Wiring a Snap Switch

For many, it might be really easy to wire a switch, but there are others who have difficulty in wiring a switch. All really depends on the type of switch. Any manually operated switch used in your electrical system is called a snap switch. Some of the examples of a snap switch are single-pole, three-way and four-way (double pole) light switches used in residential lighting circuits. The easiest light switch to wire among them is the single-pole switch, which are usually used for controlling a light from one area. The three-way switches function as a controller for light switches that you want to control from two different areas. As for the four-way light switches, they are commonly used to control lights from three or more areas in conjunction with the two three-way light switches.

What you need to do:

  1. Razor knife
  2. Wire strippers
  3. Needle-nose pliers
  4. Electrician’s pliers
  5. Wire nuts
  6. Screwdrivers
  7. Copper wire

Snap Switch


  1. Before starting any wiring work, you need to remove the outer plastic cover of the Romex cable by slitting its jacket using your razor knife. It must be started with 3/8 of an inch from where it enters the box. You must do this gently and carefully so as to not damage the insulation of the individual wires. Then, you have to cut the freed jacket from the cable ends.
  2. Next, you need to adjust the cutting depth of the wire strippers. This can be done by using a scrap piece of wire of the same size.
  3. Then, you have to loosen up the adjustment screw slightly and try to apply gently, but with enough force to the strippers in order for it to be able to cut through its insulation without accidentally cuts into the copper.
  4. You must ensure that the adjustment screw is secured tightly before you start to test the strippers on the scrap wire. The most important thing for you to do is to always check that the strippers are not biting into the copper.
  5. Then you need to strip 3/4-inch from the insulation up from the ends of the insulated wires inside your switch boxes.
  6. After that, you have to join the white wires together in each of the switch box. In order to make the join, you have to hold the stripped ends of the white wires side by side before twisting the wires securely with a clockwise movement by using your electrician’s pliers. Then, you have to screw on its wire nuts.
  7. Next, you need to cut bare copper wire into 6-inch to 8-inch pieces before making three-way join of the two bare copper wires in each of the switch box. You should make the joins exactly similar to the white neutral wires.
  8. By using the needle-nose pliers, make loops in the free ends of all the conductors in each of the switch box. You must make sure that the loops opening should be able to slip around a terminal screw.
  9. You must also attach a single-pole switch by connecting one of the black wires onto each of the brass screws. The loops that you made earlier need to be placed clockwise around the screws. Tighten the screws securely on the wires and this goes the same for the bare ground wire where you must connect it onto the green screw.
  10. After you connect the three-way switches by connecting the black wire, you will be able to generate electricity into the first switch box to the black screw on the first switch. After that, you must connect the black wire that already carries the electric power to the light, which is the black screw on the second switch. Make sure that the two traveler wires connecting the two three-way switches to the two brass screws on two of the switches. Whichever traveler wire you connect to which brass screw does not matter as long as it is connected to the brass screw while the bare ground wire should be connected to the green screws.
  11. It is recommended that you connect one or more four-way switches between the tow three way switches. This can be done by inserting the four-way switches in the traveler wires and which traveler wires that you choose to connect to which screw also does not matter because as long as each of the set of your traveler wires are connected to the brass screws and also on the same end of the switch, it will be fine. One set of the traveler sires must also be connected to the bottom set of the screws while another set needs to be connected to the top set of the screws.

Image Credit:

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Additional Reading:

Fashioning Technology: A DIY Intro to Smart Crafting

Switch Engineering Handbook