Overview

Lamppost Overview
Photo: Gregory Nemec
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You don't want a lamp that leans like a prizefighter in the 12th round—it must stand tall and straight. Unfortunately, the ground won't always cooperate in supporting the post because rains and frosts and even droughts can shift the soil. So you need to set it in a stable footing to keep it aligned. About 16 inches of concrete will do the trick, with the post set 12 inches into it. You can also add to the stability of the lamp by digging a deeper hole and lining it with about 6 inches of gravel, says This Old House general contractor Tom Silva. Though manufacturers don't require this step, Tom recommends it to help with drainage and minimize frost heaves in colder climates.

To bring the wiring from the breaker box in the house out to the post, you'll need to bury it. The wire we recommend you use is rated for direct burial, but in concrete it needs the protection of PVC conduit. For a double measure of safety, we suggest you protect the wire with conduit for its entire run. That will avoid any nasty surprises should someone dig too close later on. The lamp post is hollow to allow the wires to run without the conduit from the base to the lantern top.

When you run the wire, make sure to leave plenty of extra near the house so there's enough to snake through the wall and reach the circuit-breaker panel inside the house. Then have a licensed electrician check your work, make the connection to the breaker, and install the switch for the light.
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    Tools List

    • post hole digger
      Posthole digger
    • flathead screwdriver
      Screwdriver
    • trenching spade
      Trenching spade
    • wire strippers
      Wire stripper
    • masonry hoe
      Masonry hoe and wheelbarrow
    • two-foot level
      2-foot level
    • hack saw
      Hacksaw,
      to cut PVC conduit
    • flat blade shovel
      Shovel and concrete float
    • strapping
      Rope or strapping and stakes

    Shopping List

    1. LANTERN

    (the fixture that sits atop the post). Lanterns and posts usually sold separately.



    2. POST

    These come in only a few styles: fluted, not fluted, with or without a crossbar. It's best to order posts from the same manufacturer as your lantern, to ensure that the finishes match.



    3. WIRE

    You'll need enough UF-rated exterior wire to reach from inside the house to the post outside, plus an extra 9 feet to run up through the post. 12-gauge wire will suit both 15-and 20-amp circuits.



    4. CONDUIT

    To meet code for burying wires undergorund, you'll need 3/4-inch "Schedule 40" PVC pipe. Get enough elbows and couplings to make any necessary turns coming out of the house, down to the trench, and up to the post from the ground.



    5. PVC CEMENT

    to adhere the conduit together



    6. 3/4-INCH GRAVEL

    to fill the bottom 6 inches of the posthole



    7. CONCRETE MIX

    Two 80-pound sacks should be enough to creat a 12-inch wide and 16-inch-deep footing.



    8. WIRE NUTS

    to connect the wiring on the lantern. These are color coded by size; yellow should work for 12-gauge wires, but be sure to also check the range of sizes on the packaging.