How to Install an Outdoor Lighting Fixture for an Easy Home Upgrade

Level up your light game

Mizuki Hisaka
Written by Mizuki Hisaka
Updated May 11, 2022
Friends talking next to a campfire in the evening
Photo: AJ_Watt / E+ / Getty Images
Difficulty

Challenging

Only DIY if you know what you're doing.

Time to complete

2 hours

1–2 hours

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What you'll need:

TOOLS

  • Ladder or step-stool
  • Screwdriver or electrical screwdriver
  • Utility or putty knife
  • Electrical tape
  • Caulk gun
  • Pliers
  • Wire nuts
  • Level
  • Safety glasses
  • Multimeter or voltage detector tool
  • Mounting block (optional)
  • Electrical wire (optional)

SUPPLIES

  • Outdoor light fixture
  • Light bulb
  • Clear, silicone-based outdoor caulk

Updating your outdoor lighting is a simple way to increase the curb appeal of your home. A well-lit exterior means fewer chances of stumbling in the dark, and bright lights increase the security of your property. If you have some electrical experience and want to install a new fixture, here is how you can get it done in a couple of hours.

Prepping to Install an Outdoor Lighting Fixture

First things first: If you don’t have electrical experience, hire a licensed electrician instead of trying to do it on your own. Working with electricity is very dangerous and should only be done by people with experience and training.

9 Steps to Installing an Outdoor Lighting Fixture

Porch with a vintage light fixture on
Photo: YinYang / iStock / Getty Images Plus / Getty Images

There are many outdoor lighting options available, from smart security lighting to trendy wall lighting. Whether you want to install lighting in a brand new spot or simply want to replace an old fixture, here are the nine steps to get it done.

  1. Turn off the Power

    Whether you’re installing a brand-new fixture or replacing an existing one, you’ll start by turning off power to the main circuit breaker. Use a multimeter or a voltage detector tool to double-check that there is no power before you get started. This step only takes a few minutes and is a potentially life-saving measure, so don’t skip it.

  2. Prep the Junction Box

    If you’re replacing an existing lighting fixture, skip to step 5. 

    If you’re installing a brand new lighting fixture, figure out which junction box you’ll use for the light switch. Most likely, you’ll use the one closest to the door for convenience. Remove the cover to get to the wiring.

  3. Install the Mounting Block

    Decide where you want the light outside, and install the mounting block with an electrical screwdriver. Drill a hole through the siding and wall, and feed electrical wire until it reaches the junction box for the light switch.

  4. Finish the Junction Box

    • Connect the new electrical wire with the existing electrical wiring. 

    • Connect the ground wire to the green screw. 

    • Take the black wires and twist them together.

    • Install a wire nut. Do the same for the white wires.

    • Reinstall the faceplate on the junction box. 

    Now, you’re ready to install the lighting fixture outside.

  5. Remove the Lighting Fixture

    If you’re installing a brand new lighting fixture, skip to step 6.

    If you’re replacing an old fixture, start by removing the lightbulb, and then remove the mounting screws. There are usually two of them on either side of the fixture. You may be able to loosen the screws by hand, or use pliers if necessary. 

    Next, if there is caulk along the edges of the fixture, put on safety goggles and cut the caulk away with a utility or putty knife. Once that’s done, you can tug at the fixture until it pops out, and then follow these steps:

    • Remove the ground wire by loosening the green screw. 

    • Unscrew the wire nuts on the ground wires, black wires, and white wires. You can save the wire nuts to reuse later. 

    • Unscrew the old bracket and remove it.

  6. Install the New Bracket

    Whether you’re starting from scratch or replacing an existing fixture, your new light fixture will come with a new bracket. Use a level to make sure it’s nice and straight, and make sure that the screw holes are positioned correctly for the fixture. Tighten the mounting posts and the bracket very well.

  7. Attach the Grounding Wires

    • Slide the grounding wire behind the green nut and tighten. 

    • Wrap the bare copper ground wire from the light fixture to the ground wire from the junction box. 

    • Screw on a wing nut, and wrap it in black electrical tape. The tape will ensure that moisture won’t leak inside.

  8. Attach the Black and White Wires

    • Next, take the black wires and twist them together. 

    • Attach a wing nut and wrap it in electrical tape. 

    • Repeat the same process with the white wires. 

    • When you’re done, push the wires back into the junction box.

  9. Attach the New Light Fixture

    • Take the new fixture and place it onto the bracket. 

    • Install the screw caps and tighten them with pliers.

    • Use clear, silicone outdoor caulk and caulk the top and sides of the fixture. You can leave the bottom undone so that any moisture has a way to drain.

    • Screw in a new lightbulb before installing any covers and additional pieces of the lighting fixture.

Skip the Electrical and Go Solar

If you want to do a DIY outdoor lighting project without doing any electrical work, choose solar. Solar lights in landscaping are a great way to bring your yard to life without making a dent in your electrical bill. These lights require no hard wiring so you only need to know how to mount and install them on your house exterior, on your fence, or in your yard.

Solar outdoor lighting fixtures range from $10 to $200 or more, depending on the design and quantity.

DIY Installing an Outdoor Lighting Fixture vs. Hiring a Pro

If you have some electrical know-how, you will likely find that replacing a lighting fixture is a reasonably straightforward task. If you install the lighting fixture on your own, the main cost will be the new fixture. These cost $20 to $200 or more. The caulk and lightbulb will run you $10.

On the other hand, hire a pro if you have a complex installation in mind or if you have zero electrical experience. It’s also a good idea to call and vet an outdoor lighting designer if you’re replacing the fixture as part of a major overhaul.

By hiring a licensed and reputable electrician, you can be confident that the work is done correctly and safely. You should never attempt to do electrical work if you are inexperienced, as it can be dangerous or even life-threatening.

For a basic light fixture installation, an electrician will cost $70 to $200 for the labor, plus the cost of the lighting fixture.

Need professional help with your project?
Get quotes from top-rated pros.