Re-wire project

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  #1  
Old 09-07-16, 01:37 PM
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Re-wire project

So I'm in the process of remodeling my first purchased house. I've been a competent remodeling contractor for 9 years and know my way around most things. Recently I began rewiring my dining room and foyer, primarily to install 3-ways which were not present anywhere in the house (1974).

I did all the math and I'm not overloading the circuit. I do have three 3-way fixtures and several outlets on the 20amp circuit. The panel is new and all new breakers. I did (after some trouble shooting) find and fix two short circuits after I wired everything up. In this time the breaker tripped several times until I was able to pinpoint the culprits. I cleaned everything up and places the wires neatly in their respective boxes and flipped the breaker back on when it tripped again and I about pulled my hair out. Pulled everything back out of the boxes thinking I had something touching after it was jammed into the boxes and the breaker tripped a final time then made a "buzzing noise" and remained in the on position while the eye glass remained orange (tripped). I quickly flipped the breaker to off and rushed back inside to make sure nothing was burning. No fires, just a massive headache. I'm usually good with electrical and read diagrams and follow code but I clearly am not good at 3-ways.

I need advice:

1. What was the buzzing on the breaker and is it toast?

2. How can I trace the short or ground fault without consistently tripping the breaker through trial and error?

3. Should I just simply call and electrician. I really don't want to do this mainly because of price but this is 3 days of headache and I want my Sheetrock back since it's still summer in Houston!
 
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  #2  
Old 09-07-16, 01:47 PM
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Welcome to the forums! While you may have experience in most phases of remodeling, I think you may need to step back on this and seek professional advice. There is no such thing as a "three way fixture", only three way switching. We don't know what you did, so offering any advice would be futile.

If you want to include pictures of your wiring at switches, or a more detailed explanation, one circuit or one switch at a time, we may be able to help.
 
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Old 09-07-16, 01:48 PM
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Tell us how you wired the 3-way switches.

Examples:

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Note: Only the last one meets current code.
 
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Old 09-07-16, 02:27 PM
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I understand your frustration.
You cannot simply say you have three 3-way fixtures, list them specifically, here's an example:

2 3-way switches in foyer controlling one light
2 3-way switches in dining room controlling one light

Correct my example to match what you have.
 
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Old 09-07-16, 03:48 PM
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Okay thanks and sorry for the lack of detail. I guess my main concern is wondering if I wore out my breaker?

I have a jbox in the attic where I connected the original home run from the panel to new wiring. From there I dropped it to a double switch box where I have a 3 way switch for the kitchen and the travelers 3 way for the dining room. The line goes then to a receptacle box and then to a single switch box containing a 3 way with the feed for the dining room. So the main for the kitchen 3 way is in the firs box and the main feed for the dining 3 way is in the second switch box.

Both of these 3 ways are connected through the light fixture box with 12-3. I have temporary plastic keyless lights in place for test purposes.

From the second switch box the line goes into the attic into another jbox (this is where I may have messed up as this is a mere branch off the main line). The line splits in the jbox to the foyer light fixture box and this 3 way switch setup is run with the feed from the fixture box and splitting to the third and fourth switch boxes. The third switch box contains the travelers for the kitchen and one switch for the foyer. The fourth switch box containes the other switch for the foyer as well as the main feed (from the previous jbox where it branched to the foyer fixture).

In the fourth switch box the line is connected to the front porch light switch (connected to an LED fixture outside) and continues through the box to 3 receptacle boxes in the dining room.

Hopefully this clarifies things. These are the diagrams I used: "options 3 and 8"

3 Way Switch Wiring Diagram
 
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Old 09-07-16, 05:22 PM
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I doubt you damaged the breaker as Square D QO's are pretty robust.

I suspect you mistook a white as a neutral instead of a hot. Make sure you marked your white wires that are acting as hots with black tape to avoid confusion.
 
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Old 09-07-16, 05:57 PM
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I quadruple checked. The breaker was damaged. I removed it and installed brand new one. I am now I the process of going box to box turning the breaker on and off and connecting new box each time. Kitchen 3 ways and fixture are good. Now I'm in the dining room and can get the light on from both positions and off from both positions but the switches are acting as if they are single pole switches as opposed to 3 ways. Any ideas?
 
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Old 09-07-16, 06:07 PM
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I doubt you damaged the breaker as Square D QO's are pretty robust.
I didn't see where the OP mentioned the manufacturer of the panel and breakers. It could also be a Cutler-Hammer CHF breaker with the orange trip indicator.
 
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Old 09-07-16, 06:32 PM
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I never knew that Cuttler Hammer made a CH breaker with an red trip indicator. I have never seen one around these parts.

but the switches are acting as if they are single pole switches as opposed to 3 ways.
What do you mean by that? You should be able to turn the light on or off at either location at any time. If you can't, then you have a traveler on a common terminal at one of the three ways.
 
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Old 09-07-16, 06:38 PM
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It can only be turned on from one location but once it's turned on it can be turned off at the opposite location.
 
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Old 09-07-16, 06:40 PM
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You have a traveler where a switch leg or hot feeding the switches should be located. Check your wires again.
 
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Old 09-07-16, 08:43 PM
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Ya that's the issue. So after all of the isolation the only issue I have is the dining room 3 ways and fixture. The fault or short is somewhere between the two. Literally everything else works perfectly when I bipass the dining room switches. I'm going to rewire on Friday, won't be able to. It's just remarkably weird because the dining room used to work fine before the breaker issue and then it did the "master switch" thing after the breaker until I tried to adjust the wiring scheme. Then it started tripping. Clearly I messed up somewhere, I had a bad switch, and/or breaker to begin with...with my luck all 3 are possible. I did call and electrician but they have me on "standby" on the calendar so no telling when they'll be over. Thanks for the help.
 

Last edited by Cfisherff39; 09-07-16 at 08:44 PM. Reason: Misspelling
  #13  
Old 09-08-16, 10:16 AM
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It sometimes helps me to actually draw out the wires on paper similar to what Ray provided above. Drawing it all out and following the path often helps me figure out issues, especially when you're dealing with 'odd' setups. Much easier (and safer) than trial and error!
 
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Old 09-08-16, 02:22 PM
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It helps me to try to visualize the 2 switches as one simple SPST switch.
The neutral must make it straight to the light somehow, the hot will be broken.
The source hot goes to the first switch marked terminal, the light hot is connected to the 2nd switches marked terminal.

So it's like wiring a regular switch but the terminals are separated by a distance.
This thinking helps me track down the wires easier.
 
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Old 09-10-16, 12:32 PM
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I never knew that Cuttler Hammer made a CH breaker with an red trip indicator. I have never seen one around these parts.
I am not sure when they came out, but I do know it was at least 3 to 4 years ago.

Shop Eaton Type CH 20-Amp 1-Pole Circuit Breaker at Lowes.com
 
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Old 09-12-16, 06:00 AM
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Thanks everyone for your help. I discovered two staples that broke the jacket on the 12-3. My original wiring was fine but I ended up ripping all the 12-3 runs out and re-wiring to the only code acceptable method. Expensive but still cheaper than an electrician and much cheaper than a fire. New 20amp breaker and all lights and switches function properly. I appreciate it and use this site regularly for clarification often. Also I used staples with protection specifically designed with added protection. Makes me miss working in Chicago where I started where they still run solid pipes through walls for added protection and wire pulling.
 

Last edited by Cfisherff39; 09-12-16 at 06:03 AM. Reason: Additional comments
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