How to Paint Exterior Lights


Attention to detail makes the difference between a mediocre paint job and a great one. Painting your exterior lights as a finishing touch to an exterior paint job is one of those finishing touches. Perhaps your front door or carriage lights are simply looking faded and stained with bird poop. It's quite easy to paint them, and there are some spray can paints that give very authentic-looking metallic finishes such as brass or hammered bronze if you're tired of basic black.

Things You'll Need

  • Pliers
  • Screwdriver
  • Sandpaper
  • Wire brush
  • Drop cloths
  • Spray primer
  • Spray paint
  • Turn off the power to the exterior lights, then remove them. Most lights are attached with screws to a mounting plate on the siding. There may be small threaded covers over the screws--remove those by hand, or with a pair of pliers.

  • Pull the light fixture away from the wall. There should be two sets of wires with the ends covered by plastic wire nuts. Unscrew these by hand. Avoid touching the bare wires, or letting them touch each other. Note which wires go together so you can reconnect them correctly when you're done. Replace the wire nuts.

  • Disassemble the light fixture. Clean the glass panels and set them aside.

  • Wash the fixture. If there is peeling paint or rust, remove it with 50-grit sandpaper or a small wire brush.

  • Set up a work area. A bench, or makeshift bench on sawhorses in the garage is ideal. Set drop cloths below the work area.

  • Prime the light fixture if it was rusted or down to bare metal. Use a fast drying oil-based primer from a spray can. Make sure the primer is compatible with the finish paint you intend to use.

  • Spray the fixture with several light, even coats of paint. Keep the spray can 8 to 12 inches away as you spray, and use a light touch to avoid drips and runs. Turn the fixture several times to coat every angle.

  • Allow it to dry as recommended on the label directions before reassembling and reinstalling your exterior light.

Tips & Warnings

  • Read the directions on your spray can paint carefully. There are many different types and they all have very specific cautions and directions.
  • To prevent the tip clogging, turn the can up side down after each use and spray several short bursts until nothing comes out.
  • If the light is up high or hard to get to, put in a fresh light bulb even if the existing one still works.
  • Don't set wet painted fixture parts on newspaper to dry because the newspaper wil stick to the paint. A smooth surface such as plywood or plastic sheeting works best.

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