How to Install Exterior Recessed Lighting

Recessed lighting in a bedroom
What You'll Need
Stud finder
Recessed lighting fixture
Twist-on wire connectors
Wire stripper
Long-nose pliers
Rope caulk

Exterior recessed lighting can add safety and aesthetic appeal to your outdoor area. Installing recessed lighting can be a time-consuming task, but the steps are accessible and the final outcome is well worth the work. This project is recommended for intermediate-level DIY homeowners.

    Step 1 - Choose Fixtures

    Choose fixtures that are rated for outdoor applications, where they may be exposed to rain, mud, and other environmental factors. Take measurements on the depth of space you have available for your recessed lighting; this will determine, in part, which lights you will be able to use. Determine the number of lights you'll need based on the brightness you want to achieve and the space you want to light. If the fixture will come in contact with the house's insulation, be sure to purchase an insulation-contact approved fixture to avoid creating a fire hazard.

    Step 2 - Cut and Wire

    Once you've chosen your fixtures, you're ready to prepare the area. Turn off your power from the breaker box. Locate the ceiling joists with your stud finder. Mark the location for each fixture by tracing its outline on the ceiling with a pencil. Cutting the opening will depend upon the exterior materials used in your home (the ceiling porch is probably wood). Use a jigsaw to cut along the outline, being careful not to cut so deep as to disturb any existing wiring. Run electrical cable into the junction box located on the light's fixture. Splice the cable wires to the fixture's connections with twist-on connectors, color-matching the wires. Tuck the wires into the junction box and seal the cover.

    Step 3 - Install the Exterior Fixture

    Most exterior recessed lights have mounting tabs to make installing the canister itself very simple. Twist the exterior portion of the fixture in an upwards clockwise motion until the mounting tabs take hold and the fixture feels steady. Because this is an exterior application, a small ring of rope caulk along the underside of the fixture's edge may decrease the likelihood of water reaching the junction box of the light. Simply press a single strip of rope caulk along the edge before installing the main portion of the fixture.

    Step 4 - Install Trim and Baffle

    This process will vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer, so it's best to follow the instructions provided with the fixture. The baffle tends to attach with springs, while the trim often snaps onto the existing fixture without additional screws. It's best to have a screwdriver handy, just in case. Once the interior baffle and trim are installed, install a light bulb in the fixture, restore power at your breaker box, and flip on the light. Repeat the process for any additional lights that are being installed, remembering to cut power to the area before performing any wire splicing or other electrical tasks.