Skip to main content

Brighten up your walkway with landscape lighting: What you need to know

The exterior of your home is the first place guests access when they’re visiting, so it needs to be safe and easy to traverse. That’s why having adequate outdoor lighting is imperative. Additionally, if you’re selling your home, a stylish, modern outdoor lighting solution gives prospective buyers a great first impression of the property. With a just few lighting updates, you can give your home an immediate facelift and make it more inviting for guests and prospective buyers alike. Here’s how to install outdoor lighting.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Can I install outdoor lighting myself?

Adding a lighting concept to your outdoor space doesn’t necessarily require a wealth of DIY skills. It does, however, require some knowledge of and comfort with electrical components. There are three main types of electrical systems for landscape lighting, and the method you choose determines the skill level required for the project.

  • Line voltage systems run at 120 volts, and the lights require as much electricity as your home’s appliances. This system needs to be hard-wired to the electrical system in your home and may require the use of a certified electrician.
  • Low voltage systems require the use of a transformer to reduce the voltage to 12 volts, and the transformer can connect to your standard outdoor GFCI outlet. This energy-efficient system is DIY friendly, so all you need is some basic electrical wiring skills.
  • Solar light systems are by far the easiest landscape lighting systems to install. The lights generate power from a photovoltaic cell that soaks up solar energy, so no wiring is necessary.

Choose lights that work best for your walkway

Deciding on the types of lights you’ll be using is actually a pretty fun step, since this is where the customization comes in. In addition to determining whether you’ll use solar lights or a low voltage system, think about how you want to arrange the lights.

  • Path lights are placed in intervals along your walkway to illuminate it.
  • Uplights shine upwards to highlight staircases, decorative pieces, or archways.

How to install outdoor lighting

Ready to flex your DIY muscles? Here’s a simple guide to installing a low-voltage outdoor lighting system.

Collect your materials

If you purchase a low-voltage lighting system, it should include most of the items you need. Double-check that your kit includes:

  • 100-300 watt transformer
  • 10-gauge main wire
  • Wire connectors
  • Light fixtures

You’ll also need the following tools and materials to mount the transformer and wire the light fixtures:

  • Wooden post for mounting (if you’re not mounting on a structure)
  • Wood screws (if mounting on a wood surface)
  • Power drill
  • Shovel
  • Tape measure

Locate the nearest power source

The nearest source of power will likely be an outdoor GFCI outlet. You’ll need to mount the transformer either on the side of the home’s structure or on a wooden post.

Mount the transformer

Using a power drill and appropriate hardware for the mounting surface, secure the transformer to the exterior wall or wood post.

Place and stake light fixtures along the walkway

Assemble your light fixtures according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Using a tape measure, space the path light fixtures equally along the path. Be sure they look evenly placed and will provide enough light. Once you’re satisfied with the location of the fixtures, stake them into the ground.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

How do you wire outdoor lighting?

What you’ll need

  • Wire strippers
  • Wire cutters
  • 4-in-1 screwdriver
  • Brass barrel connectors
  • Heat shrink tubing
  • Propane torch

What you’ll do

  1. Strip the end of the two conductors at the end of the 10-gauge wire and connect them to the transformer’s terminals according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Keep the transformer unplugged for now.
  2. Take your 10-gauge wire and run it along the path of lights from the transformer all the way to the last path light. Make sure to leave about 12 to 18 inches of wire slack at each fixture to ensure you’re able to move the light if you need to.
  3. Take the fixture wires and use a wire stripper to remove an inch off the end of the insulation.
  4. Cut the 10 gauge wire you’ve run along the path, pull to separate the conductors on it, and strip the two ends of those wires as well.
  5. Take brass barrel connectors and attach them to both conductors of the main wire and tighten the screws.
  6. Slip the heat shrink tubing over the brass barrel connectors before attaching the connector to the fixture wires and tightening their screws.
  7. Use a propane torch to carefully heat up the shrink tubing until it encloses tightly around the brass barrel connectors.
  8. Repeat the wiring steps for all light fixtures.
  9. Plug the transformer into the power source, according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and test your new path lights.
  10. To bury the wire that runs along the path, use a flat or blunt-end shovel to dig a narrow trench along the path. The trench only needs to be wide enough to fit the wire, but it should be roughly six inches deep.
  11. Push the wire down into the trench and bury it.

Depending on the system, installing outdoor path lights can be quite complex. While a bit more labor-intensive, low voltage systems will give your outdoor space the style and illumination it deserves. For those energy and labor-conscious renovators, consider implementing a solar system or calling in a professional for help.

Editors' Recommendations

Veronica Sparks
Veronica Sparks is a writer from Milwaukee, Wisconsin who loves writing about gardening, home décor, and DIY life. She’s…
Make spring cleanup easy: The only home maintenance checklist you’ll ever need
spring tulips in front of a white house

The weather will soon be warmer and the days longer, but the effects of winter are still all around your home. That's why a spring home maintenance checklist is so useful. It can help keep you organized as you prepare your home for summer, and it can save you time and money on unnecessary repairs. Here are some commonly neglected items, both indoors and outdoors, that should be on every homeowner's spring checklist.

Outdoor spring home maintenance checklist
If you live in a region with cold weather, the exterior of your home takes quite a beating in the winter. The impact that snow, ice, and freezing temperatures have on the home's structure can make any homeowner nervous. The good news is, you can save yourself some big headaches if you're diligent about inspecting your home in the spring and fixing minor repairs before they become major problems.
Check for and repair damage to roofing
The weight of just a few inches of snow can do damage to your home's roof. Particularly when it comes to older roofs, one big snowfall in the beginning of winter can let in moisture or even cause a leak. Grab your ladder, safety equipment, and a buddy, and climb up to your roof to take a peek. Loose shingles, broken shingles, and popped nails will need to be replaced.
Check for and repair concrete and asphalt damages
Another woe of freezing weather is that it can damage concrete and asphalt. Examine your driveway, concrete stairs, walkways, and patios for any visible cracks. Even if the crack is minor, if water gets inside of it and freezes, it will expand the crack and require an even more expensive repair. It's a good idea to repair the crack while it's small.
Consider an exterior paint job
Spring is the perfect time to paint the exterior of your home since the temperature and humidity won't negatively impact your paint job. If the outside of your home could use a little TLC, put this project on the list for spring home maintenance.
Consider staining exterior wood surfaces
Cold weather and moisture make wood stain fade quickly. Check your decks, fences, and any other wooden outdoor surfaces to see if they are in need of a good staining.
Check window screens and caulking for damage
Just as your windows should be sealed well in the winter to keep the warm air in, they should also be tightly sealed in the summer to keep the cool air in. Examine the caulking around your window panes to be sure no cracks or gaps exist, and re-caulk if needed. Also, check window screens for tears and holes that might let in bugs when the windows are open.
Clean window exteriors and screens
Get all that grime off of your windows' exteriors after the long winter. It's not advised that you use a pressure washer for windows on upper levels since the force could easily break the glass. Instead, climb up on your ladder and clean those windows by hand. Use window cleaner and a squeegee to make them sparkle.

Read more
Don’t screw up your golden years: What to know about downsizing when you retire
downsizing when you retire best retirement party decorations

Downsizing isn't just about companies saving money. If you're preparing for a big life change — say, retirement — you might start planning to downsize certain things in your life, beginning with your home. While that can feel like a daunting decision to make, there are several reasons you might consider this change, including:

Economic necessity
Health concerns
Convenience
Relocating for retirement
Seller’s market

Read more
What you need to know about planning out your garden in the cold season
how to store seed gardening packets hand

Any avid gardener will tell you that the cold weather doesn’t really dampen the desire to get into the dirt and do a little work. You might not be dining al fresco or enjoying your morning coffee in the garden as much as you did in the spring and summer, but your cold-weather garden still offers plenty of outdoor pleasures you can enjoy. 

Even as your plants go dormant and the temperatures dip, you don't have to put gardening on hold. Here's what you should do in the off-season to maintain your flower beds.
How to plan a garden for fall and beyond
Some vegetables and plants thrive in the cold weather — now is the time to focus on these seasonal sprouts so you can reap the rewards your fall gardening tasks will offer come springtime.  

Read more