Thursday, May 14, 2015

DIY Landscaping Lighting Tutorial

OK, the long awaited landscaping light post, finally! I’ve been planning this one for years now and after I put this photo of our house on Instagram last week, I got more requests for this tutorial:
board and batten shutters
It is INCREDIBLY easy to install your own landscaping lights. There is zero work with electricity other than plugging it in. I think folks think there’s a ton of wiring to do that’s not the case at all. And none of it is done while something is plugged in or live.
I should start with some background first. One of my favorite past times, especially in the summer, is driving through neighborhoods at dusk and looking at houses. If you see me, wave and say hello, don’t call the cops. :) I think houses look prettiest at this time of day. There was always one aspect of very expensive houses that I noticed – they all had landscape lighting that lit up there house at night. It made everything look even more lovely and without a doubt – more expensive.
So I figured out how to do it on my own and it’s so easy to do! I’ve only done it on the front so far and that was a long time ago – for this post I went ahead and added some to the other side of the house.
The only thing you must have is an outside electrical outlet near where you want to install the lights. Keep in mind you will have a wire, so it can’t go over a sidewalk or driveway. You CAN dig the wire into the lawn and in this tutorial I use them in mulch.
We’ll start at the hardware store, in the outdoor lighting aisle. There are solar lights (I use some in the back but don’t love them), but you’ll want to head toward the low voltage lights:
how to install landscape lighting
Shop around! There are SO many options. There are path lights, deck lights, up lights (for trees), and floodlights (I prefer those for highlighting the house). Start picking out what you’d like to use. I think too many lights decreases the custom look that these add, so don’t go overboard.
There are only three things you’ll need to install the lights – the lights themselves, a power pack and wire. That’s it!
I picked out some more flood lights:
flood lights for landscape lighting
This is where I will tell you this is not always a cheap project. But once you do it the upkeep is minimal – the light bulbs last forever. I got a set of lights (instead of individually) to lower the price just a bit – I wasn’t using all of these this time but will use the others elsewhere later.
I didn’t want to use flood lights on the side of the house because they would just be highlighting the boring siding. Instead I picked out path lights:
flower bed landscaping lights
This is where you determine the next step – the power pack size you’ll need. I had three path lights that were 11 watts each. The flood lights were 20 watts each, and because I wasn’t sure how many I was going to use, I just rounded up to all six to figure out the power pack I needed.
11watts + 11watts + 11watts + 20watts + 20watts + 20watts + 20watts + 20watts + 20watts =
153 watts
Therefore I went with a 200 watt power pack:
power pack for landscaping lights
After the fact I realized I could have gone with something lower, because I only used three flood lights, therefore my total wattage was only 93. But I didn’t want to have to run back to the store. :) Also, I can use this one in another spot later and get a smaller pack for this area.
OK, you’ve got your lights and your power pack. Now you need to figure out the wire you’ll need. There’s a handy dandy guide for you:
how to install landscaping lights
I grabbed 14 gauge, and again, I could have gone smaller –16 gauge would have been fine:
items needed to install landscaping lights
As you can guess, the costs go down with the lower power pack wattage and with the lower wire capacity. So if you’re doing flood lights you could do five for 100 watts and really save on the power pack and the wire. You could do nine path lights for under 100 watts as well.
The GREAT thing is you can avoid figuring all this out and just buy a kit – it has everything you’ll need in it:
landscaping light kit
But if you want to mix up your lighting like I did (or you want more lights), you’ll want to buy everything individually.
You just have to screw some parts together to assemble the lights:
landscaping lights
The first step is figuring out where you want to place them. Play around with it:
landscaping light placement
Get a good idea of where you want them – after the wire is installed you won’t be able to move them around much.
When you’re good with the location, grab your wire:
landscaping light wireLay it out from one light to the last light. I give myself a little give between lights so I can move them around a little bit if needed. When you get to the outlet, cut the wire (leaving a little give).
This is the fun part. :) Remember NOTHING is plugged in till the last step. You are not dealing with wires that can hurt you. It’s more dangerous to plug in a lamp. ;)
Each light has a little connector. You’ll unscrew the bottom part of it, then run the wire through that bottom part and then screw the connector back together:
how to install landscaping lights yourself
You see those sharp metal pieces in the photo to the left? Those are what pierce into the wire when you screw everything back together.
Make sure to screw it back together pretty tight, otherwise your light won’t connect. This obviously keeps it water-free as well.
Keep going down your wire and connect each light. When you get to the end where your lights will be plugged in, you’ll get to the final step. This is the only part that involves working with the wires.
Use a wire cutter to split the wire in half (it has a groove down the middle). You’ll need about two inches separated:
DIY landscaping lights
Use the wire cutter to strip about 1/2 to 3/4 inch off the end of the two wires, then twist those wire together. Don’t twist the two wires together – twist the strands of each one.
Grab your power pack and turn it over. Remove the screws and just place the wires into each section:
connecting power pack to landscaping lights connecting power pack to landscaping lights
I show two ways of doing it here. I used the version on the right so the wires wouldn’t be exposed to the elements as much. It doesn’t really matter if they are – the wires on our other set are installed like the left and are fine.
This power pack has a spot for two wires to be plugged into it. So as long as they equal to 200 watts or less, you could have one set of landscaping lights going one direction from your outlet, and another set going the other direction.
Install the screws again, making sure to tighten as much as you can:
power pack for landscaping lights
You’re done! Whoot!
Just plug in your power pack and turn it on:
power pack landscaping lights
These have an option to keep them on all the time, turn on and then stay on for one to nine hours or to turn on automatically when the sun goes down. I use the auto setting.
After you’ve got the bulbs installed and it’s on, you can adjust the placement of your lights a bit.
While I was at it I spray painted our hose guides that were looking a little worn:
spray painting outdoor items hose guides
Spray paint strikes again!
You’ll be shocked at how nice it looks. Just a warning. You’ll walk outside all night long to check them out that first night. ;)
I LOVE it. I plan to add a ton more of the path lights around the back too:
DIY landscaping lighting
It looks SO good!:
landscaping lights in garden
I forgot to add that after you’re completely done, you’ll want to hide the wire in your mulch.
I’m still playing around with the placement of the flood lights:   flood landscaping lights
We just had some of the plants cleaned up when the mulch went down and the viburnum bush is looking a little thin:landscaping lights how to
It will fill in more though (this thing grows like mad!).
It’s hard to get a shot from the front with the trees but hopefully this gives you an idea of the difference it makes!:
landscaping lights in flower beds
Our utility boxes are on this side of the house and I have plans to hide those (but make it possible to for the utility folks to see them easily). I have a few more plants I plan to add to this side as well:
landscaping lights tutorial
The list never ends, inside or out, and I love it! :)
I hope this tutorial helps those of you who are interested in tackling this on your own. It is really one of the easiest do-it-yourself projects. Please don’t be intimidated by the wires – once you get one light connected you’ll see how simple it is! Landscaping lights make a house look so pretty at night, and they’re nice added security too.
The total cost of my project was about $180, but that includes three lights I can use elsewhere and extra wire as well. Also, as I mentioned, the power pack was more than I needed, so I’ll get a cheaper one and move that to the back when I start the lights around the deck and patio.
Let me know if you have any questions or if I didn’t address anything you’re wondering about!
Here’s an easy image to use if you’d like to pin this one! (Hover over photo and click the button on the upper left.): DIY landscaping tutorial
**To see how I added the DIY craftsman hardware on our garage door, go here!


  1. We live in the country, which means there are no street lights, and come sundown it is completely dark outside. Love seeing the stars at night, but having a bit of light around the house outdoors is a must have in my opinion. Along the driveway, the sidewalk, security lighting at the darkest spots, ie: corners of the house. It makes a huge difference for us. Loved your post!

  2. I need to show your post to my husband! Thank you so much Sarah! love the new lighting in your home!

  3. Lovely! Once these lights are installed can you leave them in place year round, or do they come out before the snow flies?

  4. Looks great! Electricity just went up by about 37% (ouch) in my area so we use solar lights but I love the impact of these and how much brighter they are. Looks easy too! Thanks!

  5. These pictures are amazing! And your pictures of exactly what to buy and do make me think that I could actually tackle this on my own. I always thought this kind of lighting was a pro-only project. So glad it's not!

  6. In your first picture of the front of your house, what is the tree with purple flowers in the foreground? I've always wanted one!

  7. Looks beautiful, the outside of home is just as nice as the inside, I love everything about your home!

  8. Great job, I always thought it was much harder to do!

  9. Beautiful! And SO much easier than I ever would have thought! Thank u VERY much for the tutorial.
    One question: how does the power pack attach to the house?

    1. Thank you! It comes with screws you can use to attach it. It can also just sit but it's probably best to get it off the ground.

  10. Wow what a difference that makes, I never would have even considered adding flood lights like that! Also, maybe it's just my computer, but that last picture does not have a pin it button when I hover over it! I have the pin it button in my toolbar so I can still pin it, but I just wanted to let you know. :)

  11. What a luxurious yard. It looks stunning. The lights add so much class.
    I didn't know it is that easy to install outdoor lights.

  12. Sarah, I don't know if anyone has asked this already or not (I didn't take the time to read through the comments), but my husband and I are in the process of closing on our first house (yay!) and it's a cutie. It has a berm (sp?) out in front and I'm pretty sure there are not outlets in the middle of the yard. Would there be a type of solar light that would work facing up (like a type of up light) for the tree and bush that sits on it? How would a solar light look- meaning, what kind of light (and in what direction) do they give off? Anyway- any kind of help with that would be wonderful! Thanks!

    1. Yes, they have a ton of solar lights! They have flood lights as well, they just won't let off nearly as much light and it's more of a white light than the warmer halogen. Hope you can find something!

  13. We installed landscape lighting around our home a few years ago and it made our little house look like a million dollars. I love it for the additional security it provides, and it does a good job illuminating the walkways so you're not nearly as likely to stumble walking around at night. My husband did the installation but your tutorial is so easy to follow I think I could have put them in myself if it had been available back then. Now I can't wait to see how you cover up that electric meter!!!

  14. I love the lights! This might be a weird question, but I have to ask. I've been wanting to do some landscaping outside our house similar to yours. What do you use for the border between the grass and the mulch?

    1. Not weird at all! We have a landscaper friend that does our mulch and they dig it out with a sharp spade -- it kind of makes a small divot and the grass doesn't grow into mulch. I still don't get why it works! I want to have him show me so I can share it here. :)

  15. Great Tutorial! I love to look of outdoor lighting too and have some in my yard. I do urge all to consider using a timer to turn the lights off at some point so that they are not on all night. The effects of human artificial night light on wildlife is beginning to have effects - this web article is interesting and explains it all a bit:

  16. Love the post, as always! Lighting makes such a difference and now I think I have the confidence to try it myself! I also like to walk in the evening and love it when the lights come on! Also, have never seen the hose guides before - very cool!

  17. This tutorial is amazing! I love seeing homes uplight like this. I wonder if I can get all this stuff in Ireland? I will have to check it out. I would love it in my back garden with all the planting. I also love the hose guards, I have never seen those before and could do with some. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I'm sure you could find it all at local hardware stores there. I would think they would have them!

  18. I'm impressed. This looks great!

  19. Thanks so much for this Sarah! We snagged a floodlight kit on clearance this winter and I've been waiting for my husband to install it but I think, after reading this, I'll just do it myself and surprise him!! :)


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