LED Tape Lights Outdoors (Installing New Front Porch Lighting)

Did you know that you can use LED tape lights outdoors? I didn’t know this until just recently. I’ve been wanting more even lighting across the front of my front porch roof, so yesterday I installed some LED tape lighting just behind the fascia board, and I love how it looks!

LED tape lights outdoors - installed around the front porch roof

This is only the beginning of the outdoor lighting I want to add to the front of the house, but it’s a pretty good start. I wish I had a nighttime “before” pic to share, but I forgot to take one. You’ll just have to take my word for it. These LED tape lights have made a huge difference in the amount of light on my front porch, and I love how it’s more indirect lighting with nothing glaring in your eyes, like the lights flanking the front door seem to do. Now that I have the LED lights, maybe I can put softer bulbs in the front door lights so they’re not quite so harsh on the eyes.

I planned for this lighting back before I worked on my front porch ceiling, which now looks like this…

Tongue and groove pine front porch ceiling painted haint blue

You can click here to see more of that front porch ceiling transformation.

But when it was still at this stage of the project…

Front porch ceiling with exposed rafters before pine tongue and groove boards were installed

…I had a wire run from one of the lights flanking my front door, up into the porch ceiling, and over through the fascia board at the front of the porch roof, along the path of the arrow in the picture below.

installing LED tape lights around front porch roof - run wire to new location

So this wire has just been dangling here for months, waiting for new lights to be installed just behind the fascia board along the front of the porch roof.

installing LED tape lights around front porch roof -wire run to new location

That’s not exactly the safest thing (I know, I know!), but I have tried to keep it wrapped around and up into the ceiling area of the porch to keep it out of the weather.

I had originally intended to install LED rope lighting because I thought that was really the only option for the look I wanted. But when I was at Home Depot to purchase the lighting, I realized that some LED tape lights (the kind generally associated with under cabinet lighting in kitchens) are rated for outdoor use. And since tape lighting has an adhesive backing, it’s so much easier to install than rope lighting. So I decided to go that direction. You can click here to find the lights I used.

Then I had to decide just exactly how to install it. The directions say that when installing LED tape lights outdoors, they have to be on a GFCI outlet. The problem I had with that is that I needed all of this in the picture below (plus an additional three feet of wire not shown) tucked behind the fascia board, which doesn’t allow for much room. So if I installed an actual outlet and plugged the lights into the outlet, I’d have to have all of this mess (about eight total feet of excess wire once the light strip is attached) tucked into that small space.

installing LED tape lights around front porch roof - transformer and cord for lights

I decided against that. Instead of going that route, I decided to cut the cord and hardwire it inside a junction box just behind the fascia board, and then put the whole circuit on a GFCI breaker. A GFCI breaker works just like a GFCI outlet in that it senses surges and will cut the power, but the sensor is actually inside the breaker box rather than inside the outlet. I found this short and helpful video about installing GFCI breakers.

So that allows me to hotwire the lights, meaning I can get rid of quite a bit of the excess wire. I needed to keep the transformer box plus about 10 inches of wire.

hardwiring LED tape lights outdoors so they can be controlled with a switch - cut off plug for hardwiring

After making sure that the switch was turned off for this wire and checking it with the circuit tester, I used an outdoor surface-mount junction box and fed the wire through the hole on the back of the box. Then I secured the box to the board with screws. I needed the junction box as close to one side as possible, so I only had room for two screws. But that seemed sufficient to hold it very securely.

installing LED tape lights around front porch roof - intall outdoor surface mount junction box

Next, I placed the transformer box right next to the junction box and screwed it into place. I fed the cut wires through the hole on the end of the junction box and wired them together — black to black and white to white.

installing LED tape lights around front porch roof - intall transformer next to junction box and make connections

Then I was ready to attach the light strip to the transformer box. The two just push together and then screw together. That was easy enough, but then it left me with about three excess feet of wire between the connection and the beginning of the actual light strip.

LED tape lights outdoors - excess wire between connection and beginning of light strip

So I just fed that excess wire through the front hole in the junction box…

LED tape lights outdoors - installing LED tape lights around front porch roof - excess wire goes into the junction box

And then rolled the excess wire up very neatly and tucked it inside the junction box.

LED tape lights outdoors - installing LED tape lights around front porch roof - excess wire placed inside junction box

Then I placed the cover (rated for outdoor use) onto the junction box so everything looked very clean and tidy.

LED tape lights outdoors - cover placed on junction box to hide wires

I used two strips of lights and installed them right next to each other.

installing LED tape lights around front porch roof - two rows of tape lights placed right together

On the end, I used the coupler that was provided with the lights to turn the corner and change directions.

LED tape lights outdoors - two strips spliced together using a connector and installed just behind fascia board at front of porch roof.

The LED tape lights are very sticky, but I’m sure I’ll have to go back and add some wire staples to keep them up there. I’ll definitely have to use some wire staples to hold up the end by the junction box and the connector at the other end of the porch. The connector isn’t sticky, so the weight of it pulls on the lights.

There are some little wire staples and some other plastic clips that come with the lights, but they’re made to perfectly fit the width of one strip of the lights, and they require space on either side of the light strip for a nail or tiny screws. Since I placed two strips of lights right together, I’ll require staples or clips that are much wider than those provided.

And here’s a close up look at the lights as the sun was going down last night.

LED tape lights outdoors - installed just behind the fascia board on the roof of the front porch

I’m definitely going to be looking for more places to use LED tape lights outdoors, because I love how they look. From most angles, the actual lights don’t show at all, but the beautiful glow from them shows up very well and illuminates the front porch just perfectly.

installing LED tape lights around front porch roof - lights installed and turned on at night
LED tape lights outdoors installed around the roof of the front porch - lights installed and turned on at night

After I got it all done and was admiring the new lighting last night, I began to wonder if I should have taken the lights around the side of the porch as well.

LED tape lights outdoors - installed around front porch roof

It’s not too late to do that. I’d just need to order a couple more of the couplers, and I’ll have extra pieces of tape lighting I can use there once I’m finished installing what I need under the bottom shelves in the pantry. What do you think? Does the side of the porch need tape lighting?

Okay, so this project isn’t exactly crossed off my list just yet. I have two more steps to do — switching out the regular circuit breaker for a GFCI circuit breaker, and attaching a few wire staples here and there — and then I can cross this project off of my list.

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  1. Looks good, Kristi. There something special about outdoor lighting, especially during the Christmas season!

    I know that it feels good to get even more things checked off your 2018 list. You have done a fabulous job of crossing things off your initial 2018 year list!

  2. We got similar lights inside backlighting curtains inside (if one side is brighter you can’t see thru). It’s not the greatest set-up because we use receipt paper to diffuse it. The adhesive comes lose when it heats up so we had to go back and use the provided clips.

    Now I want the dims for the strip lights, so I can convince my husband to print you a handfull of double-wide clips for you. I even found a model that you could adjust with less fancy software to get it just right. We got a new 3D printer we love at the moment. But we are limited because, we don’t have software for creating/editing files at the moment. If you know of a local maker space, you can probably play with this clip design in the customizer and get someone to print it for you. Just credit the designer instructions at the link (not us). https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:537564

    Honestly, unsticking and adjusting one strip over may be the best solution if it starts sagging. It would give space for heat to diffuse and you use what you got.

  3. I’m up in the air on this one, but it sure is growing on me! Now I just need to build us a proper porch…..see what happens to me! More projects! haha

  4. That looks so welcoming! Lovely! As far as turning the corner, you might want to wait and see what you do with your landscaping there. You don’t have steps on that end any more so landscape lighting might be sufficient?

  5. I’ve never seen that kind of lighting on a house before and I LOVE it!!! I think you may have started something…

  6. Looks wonderful! I second what Judy said about waiting and seeing what you do with landscape lighting because I think just the front might be sufficient depending on what you do with landscaping! Additionally, since the lights would go up on the side, it might look strange if they then just stop mid-way up the roofline, even though that is where the porch stops.

    1. Yes, the stopping partway up the roof line thought occurred to me too… seemed like it might be visually awkward?
      I like the extra lighting as a help at night. My eyes aren’t so good in the dark, and light shining down on the stairs, not just up by the door, is a great idea!

  7. This is fantastic!! Great lighting for safety! I think it is a great idea to put it around the side too. Lighting is so important these days. Keeping things lighted up at night deters burglaries. We now have everyone on our street leaving on one light at night to light up our street! Keep up the good work. I absolutely love your transformation of this house!!! Merry Christmas!

    1. Hello– It’s completely counter-intuitive, but keeping homes and yards lighted up at night actually doesn’t protect property from burglaries for several reasons. First off, a well-lit house means the burglars can see what they’re doing without having to use flashlights. Flashlights look suspicious, which helps neighbors and passers-by realize that something is wrong and call the police. Moreover, it’s easier for the burglars to tell whether anyone is home. If they want to ring the doorbell to be sure, then the lights themselves help provide cover for the ruse, e.g., if they’re pretending to be lost or looking for a dog or whatever, they can state that the lights implied that someone was home to provide advice.

      Back in the day, burglars were stealing electronics, musical instruments and other stuff they could fence. But today, they’re mostly seeking cash, drugs, jewelry, and guns, all of which are typically stored in the same places in every home. The prep for the burglary–when they’re choosing the target home, ascertaining whether there’s a foilable alarm system, and trying to figure out how to get in–takes longer than the actual burglary. So you don’t want to make that part easy for them, which providing convenient lighting does.

      In a related vein, lighting bridges and sharp curves on otherwise dark roads doesn’t make them safer for motorists. That’s because people’s eyes can’t adjust fast enough given their driving speed. So as they enter/exit the pool of light, they experience night vision adjustment issues and actually see worse for a moment… just at the time when the hazard is presenting the most danger. Again, it’s counter-intuitive but true.

      1. This was very interesting to read! My neighbor’s front porch lighting is so bright, it’s like stadium lighting. Drives me crazy. I personally hate how lit up people keep their houses at night these days. I grew up in farm country and moved to a city, and it is so hard to get used to. None of my family from home can sleep at my house because it’s so bright! I did always think that it might slightly deter burglars, but I’m of the opinion that if they are brazen enough to rob a house, lighting probably won’t stop them. But your explanation was very logical!

      2. Most burgalaries are during the day when people are out. My brothers door was kicked in, during the afternoon. Stole maybe $300 worth of stuff, door repair $1400.

    1. That’s correct, but the tape lights do have a remote control that will turn them off/on and can dim/brighten them. So I can switch on the door lights and turn off the tape lights if I wanted to. But I can’t turn on the tape lights and turn off the door lights…unless I just unscrew the bulbs. 🙂 I’m sure there are smart bulb options that would allow me to control those bulbs with my phone, if I found the need for them.

  8. The lighting looks nice, but when doing outdoor night lighting, it’s important to think of the neighbors. I’ve had to put up blackout shades and drapes because of a neighbor who occasionally lit up his backyard like a football field. (His floodlights were in a tree.) Fortunately, he didn’t have them on often. Now, I have another neighbor who had three floodlights that were so bright that the house across the street (next door to me) was literally lit up inside at night. After receiving a complaint, he took out one of the floodlights, but he still has the rest of the lights on 24-7. This is nuts because it’s virtually a crime-free neighborhood. Soft lighting is fine. Extreme lighting, no.

  9. Your lights are a great example of “proper” placement. They illuminate the porch and adjacent area WITHOUT causing light pollution. Many of us enjoy looking at the beauty of the heavens at night, something that is becoming increasingly difficult due to indiscriminate use of high-powered and poorly aimed lighting. Thank you from everyone involved in the Dark Skies Project. https://www.darksky.org/

      1. Most USA residents have NO concept of the number of stars that can be seen by the naked eye.
        Here is a list of locations. Be aware that optimum viewing takes place on a clear night, between the hours of 2 and 4 AM. I takes the human eye at least 20 minutes of total darkness to achieve full iris enlargement. The “star gazers” at these sites are VERY generous about sharing info and letting you gaze through their equipment. Red-shielded flashlights are required so as not to interfere with the optics.

          1. 406 is God’s area code. The first truly dark sky I saw was about 45 minutes west of the Jersey Lilly in Ingomar. We had a “take-out” order of oranges & onions and stopped by the side of the road. This was way back before the LT. Governor of Montana came out to perform the Official First Flush of the newly-piped toilet at the Lilly. Same trip I saw (faintly) the Northern Lights.

  10. Well, another job done🙋🏻‍♀️ Your ability to plan and execute all your projects amazes me. I would take the lights around the corner. Merry Christmas 🌲⛄️

  11. Since you asked….I would not put any more lights around your porch. A little can go a long way. My preference, but perhaps not yours, would be either the door lights OR the porch lights but not both. You also said you weren’t done with your lighting plan at the front of your house. What’s your forward thinking on this? Do your neighbors use outdoor lighting also during most of the evening? I might be more inclined to use my neighborhood as my guide to “fit in” as opposed to “standing out” if that makes sense. Glad you were able to cross off (almost) another thing on your list, Kristi 🙂

  12. The lighting looks great! Personally, I would not run the lighting along the side of the porch – it would too much for me. I think it looks perfect as it is…

    I did notice that you didn’t use wire clamps for the wires coming out the electrical box… I would be sure to at least try to cover the hole into the box somehow before bees, wasps or something else tries to nest in there.

    You are a wonderful inspiration for a DIYer like me… thanks!

  13. I love the lights and now I have something new for my hubby’s honey do list 🙂 I am sure he will thank you for this. Lol

  14. You are so amazing! Love the lights! I didn’t realize you could get those lights
    for outside. Everything you do is perfection!! Thanks for being such a good
    teacher! I love getting your post. Thanks!!

  15. Another fantastic and inspirational DIY Kristi! As far as running it around the side, I’d say just finish it up as is, and when you work on your other outdoor projects in that area, consider adding it again at that point. Love it!

  16. I think the lights are fine, and once you switch to a lower watt in the decorative lights that should look better. I wouldn’t bother with the side of the porch. If it were me, I would consider two uplights in the corners of the breakfast room wall. I don’t know how much sun that area gets, but we got two sets of four floodlights that are solar powered for accenting the front of our house. We’ve had them for two years now with no problems, and we love how they wash the house outside with a subtle light.
    we got these:
    Iextreme Solar Spotlights, 4 LED Waterproof Solar Spotlight 180 ° Adjustable Wall Light, 2-in-1 Security Lighting, Auto On/Off Landscape Lights for Gardens Patio Deck Yard Driveway Pool Area(2 Pack)

  17. The new LED light strip looks really great and love how it lights up the porch. I agree with you that now the lights flanking the front door are too bright and changing for a lower wattage bulb will fix that. I personally wouldn’t continue the strip lights around the corner of the porch at this stage until you’ve done the landscaping outside your breakfast room to see what you will do there, then decide. How awesome to get another item off your do to list for 2018. We’ll done Kristi.

  18. Now that you’ve asked, I’d probably lower the wattage then stand back and look. Right now the right side seems a little shadowed. Maybe you like that. Or maybe your landscape lighting will solve that. At any rate, I sure wouldn’t be in a hurry to add more. Take a rest!

  19. I love the look! The way the lights are set up now they lead you to the front door steps. I don’t think you need more light. I have these lights in my kitchen and love them. They were my first project in my new place!

  20. I love those lights! It might be nice to light up the side, if you have the supplies to do it but if it doesn’t get done, it is still beautiful.

  21. Honestly, I don’t even notice the door sconces because the strip lighting is so bright and imo, harsh. It really makes that one white beam stand out rather than give a warm glow to the whole porch.

  22. Just a tip for ya- They sell aluminum housing for LED tape (w/ optional acrylic lenses) that help with the heat dissipation to help prevent the strips from burning out or dimming over time. Heat is the enemy of LED bulbs but unfortunately the tape lights require tiny chips to power each of the LED’s and those chips create A LOT of heat (made worse on exterior or wet rated strips that have silicone coating). I found this out after installing some around a vanity mirror and suffering burnout within a year…after installing some aluminum channels with frosted lenses it’s been perfect and has the added benefit of diffusing the LED’s when looking directly at them.