Landscaping electrics and lighting

Most clients who have invested a fair bit in remodelling their gardens are going to want to make sure all that work can be seen at any time of day or night. You’ve therefore probably had at least a bit of external electrical wiring work to do as part of most garden landscaping jobs you’ve taken on. Of course, the most common task is installing various kinds of garden lights.

Below, we’ve run through a few quick steps to each of the jobs most likely to come up when you’re working on garden electrics. These are all processes that will be second nature to you by now, but it can still be useful to have the steps to hand for conversations with clients about the work you’re planning to undertake.

  • 1. Installing a light on an external wall

    Having started by talking over the options with your client, you should have settled on a light. If your client is worried about security, you’ll likely have pointed them in the direction of a floodlight with PIR motion detection that will switch on in response to movement.

    Whatever type of light your client is after, it goes without saying that the first step in any light installation job is to switch off the power at the mains. You’ll already have a socket tester and a voltage tester and have read up on local Building Regulations. As you know, you’ll have to get an electrician in to do the job if you aren’t qualified.

    With those fundamentals done and dusted, it’s on to the installation itself.

    Step one: Plan your RCD protection

    As you know, an RCD is an extra-safe option if you want to make sure the power switches off automatically in case of a fault, and for many devices and circuit types an RCD is actually mandatory. You might have chosen a unit that incorporates an RCD, or you might prefer to wire it in yourself.

    Step two: Place the hole and cable
    Mark and drill the hole for your light, line it with plastic conduit and insert the cable.

    Step three: Connect up
    Join the cable cores with their terminals in the unit itself or its flex cores. As you’ll be well aware from your previous outdoor electrical work, PVC tape is essential at this stage to keep damp at bay.

    Step four: Affix the light
    Mount the light on the wall and seal its edges with silicone sealant.

    Step five: Link to the junction box
    At this point you’ll be back indoors, working on connecting the light supply cable to the main lighting circuit cable via a junction box. Put the switch in and run its cable to the junction box as well. Finally, with the circuit isolated, use your voltage tester to ensure the power is off, then cut into the main circuit cable so you can connect it up to the junction box.

    If your client has questions, this Deco Bliss video on wiring outdoor lighting is accessible and easy to watch.

  • 2. Installing mains-powered garden lighting

    As with a wall light, you’ll usually end up connecting lighting that stands elsewhere in the garden to the mains supply.

    Step one: Gather your supplies
    If you’re running your garden lights off a ring circuit you’ll need a 5-amp fused connection unit, a three-core steel wire-armoured cable (SWA) and, of course, lights designed for external use.

    Step two: Lay the SWA
    As you know, cutting through an SWA is incredibly dangerous, so you’ll need to dig a deep enough trench for it so that accidents are avoided. Next, fix the SWA to the exterior wall with cable clips, plugs and screws.

    Step three: Final connections
    Time to reach for your junior hacksaw and get cutting. When the SWA has been cut open, use your pliers to strip the armouring. Then connect the cores of the SWA to two core-and-earth cables in a wall-mounted, weatherproof adaptable box. Finally, connect the cable up to the lights themselves.

    It doesn’t need to be said but sealing everything properly and ensuring total dryness is, of course, essential when working with any outdoor cable.

  • 3. Installing low-voltage garden lighting

    Most of your clients who are after a quick and easy solution probably opt for low-voltage garden lighting. You’ll normally set the lights up to be fed by a 12-volt transformer plugged into a socket in the house, storage shed or garage. If you’re feeding the cable through a hole in a wall, finish up with the usual final step of sealing it against the weather with a silicone sealant. In most cases, you’ll probably also choose to bury the cable to keep it safe from damage.