×

How to Wire a Ceiling Light to 2 Switches

Many homes have at least one light that is controlled by two switches. Common examples include a switch at either end of a hallway or at the top and bottom of a flight of stairs. The light switches used for this type of configuration are called 3-way switches. This type of switch has two connector screws on one side and a single connector screw on the opposite side. First, the two switches are wired together. They are then wired to the light to make it possible to turn it on or off from either position.

Turn off the electricity to the home at the breaker box. Turn all the switches in the panel to "OFF."

Run black and white, 14 gauge, two-wire cables from the main power source to the first switch position. Use wire strippers to strip 1 inch from the end of each cable. Use insulated needle-nose pliers to bend the exposed end of the black cable into a hook.

Attach the black cable from the power source to the switch. This is the "hot" cable that carries electrical current. Hook the cable over the bottom screw of the first switch with the open end of the hook facing right. Use a screwdriver to secure the cable in place.

Strip 1 inch from a length of white 14 gauge, three-wire cable. Use a wire nut to splice the white cable from the power source to the 14 gauge, three-wire cable. Insert both exposed tips into the open end of the wire nut and twist clockwise until it is firmly in place.

Strip 1 inch from a length of red 14 gauge, three-wire cable. Use the needle-nose pliers to curve the exposed wire into a hook. Loop the hook onto the top screw on the single screw side with the opening facing right. Tighten the screw to secure the cable.

Strip 1 inch from a length of black 14 gauge, three-wire cable. Twist the exposed end into a hook. Loop the hook onto the top screw on the two-screw side. Tighten the screw with the open end of the hook facing right.

Run the black, white and red cables from the first switch to the second switch. The amount of cable required depends on the distance between the switches.

Strip 1 inch from the ends of the cables with the wire strippers. Use the needle-nose pliers to curve the ends of the red and black cables into hooks.

Attach the red cable to the top screw on the two-screw side of the second switch. Attach the black cable to the top screw on the single-screw side of the second switch. Use the same method as described for the first switch to secure the cables in place.

Strip 1 inch from a length of black 14 gauge, two-wire cable and white 14 gauge, two-wire cable. Bend the tip of the black cable into a hook.

Attach the black cable to the bottom screw of the second switch in the same manner as before.

Use a wire nut to splice the white cable from the first switch to the white cable at the second switch. Use the same method as described to connect the white cable from the power source to the white cable at the first switch.

Run the black and white cables from the second switch to the ceiling light box.

Strip 1 inch from the black and white cables. Curve the ends into hooks. Attach the cables to the screws on the light fixture in the same way you attached the cables to the screws on the switches.

Turn on the power at the breaker box. Turn all the switches in the panel to "ON." Turn the ceiling light on and off from both switches to test the connections.

Things You Will Need

  • 2 3-way switches
  • 14 gauge, 3-wire electrical cable (black, white, and red)
  • 14 gauge, 2-wire electrical cable (black and white)
  • Wire nuts
  • Screwdriver
  • Wire strippers
  • Insulated needle-nose pliers

About the Author

Kenrick Callwood has been involved in Internet marketing since 2007 and his work has appeared in numerous online publications. His main areas of expertise are psychology, travel and Internet marketing. He holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from California Polytechnic University.