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Home Improvement: Replacing Outdoor Light Fixtures (don’t be scared!!)


  We recently moved into a new home and have been busy re-vamping, tearing down, and re-constructing this/that in our new home.  It’s been fun……but a complete learning process.  If you’d like to see other Home Improvement Projects that we’ve been figuring out (from the help of friends, family, and the ol’ internet), be sure to check them out.



I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to learn how to re-wire something electrical.  Like, a light fixture, a fan, an outlet.  But I’ve been a little chicken because my mind always goes directly to imagining a billion watts of current, shocking my body….leaving me lifeless on the ground.  I’m not kidding.  I’ve been a little wimpy to do anything electrical because it sorta freaks me out.


Until now.  (well, until yesterday, to be exact…)


Steve’s brother, Joe, is in town.  He’s teaching Steve how to lay hardwood floors (which are looking BEE-AUTIFUL…..more on those another day! :) ) and while they were breaking for lunch yesterday, I asked Joe (who somehow knows how to do it ALL) to show me how to change an outside light fixture.  I was ready to learn.


Maybe you’ve done this before and it seems pretty simple.  But I always thought we should hire an electrician for such jobs.  Because EEEEK…….what if I got shocked by those above mentioned billion watts of current?!?! ;)


Boy, was I wrong.


After he taught me the first one…..I re-wired the other 5 light fixtures that I wanted replaced outside.  Easy as that.




I still can’t believe I re-wired those little beauties!   But even more than that……I can’t believe how simple it was.




Goodbye little brass fixtures.  You won’t be missed. :)




3 fixtures by the garage and 2 by the front door……..5 total fixture replacements in one afternoon.

I couldn’t be more thrilled!




And to top off yesterday’s excitement……these little lovelies just bloomed from the previous owners planting them maybe last year(??).  And Steve pointed them out to me, just as I finished wiring the last fixture.  Blooming flowers always bring a smile to my face.  And now…….so does installing a new light fixture! :)



Would you like a quick lesson in replacing an old light fixture??


**Keep in mind, everyone’s fixtures will be slightly different, so read your instructions.  However, I think it’s really useful to see someone do it up close… hopefully this will help some of you.**


Okay, first of all…….STOP!!

And turn off your power.  You don’t want to shock your socks off. :)



Now, let’s get started.


I’m going to show you the process of replacing our back porch light……because it was smaller and easier to manipulate while taking pictures.  (And thanks again bro-in-law Joe, for helping while I took a trillion pictures!)


First of all, start unscrewing/untwisting/un-clipping your old light fixture.  Everyone’s is a little different… do what you need to, to remove yours from its mount.



Now, you should see some plastic caps covering your wire ends.  There should be black wires, white wires, and some copper colored ground wires.  (Again, yours may be a little different……but black and white seem to be pretty standard.  But the ground wire could be another color.)  Unscrew them right off and then untwist the wire ends.



Then, screw your mount on.  Every mount will be a little different… follow your instructions.  And I just mounted my mount (the copper color pieces) to the old one (grey circle piece)….but you will probably mount yours right to your wall and over an exposed hole in the wall where all the wires come out.  But, we just mounted right over this one.



There’s generally another piece on your mount that can twist around so that you can mount your light perfectly straight.  Adjust that as needed, and screw tightly into place.



Next, grab the GROUND wire from the fixture and wrap it around the GROUND bolt (mine’s green) on your mount.  Screw the bolt down tightly to hold the wire on there securely.



Next, twist the GROUND wire from your light fixture to the GROUND wire coming from your wall.  Twist them together clockwise.



Then, twist your wire cap on clockwise, securing the 2 wires together.  TO TEST IT………give the wire from the light fixture a slight tug.  It shouldn’t come loose.  If it does, the cap didn’t secure around the two wires tight enough.  So, remove the cap and re-wist the wires together and then the cap.



Next, grab the WHITE wire from the light fixture and twist it together with the WHITE wire from the wall, twisting them together clockwise.  Do the same with the BLACK wires.  Screw the caps on these sets of wires and be sure they are secure.  (If your exposed wires aren’t long enough to wrap around the other wires, trim some of the plastic casing away that’s covering the raw wires.  You need about 1/2 to 1 inch of exposed wire to work with.)



Next, bend all the wires closer together and try and fit them behind the light fixture base.



Then, secure your light fixture base to the wall, however yours was designed to be attached.  Mine had two little screw covers to tighten down.



Lastly, insert your bulb.




Now, turn your power back ON and enjoy your handiwork!!!


Now, save yourself some cash and install your own light fixtures.



If you have always been a little nervous to try, you may really surprise yourself.  It surprised me! :)


Good luck!





***I am not an electrician and am not sharing exact instructions as to how everyone’s light fixtures should be installed.  This is only shared as an example of one way to install a fixture, for those who may need visual help.  Make It and Love It is not responsible for any problems or accidents you may encounter while trying to install your own electrical fixtures.***


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Ashley Johnston
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Ashley Johnston

Owner at Make It & Love It
Ashley Johnston is a professional DIY costume maker, sewist, crafter, and owner of Make It & Love It. She is a mom of 5 and a wife to a very patient (with my craft clutter) husband. In case you’re wondering, she always chooses crafting/sewing/designing over mopping/dusting/wiping base boards……but bathrooms/laundry/full bellies are always attended to. Whew!
Home improvement: replacing outdoor light fixtures (don’t be scared!!)
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  1. Behealthiers.Com says:

    Run any additional wiring, put in an additional electrical outlet or light fixture or change out your fuse box to circuit breakers.

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  3. Carol says:

    Nice tutorial! Just a few clarifying points:

    1. Safety first. Before touching anything, turn off the power at the breaker box, not by simply turning off the switch to the fixture you’re working on. If unsure which breaker serves your fixture, turn off the main breaker and kill all power to the house while working on your project. Tape a sheet of paper to the box saying something along the lines of “Work in progress, do not touch.” So hubby won’t wonder why the TV is dead, and go messing with the breaker panel.
    2. When connecting your splices with wire nuts, give them a good strong tug on EACH wire to make sure they’re secure. Normal house vibration can loosen these over time. Also, use the wire nuts provided with the fixture, usually orange. Don’t use too large or too small a wire nut, or you won’t get a good connection. Wrap clockwise, and twist the nut good and tight.
    3. After you remove the old fixture, if you’re faced with wires sticking out directly from the siding, you’ll need to install a junction (electrical) box rated for outdoor/damp conditions, then install your light fixture on that. You can find one that fits your fixture at any hardware store. Newer homes like Ashley’s may have a junction box already there … older homes, not so much. You NEED the box … trust me. It’s a code violation not to, and if your house burns, the insurance company would love to have a reason not to cover you.

    Be safe and have fun, ladies!

  4. samueljordan says:

    You did great work, these outdoor lights are really looking so attractive, you have performed creativity i appreciate your work. Thanks for sharing this replacement tutorial for home improvement..

  5. Cheryl Jones says:

    The new lights look fantastic!! Great job. :)

  6. Nicole says:

    Isn’t it amazing at how easy things are to do when you are shown properly. I myself have a fear of working with electricity but after reading your article I think i could replace some fittings at home myself.
    Who knows it may be the start of many more DIY tasks that I thought were beyond me!!!

  7. Carol T aka 1HotGran says:

    Congrats on the new talent/accomplishment. The thing with electricity is just to make sure you turn the power off at the breaker/fuse box before doing anything, read instructions for your product and I keep my “Home Improvement 1-2-3” book from The Home Depot at my side. I replaced every electrical outlet in my home all by my self, not one problem. Originally they didn’t have the 3rd prong ground and I was tired of trying to use adapters so I just did it, and I added insulation plates to each one and was amazed at the difference that made- a lot of air travels through those little spaces. I haven’t tackled light fixtures yet but they are on the to-do list.

  8. Carin says:

    This is great, thanks for the tutorial!
    I would really like motion sensing lights in my backyard and maybe I’ll just do it myself now(instead of waiting for my husband to get around to it).

  9. Jess says:

    The new lights look great, you did a fantastic job.

    Just a thought though, if you’re from anywhere outside the USA it’s probably a good idea to check that it’s ok for you to do this kind of work yourself. Where I am (in Australia) it’s actually illegal to do your own electrical work unless you are a registered electrical contractor. Over here it may also make it difficult or impossible to re-sell your house or affect your insurance in the case of a fire.

  10. The Prudent Homemaker says:

    I am going to paint mine (exact same ones) since we have an HOA and they want everyone to be matchy matchy. The ridiculous thing is that some people have them in brass and some have them in a rust color. I have brass (of course). I’m thinking of painting mine oil rubbed bronze (as well as my doorbell surround) to match my door handle (which we put in and they’ve never complained about). I’m not planning to ask permission :) My husband doesn’t want to deal with the rewiring, so he doesn’t want me to do the project (because then it would turn into HIS project). So now I’m thinking of starting with the door bell and going for it. Thank you SO much for tutorial!

    (My friend installed a new doorbell surround, and I though I should paint mine instead of buying a new one.)

  11. Barbara O'Brien says:

    Good Job!! And VAST improvement!!!! WOW! just want to add that next winter if those compact fluorescent bulbs don’t seem as bright it’s because they aren’t – most don’t work so well in cold/low temps and I know how cold it gets in CO. Most also don’t work so well with dimmers or timers unless the dimmers and timers are specifically designed for fluorescent and you then need to use fluorescents that are also designed to work with dimmers and timers – aarrgghh!!!It’s frustrating. And – while it worked wonderfully for your foyer fixtures painting outdoor fixtures would probably be not such a great idea – the paint would not hold up in rough weather nearly as well as it will in your foyer. And here’s a tip – you know the little blue wash-away markers we use in sewing? They work great for marking walls for hanging pictures, wallpaper and trim palcement, hanging shelves –

  12. Melissa says:

    you are brave! I would’ve just made my husband or father in law do it, but now that you have a breakdown for it, it really doesn’t look as hard as I thought.


  13. Sara says:

    Ok I hate to be a bandwagon jumper but I seriously LOVE those lights. Please share where you got them! Or what brand they are. My current lights are almost exactly like your old ones. lol rusted. I’ve been looking for new lights and nothing has really struck my fancy until now!

    1. Ashley says:

      All the lights are from Home Depot. Hampton Bay, I think. And yes,,,,,the rusty brass needed to go. I was gong to paint them….but they were just too worn and broken.

      Good luck!

  14. Josiane says:

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  15. dannyscotland says:

    Looks amazing! I’d like to add to what Shelly said too, and say that the ground screw is usually, if not always, green. Thanks for showing people that, with a little instruction and safety precautions, simple household electrical projects can be done yourself!

    1. Ashley says:

      Oh, thanks…..good to know! All I know is my one brand of fixtures that I bought. So, I had no clue that green was usually standard for ground. Maybe I’ll go add that in. Thanks! :)

    2. Kathy says:

      Sure thing! I’m happy that, after all the things you have shown me and others, I was able to share a little of my (limited!) knowledge back. :-) Continue enjoying your new home!

  16. Jennifer says:

    I’ve been wanting to do this! I also love the color you painted the outside of your house!

    1. Ashley says:

      Oh thanks…..little by little, this house is truly transforming! :)

  17. Rhonda says:

    If you’re just looking to get rid of the brass look the spray painting alternative also works like a charm. I painted mine after changing our exterior house color and they look brand new.

    1. Ashley says:

      You know, that was the plan. But some of them rusted all the way through and most had parts missing. They were pretty beat up, which I was bummed about. But I’m glad you did the painting thing. Glad it worked out! :)

  18. nelda says:

    wow you are a wonder woman!

  19. Kerry says:

    I’d love to know where you got those garage light fixtures, too! We’ve been looking for a while, but haven’t found something my husband and I can agree on. I think those might be the answer.

    1. Ashley says:

      All the lights are from Home Depot. Hampton Bay, I think. Good luck…….I hope they settle the debate! ;)

  20. Shelly says:

    My dad is an electrician and he took me with him to do electrical work a lot when I was younger. Most electrical work is much easier than most people think. For a little extra info: the black wire is the “hot” wire that will shock you if the electricity is on. The ground wire is usually bare or green – those are the standards. If you’re putting in a ceiling fan with a separately wired light kit, there’s another wire (usually red). Good job on your tutorial!

    1. Ashley says:

      Oh yes, I knew the black was “hot”…….I just learned that too. I should go add that in. Thanks! Good to know about the green. :)

  21. jen says:

    good for you!! i always wait around cause i get suuppeeerrr nervous but i think i have to give myself a kick in the pants.
    {i’m still scared of the electric saw though…..}

    1. Ashley says:

      Oh gosh, the saw makes me nervous too. We just need more practice with that too! :)

  22. Cairn says:

    Where did you get those light fixtures on the garage. Love them!!! :)

    1. Ashley says:

      All the lights are from Home Depot. Hampton Bay, I think. I kinda like them too! ;)

  23. Tara Layton says:

    YES! Funny I currently have those EXACT brass fixtures that I am dying to replace! Maybe now I can quit waiting for my husband to do it and just get it done myself! ;)

    1. Ashley says:

      Ha….that was my EXACT motivation! :) My husband has been busy installing floors and I got tired of looking at the ugly fixtures. You’ll seriously surprise yourself…..try it! :)

  24. Allison says:

    Bravo you….this still seems way too scary for me. Maybe if the situation presents itself I can be brave like you…

    1. Ashley says:

      You sound like me……but I promise, you’ll be surprised that you can actually do it! :)

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