3-way switch with only one switch having neutral wire

I recently bought a house and I can only conclude that whoever did the wiring must have been smoking crack. With some patience I’ve been able to overcome most of these issues, however yesterday I tried to replace a 3-way switch and there was only a neutral wire in one of the switch boxes. Other than a smart switch that does not require a neutral wire, I really have no options of installing a smart switch here, right?

Please see this very useful thread that discusses the options you have:

I have nothing helpful to say but a comment about this. When I was redoing a 3 way in my last house for the basement lights (switch at top and bottom of stairs) I was trying to find where they got a neutral for the light above the upstairs switch. The box just had the hot, traveler, and ground. But the hot (load) went up into the wall. Turns out there was no neutral…they wired the lights neutral to the ground then wired the ground to the switches ground. Apparently that light was a after thought and they couldn’t be bothered with doing it properly. Some people are just stupid, really lazy, or both. Or possibly smoking crack.

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watch this

This is for a standard 3 way switch. I’ve installed several of these already. My question was around not having a nuetral wire in one of the switch boxes.

You have wiring options, but they all involve running additional wires to that box, which is why @ritchierich gave you the link to the wiring FAQ. Many different options are discussed in that thread so you might check it out.

Your other alternative is to use a battery operated switch at the auxiliary position so you don’t have to deal with the wiring at all.

There are several choices for these. Lutron Caseta switches are very well engineered. You use one of their master switches in the master position and then use their pico remotes in the auxiliary position. The pico is a battery powered device that has a 10 year battery. You would also need their smartbridge in order to get SmartThings integration. ( One SmartBridge can handle up to 40 Lutron devices) This is a very popular choice for houses with old wiring, regardless of the particular configuration.


The other alternative is a smart switch cover which fits over the existing switch. There are several of these available now.

In all the zwave/zigbee options with a battery operated device, the auxiliary talks to The Smartthings hub and then the hub send the message to the master to actually turn on the light.

The following thread shows the battery operated devices that work with SmartThings, including the switch covers. There are also some mains powered Devices there, so read the descriptions carefully.

So while none of those are perfect, it does give you three options.

One) run some additional wires. For details on that, see the GE wiring FAQ.

Two) use the Lutron Caseta devices for both the master (Caseta Switch) and the auxiliary (Pico remote).

  1. use whatever smart master switch you want at the master position and use one of the other battery powered devices at the auxiliary position. See the buttons FAQ for those devices.

Can you take pictures off that box

@JDRoberts, thank you for your reply, I appreciate your thoughtful response. It’s nice to know there are some options available.

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I’m out of town for business all week so getting a picture won’t happen. If I remember correctly, there just a 14-3 Rolex wire with a black, red, white and ground wire hooked up to the 3 way in the box. I even pulled the box out of the wall in the hopes that the neutral wire was back there, and just not pulled into the box.

If you have red, black, white and ground the white should be your neutral.

Can you discribe second box, if what I’m thinking you have 2 traveler and you can you one of them to get neutral from the other box and other traveler stay as traveler

Not necessarily. Here in US wire color isn’t consistent. In a situation where a 14-3 Romex is the only wire in a switch box, the white is either a traveler or load.

@Josh_Slade needs to determine which 3-way setup he has so we can help him reconfigure the wiring, if possible, to make this work. That’s why I suggested looking at the FAQ thread. If power first goes to the light fixture, then setting up smart switches that require a neutral won’t be possible without changing the fixture wiring as an example.

The second box is a single switch, with one 14-3 romex wire coming into it. All wires are hooked up to the switch. Any description beyond that will have to wait till after I get back home.

3way switch
see the attachment and let me know if you wiring it the same if not draw a picture

Sorry that it took me so long to respond to this. Was out of town for business then out of the country for a couple weeks and I finally have some time to look at this again. Here are picture of both switches. The first one is the switch that only has the 3 wire romex. There is no neutral wire in this box. The second box does have a neutral wire, but it’s kind of hard to see in there.


As far as how it’s wired, I’m pretty sure it’s this way.

. I’ve got 5 recessed lights that are on this three way switch. If I would have to rewire the lights as well, I’m probably going to just look into putting a non smart motion switch in this room.

Okay, assuming you understand that you need the master AND and an add on switch for the second switch location then you are good to go here.

The add on requires just a traveler, neutral and ground. You can send the neutral over the white on the 14-3 Romex. The black at the add-on will just get capped.

check out

I do have a master and slave switch. Do I wire the master up like normal, and then just hook up the traveler, neutral (white romex wire) and ground at the slave?

Basically yes. The master gets the live/hot, load (the light), traveler, neutral and ground. In the neutral bundle tie in the white from the Romex that goes to the other switch location. Then at the add on connect the neutral that is now fed from the other location, the traveler and ground. Cap off the black. Should be good to go.

Well I guess I didn’t look closely enough. Looks like neither switch box has a neutral wire.