How to Replace an Outdoor Light Fixture

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If the outdoor light fixture flickers when the switch is thrown, it can throw off visitors to the home. Rather than put up with the dance party affect of a flickering outdoor light, pulling it out and replacing it with a fixture that is more modern – and certainly less faulty – is a breeze. If you have a short or simply want to a style update, following safety rules and arming yourself with a few tools will get you a new fixture in no time.

How to Replace an Outdoor Light Fixture
Image Credit: mkfoto/iStock/GettyImages

Prep Work

Before you take down the old fixture, consider what the light needs to do. Is more light required for the area? Is the junction box that connects the fixture going to leave an unattractive mark if the new fixture has a smaller foot print? Measure the old fixture for size or be prepared to paint or plaster around the new fixture.

Gather a screwdriver and a non-contact voltage detector, pliers and a wire stripper before you begin the project. To keep water that may sheet down the wall and get into the housing of the outdoor light fixture, an outdoor weatherproof gasket can keep the wires in the junction box dry. Beading caulk around the junction box on the wall before connecting the outer housing unit can also keep rain and bugs at bay.

Take Out the Old

Turn off electricity to the outdoor light fixture. Remove the screws from the old luminary and any decorative hardware to expose the wires behind the light. If any of the light fixture is left hanging, remove that as well before you begin with the removal of the wires from the old fixture. Use the non-contact voltage detector to determine if any current is running through the wires. Once the non-contact voltage detector shows that the wires are not emitting any electricity, remove the rest of the assembly. The old bracket can stay if it works well with the new fixture. Just be aware that it won't pinch wires or allow water to slide through any gaps and cause a short.

Put In the New

Attach the bracket that will hold the new fixture to the bracket in the wall. Use the screws that came with the new light fixture to ensure the grip on the bracket is solid. Loop the ground wire around the ground screw that is on the bracket. Leave enough of a tail to be able to wire the nut to the ground wire that will be come out of the box. This will cut down on the shock factor. Strip the wires on the supply and the fixture to expose a half inch. Even up the ends of the matching sets of wires and twist a wire nut on the wires until they begin to twist around themselves. Tuck the wires into the bracket and secure the decorative fixture to the wall.


Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing for a variety of clients, including The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal Home section and other national publications. As a professional writer she has researched, interviewed sources and written about home improvement, interior design and related business trends. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her full bio and clips can be viewed at

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