Installing an Outdoor Pole Light

A pole light during the day
What You'll Need
Outdoor pole light
Instructions (provided in lighting kit)
Electrical supplies (if using hard-wired light)
Post-hole digger

Installing an outdoor pole light can be a fantastic way to get functional lighting as well as ambiance. Illuminating a dark path or patio area with a pole light is a fairly simple DIY project that combines design savvy and muscle. If you aren’t afraid of a little digging and want a permanent outdoor light fixture, installing a pole light should be the next project on your list.

Step 1 – Decide What You Want

A pole light in front of a sunset.

Outdoor pole lights have a few different features that will affect the installation process, so do your research before any major work starts. For example, choosing a solar-powered light versus a standard wired fixture will eliminate electrical work. If the light has to be turned on by a switch and connected to the home’s breaker box, then you need a licensed electrician to do the work. For solar or battery-powered lights you won’t have to worry about your level of electrical expertise.

Step 2 – Prepare the Ground

Deciding on location is an important aspect to consider before anyone starts digging or running wires. The closer to the house, the easier it will be to tie into the home’s electrical grid, but don’t sacrifice performance for convenience. Determine where you want the light and then figure out how to run your wires or dig your post. Wire will need to go through properly rated PVC conduit all the way from the house to the light and then up through a concrete post that the light sits on. DIYers can take this task on but it is essential that the conduit is done safely and up to professional standards.

Step 3 – Call the Electrician (or not)

Pole lights on a gray day.

Electrical wires will need to lay in an underground trench around 18 inches deep through a properly rated conduit. Extra wire has to be left to run inside the house and at least 6 inches of conduit has to protrude from the post-hole with enough wire to connect to your pole light. You can save some money by doing the digging and running the conduit according to the electrician’s recommendations before they do any of the electrical work. Skip this step completely if you are going with a solar pole light (just make sure the pole is in a location that will receive enough sunlight).

Step 4 – Prepare the Ground and Concrete

Always read the manufacturer’s directions, but usually 1-2 feet of the pole should be encased inside the concrete. Use a spade to dig a hole around 12-16 inches in diameter and a post-hole digger to get about 18-24 inches deep. For anything heavy or taller than a standard 8-foot pole, you may want to dig below the frost line for extra strength. Add a layer of gravel to the bottom to allow for drainage and a level spot for setting the bottom of the post. Have an assistant hold the pole while you check that it is level. Once you have a good base, mix the concrete or use fast-setting concrete, being careful not to get any on the wires. Make a final check that the pole is straight and in position before it sets.

Step 5 – Attach the Light Fixture

A pole light in front of a blue sky.

After the concrete has cured, cover the top with dirt, gravel or sod. Use a ladder to attach the light fixture to the pole. If wires were run through a conduit, pull them up to meet the light’s electrical housing and connect just like you would a standard light fixture. Follow the same safety precautions like turning off the main power and reading the instructions. Clean off any dust and dirt, turn on the switch and voila, let there be light.