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Bought a new pendant light fixture to hang over stair case.

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Bought a new pendant light fixture to hang over stair case. 3-way switches at top and bottom of stairs. Followed instructions for red to red, bare copper to bare copper, one black to one white then light fixture wires to another set of black and white. However I still have two wires left over! A white one and a gray one. What are these? Cannot get new fixture to illuminate. The one I took down yester day burned just fine. What wires actually go together at teh fixture box?
Welcome. My name is XXXXX XXXXX would be glad to assist.

First, what kind of light fixture was in the location before you changed?

When you removed the light, did you undo all the wires inside the box that were not connected to the light itself?

Is your wiring in romex, conduit or metal sheathed cables?

Do you have a 2 lead voltage tester?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I took down an out-dated chandelier.

I did undo all the wires including those not attached to light fixture.

Wires are in romex -- 3 sets of wires showing:


One set has red, white and black.

Next set has red, white (which is wrapped in black electrcian's tape) and black.

Third set has white and gray and bare copper.


I do not have a 2 lead voltage tester. May be able to borrow one form my neighbor if he is at home.


Old fixture was buring just fine when I took it down. I have replaced every other fixture in our older home but this one -- with the 3-way wiring -- is eating my lunch!



Ok, thanks for the information.

It appears that they may have wired the switches through the light box. which some electricians did to save some money on cables.

So, we need to pull the 2 switches out of their boxes, leave the wiring INTACT and do not remove or undo any.

Look to see if there is one cable in each box or more than one.
Then what color wires are on the switches.
Which of those wires is on the ODD screw on the 3 way switch (different color than the other 2)

And how any other wires are connected in the box if not on the switches.

Now, need to look hard at the one cable in the light box.
They did not make romex with gray and white, so see if by chance it is black with paint on it or a different type of cable someone has used?

Know it is a lot, but since all the wires were disconnected, we know have to determine how the electrician originally wired the light and switches since there is no standard way but many different.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Both swtiches (bottom of stairs and top of stairs) are wried the same: one romex cable consisting of red, black and white wires. Black wire is on the left side of switch one one lone screw. Red wire on right side of swtich top screw and white wire on right side of switch bottom screw.


You are correct that third romex is white, black and bare copper. The black looks gray as it is dusty. The black wire in this romex has black electrciian's tape on it just like one of the white wires in another romex has. For some reason on black wire and one white wire -- in two different cables -- are tagged with black tape wraps.



Thanks so much.

Bear with me, only a little more and we should be good and now what they wired.

Now, since no tester:

Turn off the breaker, then wire your light to the black and white of the 2 wire romex.

Turn on the breaker, and see if the light comes on.
That is most likely the main power in the box and that is one thing we need to know for sure.

Next, please look hard at the 3 way switches once more.
The black wire is on one side of the switch with only one screw.

IS that screw an odd color compared to the other 2 screws?

Or are all the screws the same color?

They changed switches over the years, and want to be sure what you have on yours.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.



Odd colored screw on both switches has the white wire connected. Matching colored screws have the black and red wires connected.


Borrowed a lead tester. Turned on breaker and determined that the black wire in the romex with the white and bare copper (the wire I originally thought was gray) is the hot wire or power wire in the ceiling. This black wire that tests as hot is the one that someone has wrapped some electrician's tape around.


Another white wire in the ceiling has electrician's tape on it as well. Not sure if that is significant or not.


3 romex cables -- white, black (tests hot), and bare copper

white, red, black

white (with electrician's tape on it), red, black

Ok, thanks. With the one white and tape made me suspicious on the wiring and the odd screw on the switches. That was a good observation as normally we use blacks on the odd screw.

Now, take the power black wire in the 2 wire romex, connect it to the white in the 3 wire cable that has no tape.

Take the red from each 3 wire each cable and connect them together with a wire nut

Take the blacks from each 3 wire cable and connect them together.with a wire nut

Take your fixture wires and connect the black to the white wire with tape.

Connect your white to the white wire from the 2 wire power cable.

Turn on power and check the switches for proper operation by flipping one switch and walk to the other one flipping it once and then back to the other one flipping it and back to the other once more.

I do it 3 times to insure the 3 ways are working properly.

Let me know
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

well... nothing happens

Decided to test the hot wire. Took an old light socket fixture from garage and wired straight to hot black and white from same romex. Lit up! But, when I tried to use switch to control it tripped the breaker. Did this twice.


Wired back up as you stated and still nothing happens. A real mystery.


Tried wiring new fixture straight to the hot black and the white as I did the old socket fixture from garage. Nothing. Makes me question the fixture itself.




Lets verify here, I am unsure of what is happening.

Did you wire it exactly as posted?

Tripping the breaker is when hot is shorted to the neutral or ground, so wondering if you connected the correct whites to the black?

With the wiring you gave on the switches, the white on the switch is for power and the other one for the light, and that is what I gave in the post.

Confirm which wires are connected together with wire nuts once more.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

went back and disconnected all wires and started over.

two red wires together

two black wires (not the power black) together

power black connected to white wire that does not have tape on it

light fixture black connected to white wire with the electrician's tape

light fixture white connected to withe wire from the romex which tested hot


switches have the white wire connected to the odd-colored screw (black screw) on bottom right of each switch



I tested the hot wire by directly connecting an old socket fixture from my garage. Light bulb lit but when I tried the switch the breaker blew.



Was there a light fixture connected to the wires when you tried the switch and it tripped the breaker?

If so, disconnect the fixture and try the switch with no light connected and see what happens.

Or, even better, take your old socket and connect to those wires and see what happens, since you have already used it to test for power and know it works well.


Customer: replied 3 years ago.



Thanks! Your wiring schematic was absolutely right! The fixture is buring nicely! Looks great even if it did take me more hours to install than I care to admit!


The problem was that when I tightened the final cover plate on the fixture to hide all the connections / box / wire connectors I cut through one of the fixture wires and caused a short. So, the breaker kept tripping as it should.


Fixed the cut wire issue. Followed your wiring schematic and now all is good!


Thank you and good night from south Texas.



Ok, that is great news, as I was trying to figure out why the breaker would be tripping.

Appreciate the update and glad all is well.

You are most welcome and I was glad to assist.
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