday morning to laugh and fix this mess. I have lived in the house for 21 years and it's a miracle it hasn't burned down yet.

AGE
 
  #14  
Old 11-26-13, 06:32 AM
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Please let us know the solution. I have been racking my brain trying to figure this out.
 
  #15  
Old 11-26-13, 08:44 AM
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PCboss - and you know I will... Before breakfast this morning, I got the AHA! moment and expected that one of my other switches in my lower three gang that serves a single pole light on another breaker had my second traveler from my UPPER. That was the other end of the RED I was looking for.... and........ no........ GRRRR....

I talked to a local electrician who laughed and said - "You have no idea how many times I have seen that and you won't find it because you are so deep in the weeds that you can't see the obvious anymore. Not saying this will happen but chances are, it's a white, unmarked common that you have tied down to neutral somewhere... and the new, fresh eyes will find it. Will take five minutes or five hours... Probably not longer than an hour and a quarter unless something is seriously "broken.""

So, he expects a pretty quick hit and it may cost $100-$150 of effort. And I will post once I know what is going on.

Thanks again to all who tried. I was hoping that someone had the old "..you back feed the murphy widget to the freddy line and tie that to your traveler and viola..." But alas, I do have the base understanding correct and you are right... there is some white unmarked common somewhere that should be a traveler. We will see tomorrow. Stay tuned.

AGE
 
  #16  
Old 11-26-13, 08:45 AM
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You had provided lots of information however, the more provided the more confusing it became.
I'm still unclear where that second 3 way switch for controlling another light is located --- on one hand it seemed to be at the landing location then seemed to be at the upper 3 gang location.

regardless that might be adding to the confusion of which cables and wires are for what.

From what I was able to gather it would seem it may be wired in the sketch. But there were still some questions unanswered.



Bottom line let us know how this ends up.
 
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Old 11-26-13, 12:11 PM
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Canuk -
I know I am confusing. Trying to provide all data to all people. That is hard.

Here are a couple of simple salient points. Landing is a two gang from common breaker. One switch controls outside front door light, the other switch controls entry landing light.

Outside light is it's own 3 way (paired with a switch in the garage). There is no HOT at this location... only LOAD to Landing Lite. The load to the outside light is at the Garage switch. So, no HOT common available at the landing through the light. On this breaker, the only HOT is available at the UPPER. That HOT can be carried to the LANDING or the LOWER via any of the available travelers. With two BLK from LANDING to UPPER, this leads me to believe that one of those BLK is for extending HOT to the LANDING two gang to power my outside lights (hot on the landing switch to travelers to the garage switch and LOAD from the garage switch to outside lights). What is different from your drawing is that the LOAD is not at the upper but rather at the LANDING. I am shy one traveler to either get me UP or DOWN. So I have two travelers at the LANDING from LOWER. Two travelers from LANDING to UPPER. BUT... Big BUT... I also have LOAD at LANDING. Five wires and nothing hot. Use one to get hot to landing and now Four Wires and short one traveler. And can't put load on a 4way. Flip it around to get LOAD from landing to UPPER. Four wires... short one traveler.

I hope that makes it clear. Again, I love the feedback from willing participants. This is what makes the internet a real useful tool.

AGE
 
  #18  
Old 11-27-13, 09:42 AM
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So here it goes...

One hour of review and effort and nothing that the electrician has never seen before. A rule of thumb that I learned that may be obvious but no one said "It needs to be that way.." is a cable is a home run and the wires will be usable and routeble only at the box. So where I mentioned that the romex with the black sheath is only found at the lower box and upper box... that meant that that 14/3 cable was imperative at the upper box. Where I had red and wht wires leading to one box and the blk leading to the other meant I was tying wires in places which lead me on a confusing trip of continuity.

A very confusing point where I thought I should have merely a 14/2 but it was a 14/3 (Red wire going to nowhere)... It didn't dawn on me that this 1970s home originally had switched outlets. Once he asked that question... BOOM!!! There was the blinding glimpse of the obvious that I spaced.

The second confusing point is that my outside lights actually wire through back at my landing. Lots of black wires but nothing hot. He called this a "dead-end 3way."

So in the end, my 4way is actually at my upper, re-wiring "mis-directed ties" allowed me to realize the proper travelers where I was missing a white (you nailed that one PCBoss) where the two ends were both tied to neutral, and the need to make my mystery red HOT gave me the right number of wire ends at the right locations using the right colors.

Lessons learned? Wires won't mysteriously be rerouted in the walls... if it is what it seems then it's wrong. Don't be afraid to take everything apart and assume which direction things are going and test continuity. And sometimes you actually know what you are doing but you need a second set of eyes with similar knowledge to see the obvious. In my case, the obvious "nah, you can't have different wires from the same cable going different places -- you got things tied together incorrectly somewhere." I needed to make one further step and tear it all apart. Also, that second set of eyes helped understand what the mysterious red was for and then test it (yup, outlets dead) and fix it.

In the end, it was a needless $80 spent but I am OK with that.

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone. Let there be light!!!!

AGE
 
  #19  
Old 11-27-13, 11:28 AM
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I think many of us suspected you had a wire misplaced somewhere.
Moving the white over to the neutral was a key point that wasn't mentioned. You did keep mentioning "All the neutrals are tied together where they should be" though.



Glad it's all working.
 
  #20  
Old 11-27-13, 12:15 PM
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Canuk
I never touched the neutrals for this project. Only worked with wiring that came off all the switches that were there. It was that way for more than 11 years. The fact that there were no shorts led me to believe all was as it needed to be. Evidently I tucked them away because I had too many travelers for the smart switches at the time. Obviously my bad but I can't even remember breakfast this morning let alone what I did that long ago.
 
  #21  
Old 11-27-13, 01:05 PM
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Ah --- my confusion

I can't even remember breakfast this morning let alone what I did that long ago
You too ?!?!?
 
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