How to Install a Porch Light to Brighten Your Home's Exterior

Flank your front door with porch lanterns using these expert tips on how to add both curb appeal and functionality with exterior lighting.

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Project Overview
  • Total Time: 2 hours
  • Skill Level: Intermediate

Safety, security, style—who can argue with the perks of porch lights? They illuminate steps and let you see who’s standing outside before you open the door. They help set the tone of your exterior, whether you want sleek and modern or classic and cozy. Porch lights are pretty and essential.

If you want to add a porch light (or two) to your house, you'll need to supply power to the new fixture and install an interior switch. But, first, you need to hang the fixture and install an exterior light box, which makes it easy to corral all the wires and fixtures needed for this project. Below, we show you how to cut an opening in your exterior wall, fit an electrical box, and install your fixture.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 Voltage tester
  • 1 Drill
  • 1 1/4-inch bit
  • 1 Jigsaw
  • 1 Drywall saw
  • 1 Screwdriver
  • 1 Strippers
  • 1 Long-nose pliers
  • 1 Lineman's pliers
  • 1 Measuring tape
  • 1 Step ladder

Materials

  • 1 Fish tape
  • 1 Electrical boxes

Instructions

  1. Drill Pilot Hole

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    Using a ¼-inch bit, drill a pilot hole where you plan to install the light. Then use a bent wire to ensure your box won't be positioned over a stud (or very close to one).

  2. Trace and Cut Hole

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    Check for any pipes or cables in the wall. Once you've confirmed you have a clear path, trace the outline of the box on the siding. Use a jigsaw to cut an opening for the box.

  3. Install Electrical Box

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    Before wiring the switch, use a fish tape to pull the switch cable out through the electrical box opening. Strip 8 inches of sheathing, then clamp the cable to the box. Finally, install the box. For two lights, run cable to the location of the second light, and install a box for this fixture, too.

  4. Mounting Strap

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    Strip the individual wires, removing a ¾-inch stretch of insulation from each. Attach the mounting strap (typically provided with the light fixture) so the mounting bolts are positioned to hold the fixture.

  5. Wire Fixture

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    Make sure the power source is switched off, using a voltage tester to confirm there's no electricity. While you work on the wiring, hang the fixture from the mounting straps with a wire coat hanger. Connect the ground wire, then splice the white lead to the white wire and black to black. Fold the wires into the box and anchor the fixture onto the mounting bolts. Caulk around the base. Wire the switch, install a bulb, and test for power.

    Editor's tip: For convenience and security, install a programmable switch for your porch lights. Set them to turn on at dusk and off at bedtime (or, for added security, at dawn). These switches have override options for turning the light on and off at will.

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