How to Install Outdoor Lighting

by Christine

Lighting up the inside of your home isn’t enough to make your entire property warm and inviting - beautiful outdoor lighting is also needed to complete the aesthetic of your home.

Today, we’ll go over the basics of how to install outdoor lighting, including the various tools and materials you may need and the safety precautions you should take.


Safety Precautions

Working with electricity is risky even on a good day. Setting up outdoor lights without considering safety precautions is even more dangerous. Luckily, there are just a few steps that you need to take in order to lower the risk.

First, make sure to turn off your main fuse box. Remove the circuit fuse that you intend to connect and keep it somewhere outside the box. This way, you can’t accidentally reconnect the circuit and risk electrocuting yourself. Better yet, switch off the breaker to remove an additional layer of risk. Of course, you can only do this if no one else is using the power in your home!

If other people are present in your house, make sure that when you close off the fuse box you alert everyone that you are working on it. That way, no one will accidentally reactivate the power while you’re still working.

You should also purchase a voltage tester and confirm that there is no current going through the circuit. Even though you just switched everything off, it is better to be safe than sorry!

Commonly Required Tools

Assuming you mean to install lights around the whole of your home, there are a few tools that you’ll need for the process:

  • A tape measure so that you can space your lighting evenly throughout the property.
  • A shovel to dig and bury the cables.
  • Scissors to cut open wires.
  • Wire strippers to expose the ends of wires that need to be connected to others.
  • A staple gun to secure wires to the walls.

You may not need all of the above tools, depending on what your lighting plan is and on how much you plan to do on your own, but it might pay to acquire all of them just in case.

What Materials Are Needed

There’s more to installing outdoor lighting than putting down a few cables. Here are the most common materials that you will likely need to gather:

  • Stakes to mark lighting locations and cable paths.
  • Waterproof electrical tape to keep the wires safe.
  • Bulbs designed for outdoor lighting.
  • Wire nuts to connect and secure individual wires.
  • A timer to automate your outdoor lighting system. (Optional)

You made not need all of these but you may also need additional materials. Make sure you plan for this before you get started.


Steps to Follow:

1 – Prepare a Lighting Plan

The first step that you must take regardless of your intended final result is to prepare a lighting plan. Firstly, you need to determine how much land area needs lighting. Every outdoor light that you install will cover a certain area. It is important that you map this out and work out how many lights you will need and where they should be placed.

2 – Determine Ideal Cable Line Locations and Lay Them Out

Now that you know where you need to place each outdoor light, you can figure out the most logical way of setting up the cables to power them. When you’re planning this, take note that the cables will be connected in a sequence. You will be connecting the cable to the nearest outdoor light from the breaker and going around until you reach the last outdoor light.

You must plan the cables from one to the next outdoor light, rather than connecting each light one by one to the fuse box, which would be both inefficient and potentially dangerous.

3 – Install Fixtures

Once you’ve placed all the cables, you need to prepare and install the fixtures. By the time you’re done, you will have two sets of cables set up in order to create a circuit. First, you need to separate the two cables. Strip the cables with your wire strippers until you’ve exposed the two insulated conductors.

Make sure to strip just under one inch on either side of the cable going into and out of each light fixture. This way, you can connect the wires to each of the light fixtures without leaving any exposed wires.

4 – Waterproof the Wires

Even though you’ve taken the precaution of only cutting the last inch or so of each cable, you still need to make sure that the wires are waterproof. Use the electrical tape to cover each connection. This way, you can make certain that rain will not damage your wiring.

5 – Wrap Up the End Cable

Once you’ve connected all the cables to the various lights, you need to take the two cables at the end light and wire them together. This will create the complete circuit you need to keep a constant current going through all of your lights at once.

6 – Attach the Conductors

Now that your cables are set up and you have a complete circuit, you need to attach the two conductors to the correct wires in the transformer. One of the conductors should be connected to the wire marked ‘0’ while the other should be connected to an available 12-, 13-, or 14-, volt line. Be sure that you don’t connect the cables to the incorrect wires, or you may cause a short circuit.

7 – Connect a Timer (Optional)

If you wish to set outdoor garden lights to turn on and off at a set time each day, make sure to include a timer in the circuit. You can connect it to the end of the wire before attaching it to an outlet. Otherwise, simply add a switch so that you can turn the lights on and off whenever you wish.

8 – Bury the Cables (After Testing)

Your circuit should be complete now. Proceed with caution but test your outdoor lights to make sure they work. Use the voltage tester to ensure that the voltage is constant and there are no surges taking place.

Once you have determined that your circuit is sound, make sure to efficiently bury the cables in order to avoid someone accidentally tripping over them.


Assuming you have followed all the steps above, you have successfully installed your outdoor lighting. You may have to adjust the steps depending on the type of lights you are setting up. However, it should be quite similar and straightforward. Do be sure to consult an expert if you are not confident in being able to complete all of the steps necessary to create a stable circuit.