Monday, October 28, 2013

Philadephia Three Way

Even though pulling wire is one of life's most miserable tasks, actually running electricity isn't terribly difficult.

However, wiring a three-way switch will separate the men from the boys fairly quickly.

Looks simple enough right?

And it really isn't that bad... until you meet up with the deadly romex squid

Squid : Boat :: Romex : Occupy
Oops, wrong photo! I mean:

Used with permission, Occupy archives. I should have drawn a boat on this wall.
Throw in lots of knob and tube, crumbly walls, and other 100 year old remedies, and you definitely have a titanic situation on your hands.

The players:

Existing downstairs switch on foyer wall (right-most switch is the current live 3-way for hall light, the bottom left powers the dining room overhead fixture... and the other switch? no clue after three years living here)

Existing upstairs 3-way switch, in the middle of hallway

Existing hallway light, coil of romex fished into this ceiling two years ago. 

The hall light is currently powered by the old knob and tube circuit, commonly referred to as circuit #3 on the occupy site.

I'll be quite honest: I have no idea how this light is fed.  The hot wire comes from somewhere, and the three-way system works. I am not exactly itching to redo this circuit.

Goal: To wire a 3-way switch, fed by a new circuit (circuit #12)

The good news:

The bad news:
  • I don't exactly love messing with this sketchy knob and tube.  The hots and neutrals are everywhere.. sharing neutrals back to the box, wiried with whatever metal these guys could pick up from the scrap yard.
  • Existing circuit #3 powers the overhead lights in both the kitchen and dining. I can't mess this up.

Since I love doing everything the hard way, let's jump into the upstairs switch first.  It is the most cramped in terms of space and has the hot feed to deal with.

Zoom into this photo.  You can see that neutral connected by a piece of guitar string or similar.  Holy shit.  Directly touching a metal box no less.

I've seen a lot of garbage in my life. This is pretty high on the list. Let's reach in deep and grab hold of the deadly romex squid

I was thinking about re-using the switch box at first, but there was just no way I was going to cram all those 12/2 wires back into that crumbly hole.
Shiver me timbers! The squid's got a hold on me.. better sketch up quick diagram to ensure that I weather the storm:

I actually didn't have an appropriate diagram from my electrical book, so I had to come up with my own interpretation.
Cut em short, stuff em into new box

I have no idea if any of these existing wires are the feeds or not.  In the meantime, I'll sling a lasso around them in case they fall into the abyss.

Roughed in
Making the connections.  

One down. While we are upstairs, let's focus on the wiring the fixture. this should be easy.

Reach into ceiling hole, grab romex.

Crap. No electrical box.  I better install one.  You all know know how much I love cutting into these ceilings.

Stuff box in there, pull wires through.
Install fixture, hook up wires


Two down.  Time to dig into the downstairs switch.

Look how tiny the switch is!
Old school 3-wire, color coded cloth for your convenience
I just had to drill some holes in these studs to bring the three wire across.

Pop in a 3-gang: 1) three-way hall light 2) dining room light 3) outside light

Wire up the new travelers to the 3-way (right), and the existing cloth romex for the dining room light (middle)

Flip the switches (*keeps fingers crossed*)


Success!  Always a good feeling, albeit a rare one on the occupy site.

Place a dummy switch in there for good measure, I still have to ace a hole through the bricks in the front of the house to make this a reality.  Not happening tonight.

Even though its like 12:30 am on a work night, that still qualifies for Beer:30

At least I'm not drinking in the dark. Until next time loyal reader.

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