Bathroom light switch issue


Old 02-18-18, 12:54 PM
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Bathroom light switch issue

Hey all, hopefully someone can help. I've been to Lowes and asked some friends but I can't figure out wtf is wrong.

So I have a bathroom I am renovating. There are two switches for the one light over the vanity (one switch next to one door, the other switch next to the other door- the bathroom has two doors) and two switches for the exhaust fan (same configuration). These are older toggle switches which are single pole (ground, black, and red wire ONLY).

So this is the issue:

I replaced the old switches with decorator rocker switches. Like these: Shop Eaton 10-Pack 15-amp Single Pole White Rocker Indoor Light Switch at

Well, I replaced one light switch and one fan switch. Then something weird happened. When I turned the rocker switches off the other toggle switches next to the other door wouldn't work. So I turn the rocker switches back on and then I can use the old switches and turn the fan off and light off and back on... but ONLY when the rocker switches were in the "on" position.

I went to Lowes and they said I needed 3 way switches... okay... but there is NO common. So I was a bit confused... All I have is a black, red, and ground. They were not three way switches originally, just old toggle switches. The red was on one side, the black on the other, with the ground under that (ground and black on the same side of the switch)

So I bought two 3 way switches to test them out. I changed both light switches to 3 way rockers... and they do NOT work... at all. BUT the fan still works (it is in the rocker, toggle combination).

I then change it to one 3 way rocker and one 1 way rocker combination and nothing.

I then took the 3 ways off and put back on two one way rocker switches and nothing at all.

I then take the 3 way rocker off and just cap the wires and keep the 1 way rocker on and nothing.

But the fan switch in the rocker/toggle works.... but only if the rocker is on.

What am I doing wrong here? The toggle switches each worked independently but they were -not- 3 way switches.... they only had a red, black, and ground. I'm at a complete loss and its getting pretty damned frustrating.

I can't test out the old toggle switches because the backs broke when I was taking out the wires.

Thanks for help.
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Old 02-18-18, 01:00 PM
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Welcome to the forums.

Usually if something is controlled at two doors.... it's on a three way circuit. You could use 2) single pole switches but if either one is on..... the lights are on and cannot be forced off from the other end.

If you only have two wires on a switch.... then you have two single pole switches in parallel. That means if either switch is on....the lights are on and cannot be turned off from the opposite end. Pretty popular when the person doing the installation didn't have any idea what they were doing.

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