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Jul 19, 2014

Lighting Tips

Soffit Lighting: Installing Outdoor Recessed Lights

The space behind your home’s soffit provides an excellent area to install exterior recessed light fixtures as it opens up into the attic. Installing recessed outdoor lighting in this spot will greatly enhance the exterior of your home and, more importantly, increases the security of your home as it illuminates dark areas. Here’s how you can install exterior recessed lights. First, make sure you have the following:


1/2-inch lock nuts

1/2-inch NM connectors

12/2 non-metallic electrical cable

Cable ripper

Flat-head screwdriver

Light bulbs

Multipurpose cutting bit

Rotary tool

Twist-on wire connectors

Weather-proof recessed light trims

Wire stripper

Steps to Installing Exterior Recessed Lighting

Step 1:

Place the recessed light fixtures in areas around your home that need additional illumination, such as between windows or near the corners of your home’s exterior.

Step 2:

On the facia board of the soffit where you want your exterior recessed lighting to be installed, trace around the light fixture. It is best to choose shallow 4-inch or 6-inch recessed housings given the lack of depth in the soffit. You will also need to consider the weather-proof light covers that you will be installing on your fixtures in determining the right size of housing to choose.

Step 3:

Using a rotary tool equipped with a multipurpose cutting bit, cut along the trace lines on the facia board. Follow the trace lines carefully and ensure that your recessed fixture sets securely in the soffit.

Step 4:

Cut one length of 12/2 non-metallic electrical cable to extend from the first recessed lighting fixture in the run back to the power source. This wire will be your power supply wire. A light switch by an entry door or an independent circuit installed in your main breaker panel could be your power source.

Step 5:

Cut extra lengths of electrical cable and daisy chain each recessed fixture to the one before it. This will allow you to switch on each recessed fixture using just one switch. Allow for the wiring connections by adding at least 1 foot of cable to every measurement.

Step 6:

Insert the electrical cable from your power source to the first recessed light. Then feed the extra lengths of cable from the first recessed light to the rest of the fixtures in the run along the soffit.

Step 7:

Press the tab that holds the cover on the junction box to the tail of your recessed light fixture. Pry out two of the 1/2-inch round knockouts by inserting a flat-head screwdriver into the slots on the junction box.

Step 8:

Feed the threads of a 1/2-inch NM connector into the half-inch round opening. Twist a 1/2-inch lock nut onto the threads of the connector to fasten the connector to the junction box.


Step 9:

Repeat Step 8 for each recessed fixture along the lighting run, except the last fixture. This should only have one knockout pried from the junction box.

Step 10:

Insert the electrical cable from your power supply into one of the NM connectors in your first recessed fixture junction box. Then insert the cable that connects the first fixture to the next fixture into the second connector.

Step 11:

Using a cable ripper, remove 6 to 8 inches of exterior insulation from each electrical cable to expose the interior bare copper wire, black wire, and white wire. Remove about 3/4-inch of insulation from the exposed black and white wires of each cable using a set of wire strippers.

Step 12:

Connect the two black wires from the NM cables to the black wire inside the junction box of your recessed lighting fixture then secure the wires together with a twist-on wire connector. Repeat this process with white wires, bare copper wires, and green ground wire inside the box.

Step 13:

Snap the cover of your recessed light back on its junction box. Fasten the screws on the wire connectors to secure the NM cable into the box.

Step 14:

Insert the remodel recessed lighting fixture’s tail into the hole cut in the soffit. Hold its lip against the facia on the soffit with one hand then with a flat-head screwdriver, push the black tabs located along the inside wall of the recessed can up with your other hand until they snap into place and fasten the fixture in the soffit.

Step 15:

Repeat the same wiring connections and installation procedure for each additional recessed lighting fixture in the soffit.

Step 16:

Add a light bulb in each fixture. Check the list of light bulbs indicated on the inside of the can. Use the appropriate size and wattage to keep the lights from cycling on and off, flicker, or even create a fire hazard.

Step 17:

Squeeze the two wires of the butterfly springs on both sides of your recessed trim together with your thumb and forefinger. Insert both springs into the brackets on the inside of your recessed fixture. Release the springs and push the trim against the soffit facia board.

Step 18:

Once you are done with the installation of your outdoor recessed fixtures, connect the power supply wire to a new circuit inside your breaker box or to your power source at a light switch. If you are not familiar with this process, contact a licensed electrician to help.