Soffit floodlights © D Friedman at Exterior Lighting Installation, Inspection, Troubleshooting, Repair
How to install or repair outdoor light fixtures

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This article describes exterior lighting for residential & light commercial properties.

We begin with a discussion of how to install recessed lights in an exterior soffit or roof overhang. We provide lighting installation suggestions about the type of light fixture to use, light fixture support, clearances, fire safety, moisture resistance, switch location, and electrical code citations for exterior lighting on buildings.

Comparison of low-voltage or 12-V recessed light fixtures with 120-V recessed lights, Comparison of bulb types for recessed lighting, Solutions for limited-installation-space problems in low-slope roof soffits, Solutions for aiming lights down when installed in an angled soffit that follows roof rafters, Wiring suggestions for outdoor soffit recessed lighting.

We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.

Exterior Light Choices, Installation, Troubleshooting

Outdoor soffit surface mount fixture © D Friedman at Article Series Contents

Also see our discussion of lighting requirements over stairs, at LIGHTING OVER STAIRS & AT EXITS and see LIGHTING, INTERIOR GUIDE for details about lighting fixtures, bulbs, and indoor requirements.

How to Install Recessed Lights in Roof Soffit Overhangs Outdoors

Reader Question:

I've used your website many times to find trusted advice on building and remodeling practices. I have a question that I can't seem to find an answer on at inspectapedia. I wonder if you might be able to answer. I want to know if it is acceptable to put recessed can lighting in exterior vinyl soffits.

I know it is fine in aluminum soffits, but I am concerned about the effects of the heat on the Vinyl soffits. In particular, can regular IC or non-IC 4" or 5" can lights be installed in the eves in Vinyl soffits? Thanks for your time and keep up the excellent work. - A. F.

Vinyl roof soffit covering © D Friedman at

Photo (above) of recessed lighting installed in a roof soffit overhang, courtesy of Paul Galow.

Reply: how to install recessed lights in a vinyl soffit or roof overhang

Here are the installation considerations that you should keep in mind when buying & installing outdoor light fixtures for a roof overhang or soffit. These points include addressing your worry about the effects of heat on vinyl roof soffits as well as other installation advice we found while researching the question.

Choice of recessed light fixtures for an outdoor roof soffit

IC damp location recessed  light fixture label © D Friedman at

While there are of course many surface-mount light fixtures that also work fine outdoors including at the roof eaves, you (and many people) want to install recessed fixtures, also referred to as "pot lights" or in some installations, downlights.

Installing the Recessed Lights Under the Soffit

Support for recessed lights in an outdoor roof overhang

Wiring the recessed soffit lights

Choosing Bulb Types for Outdoor Recessed Soffit Lights

Reinstall the Soffit Covering of Vinyl or Aluminum; Choose & Install Recessed Soffit Light Trim

Vinyl roof soffit covering © D Friedman at

Surface-Mount Outdoor Light Fixture Installations

At below left our photo illustrates a surface-mounted outdoor light fixture installed beneath a building overhang. This fixture, one of a pair along a walkway beneath the overhang, lights the passage to the building's front door.

Outdoor soffit surface mount fixture © D Friedman at

By choosing a fixture that includes a motion sensor and day-night controls, the owners can leave this fixture switched "on" 24-hours a day. Settings on the light control for many outdoor lights permit the occupant to choose among

Light switch lock © D Friedman at

At the indoor light switch for such fixtures, we like to install a reminder that the switch should normally be left in the "on" position. To prevent the switch from being flipped to the "off" position accidentally, we install the clear plastic switch block shown in our second photo, above right. It is still possible to turn the switch off, leaving the plastic switch-block in place but prying it away from the switch with your thumbnail, or better, by loosening its mounting screw.

Outdoor Light Fixture Inspection

Now found at UNSAFE OUTDOOR LIGHT FIXTURES are photographs & text discussing examples of outdoor "lighting" practices to avoid.

Diagnose & fix an outdoor "Dusk to Dawn" motion-sensor light fixture

Reader Question:

2016/04/03 Freezing Cold said:
Without warning, our outdoor dusk to dawn light stopped working Tried cleaning the fixture's sensor & changing floodlight bulbs, but that didn't help. Any ideas or suggestions? Or is this 3-year old fixture a goner? Thanks.

Our reply is now found at REPAIR AUTOMATIC OUTDOOR LIGHT FIXTURE where we detail the steps in diagnosing and fixing a light that's not working.


Continue reading at SECURITY / MOTION SENSOR LIGHT INSTALL or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.





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