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Residential Wiring
Connections Tutorial

I've Unwired and I Can't Hook Back Up!

There are many reasons people search the web for house wiring diagrams. Some are in the process of designing a wiring project. Some are in the middle of one but wondering if they have exhausted their experience and if there is more help than their home improvement book gives. Such people may find this page helpful. But the page is designed, most of all, to help when you have been replacing or tinkering with electrical components and you have disrupted the way the wiring was connected. I want to help you get things back into working order. The homeowner who is tackling the minor brain surgery of redoing wiring connections in an electrical box might as well be an apprentice. So here is some of your training. Or if you are an electrical apprentice (trainee), your boss or foreman may wonder how you got smart so fast. Here is how you did. By the nature of the matter, this page will not give you all the steps to get you to your desired result, as if you were designing your home electrical wiring from scratch. Instead I give you all the principles for understanding what you have, so you might restore it yourself without resorting to an electrician. Most of my website deals with electrical malfunctions that occur on their own, from normal wear and tear, or from poor workmanship coming home to roost. This page is for when "I've unwired and I can't hook back up."

Other pages of this site that are relevant here include:

Upgrading -for the common mistakes when replacing items
GFIs -to understand their hook-up and reasons they trip
3-Ways -to see their variety of hook-ups
Home inspection -to correct "opens" and polarity
Circuit tour -for a good look at typical circuit wiring and connections
Cable combinations -diagrams of the connections in most switch, light, and outlet boxes
Double circuits -to help you recognize this common tricky oddity
Testing -how to, and why not to sometimes
General background -to get the basics about circuits

Relevant terms found in the Glossary include: 3-Way  Cable  Common  Gang  Ground  Hot  Jumper  Neutral  Pigtail  Terminal  Traveler  Wire.

To help your navigation, I have put the charts' and diagrams' commentaries in frames. To study this material seriously, you may want to print out the text, charts and/or diagrams. For doing that, use the "New windows" links or click on the diagrams. Copyright

How to Use this Tutorial: The charts, diagrams, and commentary come first. I encourage you to expose yourself to their details first. On the other hand, I don't want them to make you too bold, so that you dive into your problem without the cautions and suggestions I make in the last section called "Ways to Apply All This." So you might want to browse ahead somewhat into that section.  Disclaimer

1. Get Acquainted with this Cable-and-Wire Functions Chart

Code Cable Nickname White
in Typical
p 2-

"power" neutral hot -- between
A3 & A4
L "light/leg" neutral switched -- between
A2 & A1
h "loop" hot switched -- between
B3 & B4
x (3-way)
traveler traveler -- also...
n 3-

hot or
switched or
(not neutral)
hot or
switched or
hot or
switched or
B2 & C2
t (3-way)
neutral traveler traveler between
A7 & B7
f "fed" neutral hot switched between
C3 & D3 or
B5 & C5
m "multiple" hot or
switched switched 2009
Larry Dimock
d "double" neutral hot hot also...
New window for chart.


2. See Examples -- Diagrams and Commentary
a. Switch Diagrams

Figures 1 & 2

House wiring diagram of switch connections
Residential switch wiring connections 

b. Light Diagrams

Figures 3 & 4

Electrical connections at light fixtures
Electrical training diagram - light box hook ups 

Figure 5

Light wires diagram for electrical trainees 

c. Receptacle Diagrams

Figures 6 & 7

Wiring instruction - receptacle diagram
Receptacle diagram for electrical apprentices 

3. Is Your Situation in this Cable-and-Box Chart?

  New window for chart.

4. Ways to Apply All This -- Do's and Don'ts

© 2009 Larry Dimock

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