Making the wire connections.
Photo: Kolin Smith

Step 8: Make the wire connections

Once the concrete is hard enough to hold the post without straps, use a utility knife to carefully peel away 3 inches of the gray insulation from the UF cable coming out of the post to reveal the three wires encased in it: white, black, and a bare copper (or green) ground. These correspond to like-colored wires on the lantern.

Use wire strippers to expose ½ inch of bare copper on all the colored wires from the post and lantern. Pair the wires from the lantern to those from the post, matching white to white, black to black, and bare copper to bare copper (or green). Twist on wire nuts to hold the pairs together.

Slide the lantern onto the post and tighten its set screws to secure it. Have a licensed electrician connect the wires to the breaker box and install a switch in a convenient location.

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    Tools List

    • post hole digger
      Posthole digger
    • flathead screwdriver
    • trenching spade
      Trenching spade
    • wire strippers
      Wire stripper
    • masonry hoe
      Masonry hoe and wheelbarrow
    • two-foot level
      2-foot level
    • hack saw
      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.


    to adhere the conduit together

    6. 3/4-INCH GRAVEL

    to fill the bottom 6 inches of the posthole


    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.