Exterior Entryways

How To: Replace an Outdoor Wall Sconce

Looking for a way to give your home's front entry a new look. Replace the light fixtures (you can do it yourself).

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Updating the entrance to your home is a relatively easy thing to do. Add a pop of color by painting the front door in a fresh coat of gloss paint or strip it down to the natural wood. Consider container gardens or shutters to provide additional interest and color. And replace outdated exterior wall lanterns with more stylish models. If you are looking to do the latter, here’s all you need:

New exterior wall light fixture
Wire nuts (if they are not included)
Multi-head screwdriver
Electrical tape (optional)

1. Turn off the power. You will need to go to the main circuit breaker of the house to shut off the power to the existing light fixture. Don’t think that having the light switch on “off” is a sure-fire way to cut the power entirely. It’s not!

2. Remove the old fixture. The existing fixture will be attached to the wall with either a mounting cover plate or exposed screws. If the former, lift the plate off to reveal the mounting screws. Loosen and remove the screws while holding the fixture in place until you disconnect the wires.

3. The mounting bracket. Chances are the old light fixture was affixed to the wall with a crossbar mounting bracket. You should replace it with the mounting hardware packaged with the new fixture, as it was designed specifically for that lamp. Depending on the style of lantern, the crossbar is a 4-inch circle of metal with several holes cut in it, a 4-inch by 1-inch metal plate with several holes or two 4-inch by 1-inch metal plates connected in the center to form a cross. Use a level to make certain that the crossbar is level.

4. Wiring 101. Connect the wires according to the manufacturer’s instructions: white (neutral) to white, black (hot) to black, and green (ground) wire to the bare copper wire from the junction box. Use plastic wire screws to keep wire connections secure. (You can also choose to secure connections with electrical tape.) Pack all the wires back inside the outlet box, making certain not to loosen connections.

5. Installing the new lantern. Attach the lantern to the crossbar with the mounting screws provided, or position it onto the protruding screws and affix the hex nuts packaged with the lamp. Secure tightly. Depending on the contour of the wall siding, you may need to put a bead of clear caulking along the top and sides to prevent water from seeping behind the fixture. (Another option is a foam mounting block cut to fit the contour of the siding.)

6. Power on. Turn the power back on at the circuit breaker and test out your new fixture.

For more on outdoor wall sconces, check out our slideshow: Outdoor Wall Sconces: Lighting the Way With Style

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