How JustAnswer Works:

  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site.
    Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.

Ask Rich Your Own Question

Rich
Rich, Master Electrician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 1801
Experience:  Over 35 years residential, commercial, industrial wiring, install, troubleshoot, service, maintain
5098113
Type Your Electrical Question Here...
Rich is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

I want to put an entirely new light fixture into my living

Resolved Question:

I want to put an entirely new light fixture into my living room ceiling. I don't know how to figure out where in the ceiling I already have wiring that I could tap in to. I have a 3-way switch that I can tell is wired, but doesn't seem to go to anything, so ideally I'd like to figure out where that wire goes so I can use it to control the new fixture. Is there some easy way to tell where the wire that the 3-way switch is wired to runs in the room?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Electrical
Expert:  Rich replied 1 year ago.

Rich : Hello. I can help you today. Rich
Customer:

Hi Rich.

Customer:

I'm Mike.

Customer:

So what do I need to know?

Rich :

do you have any kind of voltage testor ? is this accessable in an attic space ?

Customer:

yes

Customer:

yes to the tester.

Customer:

no about attic access.

Customer:

ground floor of a 3-floor home

Rich :

does the testor have wires or just rings when you nget close to power ?

Customer:

you seem to be talking about a different sort of tester than I have, I think.

Rich :

is there a box where you want to put this new light ?

Customer:

here's what I have available to me.

Customer:

1) a voltage meter

Customer:

2) a tool that will tell me what breaker goes to a particular outlet

Customer:

and 3)...

Customer:

hang on, let me grab it downstairs...

Customer:

the third is a continuity tester.

Customer:

I don't have anything that I can, for example, run along the ceiling to find where wiring might be

Rich :

ok .. well the 3 way would normally switch a light in the room it is in ,, or the room that is next to it .. or it may be switching an outlet

Rich :

does any of that make sense ?

Rich :

is there an existing electrical box where you want the new light ?

Customer:

Yes, I know how they are supposed to work. We've tested every outlet in the room bounded by the 2 3-way switches (that I assume work together) but it doesn't seem to currently control anything.

Customer:

there is currently no electrical box. That's what I want to add.

Rich :

have you taken the switch out of the wall ?

Customer:

That's why I need to find the power in the ceiling.

Customer:

I have pulled the cover off, but not take the switch out of the wall...

Rich :

Ok .. no box .. so you understand that it means cutting out plaster on the wall and ceiling if you want to conceal the wiring

Customer:

yes

Customer:

wait, wall AND ceiling? Not just ceiling?

Rich :

can you see what color wires are on the three terminals on the switch

Customer:

just a sec.

Rich :

ceiling would be a lot of luck to find the wire where you wanted the lightn

Customer:

red, white, and black.

Rich :

how close are the two 3way switches .. wondering if the shortest distance between them is around a wall the usual .. or over the ceiling route

Customer:

the shortest distance is likely through the ceiling. they are on opposing sides of the living room.

Customer:

maybe 20 to 25 feet?

Customer:

and they don't share a wall

Rich :

OK red white black ,, then this sounds like the end of the line .. the power and switch leg are in the other switch box ,, i think

Customer:

okay, let me take the other plate off, and see what it has.

Rich :

OK if this is true ,, power on the other end .. then using this 3wire would not work for as new light

Rich :

you would need to find the switch leg .. that goes from the other switch to whatever it is controlling

Customer:

the other one appears to be black, black, and red.

Rich :

when you tested the outlets .. did you test top and bottom of the outlets .. sometimes they are split bottom switched .. top hot

Customer:

yes

Rich :

yes the black black red would be typical for the switch with the power and switch leg

Customer:

my guess is that when this place was renovated, the guy intended to do something with this 3-way switch, but ended up not...

Rich :

how old is the house ?

Rich :

when was the renovation

Customer:

there is another 3-way switch right next to the ones I am working on that control the recessed lighting.

Customer:

originally 1910, but renovated in 2006.

Customer:

turned into a 3-unit condeo

Customer:

er condo

Rich :

where is the recessed lighting in the room just trying to get a mental picture

Rich :

do you think that thye old ceilings have been lowered in the renovation

Customer:

there a 5 recessed lights, 1 in each corner (roughly) and one off-center.

Rich :

new plaster ceiling

Customer:

hard to sya... the ceiling is 10 to 12 feet.

Customer:

I think new plaster

Rich :

nope too high for to have been dropped

Customer:

I'm usually pretty handy... I get the feeling, though, that I should probably hire someone to help...

Rich :

well .. action plans .. there is a tool that is used to trace circuits in walls .. can be rented in some localities .. send a radio signal along the wire and can be traced ... could open up outlet boxes looking for an extra wire dead ended . probably close to that second switch .. could look in the recessed light in the center oif the room and see if it is dead ended there

Rich :

none of this is a sure thing .. have worked in a lot of old farm houses in new england ,, alway a surprise how they are wired

Customer:

I have a "digital circuit detective", but I don't think it's going to help... Looks like you'd use it to find the circuit breaker that ties to a given outlet or light fixture...

Rich :

how does that work .. attach to wire and then get signal at breaker ? maybe attach to wire at swiotch and see if it reacts at an outlet ??? do not know how that tester works ,.

Rich :

I kinda told you how i would rry to find it .. maybe that thing could help ?

Customer:

plug in to outlet, then the other piece is a transmitter of some sort. hold it up to the breaker, press a button

Customer:

it might.

Customer:

I've never used it... I bought it when I was trying to replace an outside outlet.

Customer:

Let me try something.

Customer:

tried using it to see if it could identify the switch to a known switched outlet... didn't seem to work.

Customer:

let me try one other thing. hang on.

Rich :

the wire you are looking for may not be attached to anything .. just a thought in the rewire

Customer:

that thought occurred to me.

Customer:

Voltage meter would tell me if there is power, yes?

Customer:

damn, now I need to find my volt meter... not where I thought it was...

Rich :

yes .. but that wire may not be connected ,, may be lurking in back of box

Customer:

got power to one of the switches

Customer:

checking the otehr

Customer:

it appears to have power, too...

Customer:

so what the hell are they wired to..

Customer:

Okay... I think I'm giving up and hiring someone....

Customer:

I appreciate the help.

Rich :

switches may show power .. but if nothing on end of wire then nothing will be controlled

Customer:

ah...

Rich :

the wire may dead end in a box som,ewhere ..

Customer:

think I need to pull the switches out then?

Customer:

how can I track down that box?

Rich :

I would guess in a outlet box near the second switch ,, black black red .. or in the center light fixture

Rich :

will be a guiessing game

Customer:

Okay... I'll bring in a professional, I guess...

Customer:

Thanks for your help, Rich.

Rich, Master Electrician
Category: Electrical
Satisfied Customers: 1801
Experience: Over 35 years residential, commercial, industrial wiring, install, troubleshoot, service, maintain
Rich and other Electrical Specialists are ready to help you

JustAnswer in the News:

 
 
 
Ask-a-doc Web sites: If you've got a quick question, you can try to get an answer from sites that say they have various specialists on hand to give quick answers... Justanswer.com.
JustAnswer.com...has seen a spike since October in legal questions from readers about layoffs, unemployment and severance.
Web sites like justanswer.com/legal
...leave nothing to chance.
Traffic on JustAnswer rose 14 percent...and had nearly 400,000 page views in 30 days...inquiries related to stress, high blood pressure, drinking and heart pain jumped 33 percent.
Tory Johnson, GMA Workplace Contributor, discusses work-from-home jobs, such as JustAnswer in which verified Experts answer people’s questions.
I will tell you that...the things you have to go through to be an Expert are quite rigorous.
 
 
 

What Customers are Saying:

 
 
 
  • You did one super job of explaining to me everything there is to know about this fridge. I'm looking forward to asking you questions in the future. Jimmy Bagley, IA
< Last | Next >
  • You did one super job of explaining to me everything there is to know about this fridge. I'm looking forward to asking you questions in the future. Jimmy Bagley, IA
  • Wonderful service, prompt, efficient, and accurate. Couldn't have asked for more. I cannot thank you enough for your help. Mary C. Freshfield, Liverpool, UK
  • This expert is wonderful. They truly know what they are talking about, and they actually care about you. They really helped put my nerves at ease. Thank you so much!!!! Alex Los Angeles, CA
  • Thank you for all your help. It is nice to know that this service is here for people like myself, who need answers fast and are not sure who to consult. GP Hesperia, CA
  • I couldn't be more satisfied! This is the site I will always come to when I need a second opinion. Justin Kernersville, NC
  • Just let me say that this encounter has been entirely professional and most helpful. I liked that I could ask additional questions and get answered in a very short turn around. Esther Woodstock, NY
  • Thank you so much for taking your time and knowledge to support my concerns. Not only did you answer my questions, you even took it a step further with replying with more pertinent information I needed to know. Robin Elkton, Maryland
 
 
 

Meet The Experts:

 
 
 
  • Mike

    Master Electrician

    Satisfied Customers:

    1425
    Licensed Master Electrician - OnQ Certified Data Voice Audio Video Installer
< Last | Next >
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/mikepettinato/2009-9-4_41145_DSC005132.jpg Mike's Avatar

    Mike

    Master Electrician

    Satisfied Customers:

    1425
    Licensed Master Electrician - OnQ Certified Data Voice Audio Video Installer
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/WI/WireitUp/2012-6-17_18212_Photo00006.64x64.jpg Jason's Avatar

    Jason

    Service Technician

    Satisfied Customers:

    3278
    Over 15 years of experience in all types of installations, troubleshooting, and repairs.
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/MI/MikeG2010/2012-6-7_192640_IMG01612.64x64.jpg Mike G.'s Avatar

    Mike G.

    Master Electrician

    Satisfied Customers:

    5318
    Proven Professional 45 years Experience
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/AS/AssuredElectrical/2011-9-13_221243_me.64x64.gif AssuredElectrical's Avatar

    AssuredElectrical

    Master Electrician

    Satisfied Customers:

    2149
    Contractor-40 Years in the ElectricalTrade
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/electrifier/2008-12-16_200429_headbob1.jpg electrifier's Avatar

    electrifier

    Master Electrician

    Satisfied Customers:

    1454
    Electrical contractor and electrical inspector for over 24 years with phone and networking expertise
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/rich03dungo/2010-3-17_101556_tshirt2.jpg Rich's Avatar

    Rich

    Master Electrician

    Satisfied Customers:

    1115
    Over 35 years residential, commercial, industrial wiring, install, troubleshoot, service, maintain
  • http://ww2.justanswer.com/uploads/UR/urelectrician/2012-9-28_223652_JustAnswerPic.64x64.jpg Kevin's Avatar

    Kevin

    Licensed Electrician

    Satisfied Customers:

    993
    27 years as a Licensed Electrical Contractor in Illinois, 5 year college Electrical Instructor, Former Electrical Inspector, Diploma in Digital Electronics, Former Illinois Licensed Home Inspector
 
 
 

Related Electrical Questions

Chat Now With An Electrician
Rich
Rich
Retired Master Electrician
1115 Satisfied Customers
Over 35 years residential, commercial, industrial wiring, install, troubleshoot, service, maintain