Please help decipher my wiring

I am trying to wire in a GE smart switch to a 4 way setup that controls two light fixtures. I can’t for the life of me figure out how to set them up. I can’t even find a 4 way diagram that matches what I have. The diagrams I see have 3 wire cables run between the switches and mine only has 2 wire cables. Most wiring in my house has a a neutral but this setup only has it in one box and there doesn’t appear to be a way to wire it to the other switches. I’ll attach a few pictures that may shed a little light on it but any help is appreciated. Thanks!

You need to determine what every segment of every circuit does. If you don’t know how to do that, it’s best to bring in an electrician.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to do it yourself and you live near a Home Depot, most have free classes on how to install a light switch. That won’t cover network switches, but you will learn how to use the appropriate tools and map your circuits.

Since home Depot also sells some network switches, including the GE zwave models, the instructor may be able to answer some specific questions as well.

But in the US, most wire color is not mandated by code, and people can and do use any color for anything, especially if it’s near the end of the day and there’s only one roll of wire left in the toolbox. So you it’s best to start by mapping circuits.

In future, it’s also helpful if you take pictures of both the front and the back of the existing switches, including where the wires connect to the screws on the back, so that you can at least put things back if you need to.


Just to clear up the confusion, there are two mandatory color codes as specified by national code. The first is green (or bare copper) which is always ground. The second is white (off white or grey) which is always neutral. White can be remarked as a current carrying conductor by the application of black tape or paint. The ground (green) cannot be used as a current carrying conductor. Any color other white, grey, or green can be used to denote a conductor which carries current.

In the OPs photo, it is not clear if the white conductors have been relabeled. If the switch is a 4-way it’s important to know where in the chain it is, this will help to understand what the conductors are for. In this case ana electrician may be required.

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Good catch, thanks for the correction. :sunglasses:

Things are further complicated by the fact that the national code is not a national law, and local jurisdictions can adopt it partially or even not at all. There are places in the US where a neutral is not required to be white/gray, although it most commonly is. And of course in any individual home there’s no guarantee that things are wired to code anyway. So it’s always best to map first.

Also, it helps to have a wire tracer like this one:

And a simple voltage tester:

Turn off power to the circuit and use this to trace which wires go where. I usually pull all of the switches out of the boxes after turning off the power, then remove the wires from the switches, spread out the wires so they aren’t touching, and then turn the power back on while I figure out where the power comes in. Then once you have that figured out, turn off all the power again and use the tracer to figure out which wire goes where (i.e., which go to the fixture, which travel between the boxes, etc. Once you map that all out, it becomes a lot easier to figure out how to wire the switch properly.