How to Install Exterior Outdoor Recessed Light Fixtures on a Soffit

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Wire and install your exterior recessed lighting.
Wire and install your exterior recessed lighting. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

The overhang of your roof is designed to protect your walls and foundation from excess moisture as well as provide protection from rain over windows and entryways. A facia board installs between the exterior wall of your home and the edge of your roof to hide exposed rafters, creating a soffit. The space behind the soffit opens up into the attic of your home, providing an excellent area to install exterior outdoor recessed lighting to enhance the exterior of your home and add lighting to dark areas, increasing the security of your home.

Things You'll Need

  • Rotary tool
  • Multipurpose cutting bit
  • 12/2 nonmetallic electrical cable
  • Flat-head screwdriver
  • 1/2-inch NM connectors
  • 1/2-inch lock nuts
  • Cable ripper
  • Wire stripper
  • Twist-on wire connectors
  • Light bulbs
  • Weatherproof recessed light trims

Place the recessed fixtures between windows, near the corners of your home or in areas around your home that require additional illumination.

Trace the recessed light fixture template onto the facia board of the soffit where you intend to install your exterior recessed lighting. When choosing the size of your remodel recessed fixtures, pick shallow, six-inch housings to accommodate the lack of depth in the soffit, or 4-inch recessed housings. Also, take into consideration the weatherproof light covers you intend to install on your fixtures to help determine the size of housing you choose.

Cut through the trace lines on the facia board with a rotary tool equipped with a multipurpose cutting bit. Carefully follow the trace lines to ensure your recessed fixture sets snugly in the soffit.

Cut one length of 12/2 nonmetallic electrical cable to reach from the first recessed lighting fixture in the run back to your power source. This wire is your power supply wire. Your power source could be a light switch for your exterior lighting by an entry door, or an independent circuit installed in your main breaker panel.

Cut additional lengths of electrical cable to daisy chain each recessed fixture to the one prior. Daisy-chaining the fixtures together allows you to turn on each recessed fixture with one switch. Add at least 1 foot of cable to each measurement to allow for the wiring connections.

Feed electrical cable from your power source to the first recessed light. Feed the additional lengths of cable from the first recessed light to each recessed light in the run along the soffit.

Press the tab holding the cover on the junction box attached to the tail of your recessed fixture. Insert a flat-head screwdriver into the slots on the junction box to pry out two of the 1/2-inch round knockouts.

Insert the threads of a 1/2-inch NM connector into the half-inch round opening. Secure the connector to the junction box by twisting a 1/2-inch lock nut onto the threads of the connector.

Repeat this process for each recessed fixture in the lighting run, with the exception of the last fixture. The last fixture should only have one knockout pried from the junction box.

Insert the electrical cable from your power supply through one of the NM connectors in your first recessed fixture junction box. Insert the cable connecting the first fixture to the next fixture through the second connector.

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

Connect the two black wires from the NM cables to the recessed lighting fixture’s black wire inside the junction box. Use a twist-on wire connector to secure the wires together. Repeat this same connection for the two white wires from the NM cables and the white wire from the recessed lighting fixture, and with the bare copper wires and green ground wire inside the box.

Snap the recessed lighting junction box cover back onto the junction box. Tighten the screws on the wire connectors securing the NM cable into the box.

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

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

Install a light bulb in each fixture. Refer to the list of light bulbs on the inside of your can that corresponds with the can and weatherproof trim you've chosen. You must use the correct size and wattage light bulb, or your lights could cycle off and on, flicker or create a fire hazard.

Squeeze the two wires of the butterfly springs on both sides of your recessed weatherproof 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.

Connect the power supply wire to your power source at a light switch or to a new circuit inside your breaker box once you finish installing your exterior outdoor recessed fixtures. Contact a licensed electrician if you’re uncomfortable with connecting it to your home’s electricity.

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