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Installing New Exterior Lighting

If you were here the other day to see my dormer window transformation, you may have seen my exterior lights. I’ll be talking about Installing New Exterior Lighting today!

Then again, maybe you didn’t because they are miniscule! Not only are they tiny, but the light sockets were cracked, the brass trim was dated and rusty, and they just weren’t making me smile. And that is what it is all about, isn’t it!

I’ve been looking for affordable exterior lights that fit the style of our home for about a year now. I didn’t want anything too trendy or contemporary because our house has an old world feel, it is a dutch colonial.

I happened to be at Lowe’s buying our new stove (yep, the one that caught fire in this post) and I spied these beauties on clearance for $24! I snatched them up in an instant and high tailed it out of the store before I could find any more things I “needed”.


Flat head screwdriver*
Phillips head screwdriver*
power drill with screwdriver bits (if you wish to speed up unscrewing and screwing)
Wire Strippers*
Wire cutter*
New light fixture with instructions

* When working with electricity, It is safest to work with tools that have rubber or plastic handles that won’t conduct electricity, should you forget to turn off the power.

Required Safety Instruction:

Turn off the power to the light fixtures you are working on. Turn your lights on and visually inspect they are lit before turning off the circuit. Then shut off the circuit at your circuit breaker and check to see that the light has gone out.


Remove your new light from the packaging. Check for the instruction manual and all the parts. I like to put screws and small parts in a bowl so I don’t lose them.

Okay, now comes the easy part. Disassemble your old light. Take the top off and keep removing parts until you are down to the bare bones.

Unscrew the mounting plate from the wall by turning the small ball cap nuts (okay, no snickering, that is what they are really called!)

Watch out for critters that might be living behind your fixture! This cute little tree frog jumped out at us. Poor little guy. We actually found him in our house later that day and had to shoo him back outside.


Pay attention to which wires are connected to the white and black wires on your fixtures.


Now you can remove the wire nuts and free your old fixture. (Don’t forget to clean out your junction box (the round, square, or octagon shaped box that is mounted to the wall and contains your house wires.)

Also, take a moment to make sure your junction box is attached firmly to the house. And/or that you have something solid to attach your mounting bracket to. Case in point: this poor light fixture is hanging on by a wire because the mounting bracket was screwed into the foam insulation!

Locate the mounting plate for your new fixture. Thread the machine screws that will attach to your new light from the back of the mounting plate so they are sticking out towards you. Make sure the screws line up with the holes in your light fixture canopy (the metal cover on your light fixture that will rest flush against the wall.)

THEN you can attach it to your junction box. Honestly, this took me the most amount of time because I wanted to move my fixture up a little to compensate for its larger size. It took me too long trying to determine which holes to use for mounting. I did end up putting one screw into the junction box, and then used a wood screw to attach the other side to the siding on our house (which I then caulked to keep it from rotting the siding.)  You will probably be lucky and won’t need to do this step.

Double check to make sure that the plate is snug and attached firmly to the junction box and/or a solid surface.

These next few steps will be much easier if you have an assistant to hold the light fixture while you make the wire connections.

Unless your fixture comes with short wires, trim the excess and strip about 3/4 inch of the insulation from the end of the wires using your wire cutters and wire strippers. Making sure that your wires will fit inside your junction box, go ahead and connect the bare wire (ground wire) from your house to the green ground screw. If your new fixture has a bare or green wire, wrap that around the green ground screw as well.

Separate your white and black wires from your house, ideally you want them to be on opposite sides of the junction box so there is no risk of them touching. Go ahead and use a wire nut to connect your white wires. Then do the same for the black wires. Gently push the wires into the junction box (keeping them apart from each other).

Line up the holes in the canopy on your light fixture with the machine screws sticking out of the mounting plate. Use the ball cap screws that came with your fixture to cap the ends of the machine screws.

Hopefully everything looks good at this point (straight, no exposed wires, etc.) I would recommend turning on the power to check your wire connections and make sure your fixture works before the next step, and before installing the second light (if you have one.)

Caulk around the edges of your light fixture to keep water from entering the junction box. Use clear or paintable exterior grade caulk.

Don’t forget to turn off the power again before removing and installing your second light fixture.

You can see both the old and new light fixtures in the photo below. The one on the left is the new one, and the right is the puny old one.


Once you get the second fixture up and check to see that it works, stand back and admire your handywork!

Here are the after pictures of our new exterior light fixtures:

We’re still getting used to the size of the new lamps, but I definitely think they fit the scale of our house better than the old ones.


What do you think? I’m curious if anyone else likes copper (instead of Oil Rubbed Bronze.) Don’t get me wrong. I like ORB, I just didn’t think it fit our home’s style.

18 replies
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  1. Beth
    Beth says:

    Thanks a million! This clarified something I was doing wrong with getting some light fixtures installed.
    It really helped.

  2. Janine
    Janine says:

    Love the lights!

    And your double doors are aMAZing. Could you share the paint color. I am dying to put eggplant doors on my lemony house!

  3. - Brittany
    - Brittany says:


    Thank you for your comment. I will definitely have to have my electrician double check my work now. I was simply using the existing wiring and set up. Which may have been to code 30 years ago, but not now.

  4. Tolyn Ironhand
    Tolyn Ironhand says:

    Wires may not just pass through a knock out hole like that. You must install some type of connector listed for the type of wiring method present. IE: Romex connector needs to be used for Romex cable, etc.

  5. Andi @ Jane of all crafts
    Andi @ Jane of all crafts says:

    LOVE your house! The front door is awesome! I really think the new lights fit the house better. I am still looking for replacements for our builder grade brass uglys. But I have yet to find any I like. Great tutorial…especially the part about caulking, hadn't thought of that. *slaps forehead* 🙂

  6. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I've been wanting to change our exterior lights for a few years now…thanks for making it look so easy! As soon as I find fixtures I like, I'm going to do it!

  7. Amanda@The Hand Me Down House
    [email protected] Hand Me Down House says:

    Well as always…fantastic tutorial! 🙂 Those lights are absolutely gorgeous on your house …. which is also just adorable! 🙂 I think you should write a book — like, "Every Handy Girl's guide to DIY" — you're just so handy!! 🙂

  8. Michelle @ Dream Home DIY
    Michelle @ Dream Home DIY says:

    Hi sweetie!! I recently won the Versatile Blogger award and really wanted to pass it on to your lovely self :0) You can get the button from my blog, upload it and if you'd like post an entry similar to mine. I really do adore your blog! Michelle

  9. Nicole
    Nicole says:

    I think they look really good 🙂 I just tackled this project myself a few weeks ago. One thing to watch when buying your fixture (if you live in a modular home that is) is to stick with the same shape of base. Ours was round to begin with (inside of a square box on the side of the house) and I liked the light with a longer base so it was difficult to squeeze it in there lol. Thanks for the info on caulking though, I do need to go out and do that!

  10. Ashley @ The Hillside Home
    Ashley @ The Hillside Home says:

    Your house has such great curb appeal!!! I love your doors. And I am a big fan of copper too. We just got our new copper lantern from PB for our stairwell today! Can't wait to see how it looks. 🙂

  11. Lori Edwards
    Lori Edwards says:

    Huge improvement! I'm regretting not going with the bigger version of our exterior lights. Will you send me the dimensions of your front doors? I didn't realize you had double doors too. I would LOVE to have glass doors added, but I think we are going to have to go completely custom since our double doors are really slender. Harrison wants them gone since he has to turn sideways to get through one side. Now to convince him to tackle the closet in Mary's room…

  12. Cassie @ Primitive & Proper
    Cassie @ Primitive & Proper says:

    your house is just so darn cute! i love your front doors by the way. i wish my house had as much curb appeal as yours! but alas…. i have a split foyer which might just be my least favorite house design. we're makin' do though!

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