SHOP BY DEPARTMENT
Houzz Logo Print
pharkus

I hate old wiring...

pharkus
14 years ago

Okay well my friend's stepfather is a licensed electrician. I am not. I really can't explain how I've ended up working on his house.

Eitherhow, there's a light at the top of the stairs. You can control it from both ends - but only because this guy tied a long string that goes from the pullchain on the light all the way to the bottom of the stairs. There is a 3-way switch at the top of the stairs, but it doesn't go anywhere, and there is a 3-way switch in a 2-gang box at the bottom, but it only goes to the light at the bottom of the stairs.

Well we've been discussing for a week or so how the last guy probably just didn't know how to wire 3-ways, and how the wires were probably all there and just needed to be swapped around into the right order. I decided to tackle it today.

First, pull down the upstairs light fixture. Only two conductors. Knob & Tube. Yay. Well the switch wires aren't in there.

Downstairs light? Nope. Three conductors: two knob & tube, one that's actually the white wire of a piece of 12-2 romex, with the black and ground conductors just chopped off. wtf?

Downstairs switch box. Two pieces of 12-2. One is just a black wire - the white and ground have been chopped off again. The other wire is completely intact - bonus - except that the bare ground wire is wrapped in electrical tape. Huh?

Well it's a three-way switch. Maybe someone tried using the ground as a traveler. Bad idea but let's explore it. Get out the meter, and put the fuse back in. Yes, the *FUSE*. Little round screw-in thingy. Eitherhow, start testing, carefully.

Well the black wire of the intact romex goes to the 3-way's common terminal. It's hot at all times. Alright.

The white wire of the same romex goes to the 3-way's "DOWN" terminal. It's... also... hot... at all times. HUH?

And the bare ground? Well it's attached to the UP terminal, and powers the downstairs light... The other end of this is one of the k&t wires in the ceiling.

The single black wire in the downstairs box goes to the outside light, whose neutral is the single white wire in the downstairs light...

The wires from the switch upstairs don't appear ANYWHERE, and there is no voltage on the switch anywhere (tested to a known ground)

I was permitted to enlarge the hole around the downstairs light to try to follow the wires that way. I also pulled the switch box out of the wall. The wires from the switch disappear somewhere between the original plaster slats and the drywall!

I am not permitted to destroy the wall or the ceiling.

Son of a...

Comments (10)