3-Way Wiring has me scratching my head. Am I going crazy?

@Bry just going to outright tag you on this one and I hope you can tell me I’m not going insane LOL

When we moved in here there were 2 empty light boxes for wall sconces. 3 years later the wife finally picked some lights she liked. Each box only has a single 14-2 wire going into it which I wired to the lights, so I know for sure they’re at the end.

The main switch in the entry is part of a 3-gang box. For this light there is a 14-2 coming from the top, a 14-2 coming from the bottom, and a 14-3 coming from the bottom. The whites on all 3 go into the same neutral bundle as the other switches in the box. Black from both 14-2 wires go into the common terminal (1 using push-in the other using the screw). Red and black from the 14-3 go into the other 2 screw terminals.

The other switch which is located in the living room on a wall that was added post contruction. It has a 14-3 coming in. Black goes to common, red goes above it, white on the other side (wtf??).

Here’s the diagram of what I’m looking at.

With everything disconnected on Switch 1, I get 0v between all wires and neutral. With everything disconnected on switch 2, I measure 70v (again wtf?) between black and white and also between red and white. 0v between black and red.

Switch 1 works properly and will turn the lights on/off. Switch 2 however will only control the lights when switch 1 is in the down position. If I put Switch 1 in the up position, switch 2 does nothing at all. I’m thinking the white and red are in the wrong position on Switch 2, but from what I’m seeing in the box for Switch 1 white should be neutral so that’s just wrong.

Am I right in thinking there must be another junction box here somewhere? Possibly buried inside a wall when they added this extra wall to separate the entrance and living room? There’s 1 plug on the circuit but it only has 14-2 in it. I’m not finding a 14-3 wire anywhere else on this circuit.

Rewired Switch 2 so at least now the dumb 3-way works properly. LOL

I think you’re correct. This looks like a light in the middle three-way. I’ll post a diagram below of a typical one. But as you suspect, I think there is another box that is serving as a j-box to feed the two lights. You don’t have to do it that way, but it’s not incorrect.

Looking at SW1, you have two 2-wires there. One is probably the Line (hot) feed and the other feeding a hot downstream to something else, the receptacle you mentioned maybe.

At SW2, I’d disconnect all three conductors to test. You’re correct something is switched. Not incorrect in terms of procedure, excepts it’s not working correctly. How those conductors connect to the switch is a function of how the two 3-wires in the j-box that you can’t find are connected.

Using a meter, test between each of the SW2 conductors and the ground. (You won’t have a neutral in that box.) As you are testing, operate SW1 back and forth. You are looking to identify the two conductors in SW2 that alternate hot as SW1 is flipped back and forth. Those two conductors go to the silver screws on SW2.

In theory, the third conductor in SW2 is connected to the hot side of the light(s). That conductor goes the the black screw in SW2.

Get it working properly with dumb switches first.

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In SW1 both of those 14-2’s have 0V when disconnected. My assumption was each of these wires went to a light (since both boxes for lights only have a single 14-2 in them, which also rules out light in the middle).

Edit: I do plan on hooking up a bridge wire so I can confirm this theory with my meter by testing continuity when unhooked at the switch.

You probably started typing while I was messing with switch 2 wiring. Check 2nd post with updated diagram. Both dumb switches are now working properly with White to common, Red above and Black on the other side.

OK, Confirmed the 2x 14-2 wires in SW1 connected to the common terminal are indeed to the lights. I unplugged 1, and only 1 light came on. Then plugged it back in and unplugged the other and only the other light came on.

So I think I’m going to simplify my life here. SW2 is in the most awkward place anyways, behind the couch and out of the way. I’m just going to cap the wires on both end, put a blanking plate at SW2, then steal power and neutral from the bundle that’s in the 3gang at SW1 and call it a day.

Yep, I was looking at the first drawing. I see your comment re neither of the 2-wires in SW1 being hot. That does suggest they are going to the lights.

You’re going to have to find the hot source. Are you sure neither of the 2-wire pairs in SW1 is hot? The thing that is perplexing is that if the two 2-wire in SW1 are going to the two lights, where is the neutral? The third white bundled with the two 2-wires is connected to SW2. So even if you say "Ok, I’m switching the neutral (which would be bad, btw), then where is the hot?

If you are sure neither of the 2-wires in SW1 are hot, then pull the white on SW2 and test between there and ground and see if that’s hot.

Yup, testing between white and ground it is hot.

That’s why I’m assuming there’s a junction box hidden somewhere in the wall here. Because the 14-3 coming out of SW1 has white bundled with neutral. But the 14-3 coming into SW2 does not have a neutral at all. Now confirming white is hot, it somewhere goes from neutral to hot which must mean there’s a hidden box somewhere.

Yeah, that sounds about right.

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Ultimately I did just that. I assume there’s a junction box hidden inside a wall somewhere from when they added this new wall in during a reno.

Capped off the ends of the 14-3 in both boxes. Put a blanking plate over SW2. Stole power and neutral from the other bundle in the 3 gang at SW1. Switch is in and working fine.

Thanks to our resident expert @Bry for helping me ensure I wasn’t losing my mind lol