How to Wire an Exterior Light Fixture

Written by michael straessle
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How to Wire an Exterior Light Fixture
Exterior sconce light fixture installed. (exterior light image by Adrian Hillman from

Exterior light fixtures not only add a new dimension to exterior home decor, but they also do the obvious: light up the exterior of your home. You can save money and time by wiring an exterior light fixture yourself. Make certain that the chosen fixture is for exterior purposes. If it is not obvious by the packaging, see if it has a rubber seal included to keep water away from the electrical connections. For new installations, measure the distance from the fixture to the electrical panel (include travelling up the wall if applicable) to determine how much wire is needed.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Variable speed drill
  • 1-inch paddle bit
  • Light switch junction box
  • Jigsaw
  • 3-wire electrical cable
  • Electrical tape
  • Utility knife
  • Wire strippers
  • Light switch
  • Screwdriver
  • Breaker

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  1. 1

    Locate the desired area for the exterior light fixture. Hold the mounting plate on the exterior surface and mark the centre of it on the surface. Drill a 1-inch hole on the centre mark into the wall or above head surface (e.g. carport ceiling).

  2. 2

    Mark the wall area for the light switch. Hold the light switch junction box on the wall and trace the pattern. Cut the pattern with a jigsaw.

  3. 3

    Climb into the attic (if applicable), locate the top of the wall over the hole and drill a 1-inch hole through the top plate of the wall. If the hole is in a carport ceiling, you may not have to drill another hole. The idea is to be able to feed the three-wire electrical cable through the hole for the light fixture.

  4. 4

    Feed enough cable to reach the drilled hole plus 12-inches. Walk over to the wall where the light switch is located and drill a 1-inch hole through the top plate of the wall. Fold the cable against itself as if you were feeding two cables down to the light switch and feed it down.

  5. 5

    Walk to the wall where the electrical panel is located. Wrap the end of the cable with electrical tape and feed it into the electrical panel. Climb out of the attic and return to the light fixture area.

  6. 6

    Strip the outer insulation from the cable with a utility knife to expose the three wires inside. Strip 1/2-inch of the insulation from each wire with wire strippers.

  7. 7

    Install the fixture to the surface according to the manufacturer's instructions. Repeat this action for the light switch.

  8. 8

    Return to the electrical panel and remove the screws holding the cover in place with a screwdriver. Install the breaker according to the manufacturer's instructions and then install the cover back in place. Turn the breaker on.

Tips and warnings

  • If there is no access to the desired location of the light fixture, check local city codes to see if using exterior conduit is allowable.
  • Never work with live electricity.
  • Do not install outdoor light fixtures without the required rubber seal to protect the connections from the elements.

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