You can use the white as a switch leg if it is marked with black tape or
That is the only way to do it if your hot feed is at the light box. (Well
you could run 2 cables or a 12/3 but then you have unused wires which is
just as, if not more, confusing later on).
I always do my switch leg connections so that I end up with a black
(switched) and white (neutral) coming out of the light box.
If you have power at the switch box then you don't have the problem.
From what I have experienced it seems like most people don't bother to mark
the white switch legs properly, even on relitivly new construction.
I have seen a bit of scribble with a ball point pen or 'sharpie' which 9
times out of 10 gets painted over by the painters.
As Kevin said runs to a regular switch (or 3 way switch) can be made
with 2 (or 3) wire Romex. The white wire can be used as the hot wire
feed to the switch (but not the switched wire). As Kevin said the wire
color must be permanently changed everywhere it is accessible. (2005NEC
Everything you've described so far "works" circuit wise, but probably
not code wise.
But you didn't mention what's with the white of the incoming power at
Switch 1. Does it just dead end there or does something else connect to it?
And, what does the return (hopefully white) from that unrelated light
controlled by the second switch in the "Switch 2 box" connect to?
Hopefully it comes back to that box and connects to the white of the
"second power source". If it doesn't, you may have even more of a mess
than you've described already.
But, what do you mean when saying you want to wire the added light
"between Switch 1 and Switch 2"? That question could be taken a few
Anyway, I agree with what the others have already said. What you've
described is a ghastly abortion and shouldn't be left that way to trap
someone in the future.
I couldn't help noticing you never once mentioned anything about ground
conductors. Is the place so old that those aren't used?
Since you felt you needed to ask here, I hope you'll follow the majority
advice you'll undoubtedly be receiving. A little knowledge can be a
Thank you for the feedback and suggestions. The "second power source"
in box 2 is on a different circuit breaker in the same breaker box. I
had to flip two breakers to make sure all wires in box 2 were dead. I
imagine the other three-way switches in the house are wired this same
way. ;-( I guess I should fix them all. Did they not have codes 35
After I fix the "second power source" problem by replacing the 12/2
with a 12/3 cable between the two switches I plan on pulling an
additional 12/2 cable to box 2 and pigtail it with the switched
outlet's cable and pull it up to my new light.
The hot and neutral are from different circuits. In addition to being a
code violation as wired the neutral can be overloaded if the 2 breakers
aren't on different phases. Your solution is the right one.
From box 2 connect the black of the new light cable to the black wire on the
Connect the new white wire with the neutrals in box 2.
The only thing I would worry about is if the 2 hots of box 1 and 2 are both
on the same breaker. They should be.
You may need to change out box 2 to a deeper box.
You could run your new light cable from box 1 if you want to reconfigure box
2 so that the outlet is full time hot.
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.