Installing Strip Lighting for Stairs

Installing strip lighting outdoors is not much different than doing so indoors. However, there are the additional considerations concerning convenient operation and weather resistance. If you don't want to simply place solar lights next to your stairs, here is what you'll need to do to install strip lighting yourself.

Materials Needed:

  • Outdoor-rated strip lighting
  • Exterior GFCI outlet
  • Outdoor-rated extension cord
  • Hot glue gun with several glue sticks, or a tube of silicone caulk and a caulking gun

Step 1 - Measure Your Space

Identify the space to be covered by the strip lighting's cord. Remember never to use an extension cord outdoors for a permanent function such as long-term lighting, as the risk of fire is substantial. The rule of thumb is to find the most direct path for the cord included with the lighting that will not result in damaging the cord, either by it being stepped on, rigging it over nails, or stuffing it into places where heat can build up readily.

Also measure the stairs themselves. Since strip lights are essentially contiguous strips of wire, you need to plan out where you are going to run them so as to light the stairs and keep the strip itself out of danger.

Step 2 - Run the Lights

Place the lights where they will go up, and ensure that they are not in danger of being damaged by foot traffic. If you must run a light near the front of a step, either place it right underneath the forward lip of the step, or put it in the corner formed by the vertical face of the step and the horizontal face of the lower surface (be it the step or the ground).

Walk up and down the stairs imitating a clumsy person, because sooner or later one will be visiting you.  If you don't touch the lights, they most likely won't either.

Step 3 - Attach the Lights

If you wish to run the lights on the vertical sides of an area longer than two feet, it is advisable that you use silicone caulk, due to its high tensile strength and longevity. Otherwise, a hot glue gun is perfectly sufficient, both due to its ease of use and simple clean-up.

Using your extension cord, warm up your hot glue gun. When it starts to drip, begin gluing down the lights on horizontal surfaces (where they stand with no additional support). You can buttress any areas that run on a vertical surface with caulk. Perform the same function with your power cord, making sure to glue it down roughly one foot away from the outlet to which you intend to plug it in.

Unplug and remove your hot glue gun from the area once it has cooled off. Following the instructions on your caulk, allow it to cure fully before activating your lights.

Step 4 - Light it up

Ensuring that everything is in no physical danger and properly secured, plug in your lights. If you don't want to unplug them every time you wish to turn them off, you may want to hire an electrician to install a switch for your outdoor plug. If your plug is not covered by an overhang, cover it securely in plastic to avoid water contact.