Years of Atlanta’s heat and daily exposure to direct sunlight had faded our once-black front porch lights to a dusty, silver grey. If you have a similar problem, here is what you can do to return those faded lights to their original luster.
Don’t buy new lights, refurbish the old ones!
If you undertake a project like this, make sure you have someone helping who is experienced with electrical wiring and knowledgeable about removing and installing light fixtures. You want to avoid injury from electrical shocks and you don’t want to cause any damage to your house.
A surprise hiding in wait
When Vann loosened the first light, he found that the wires were completely blocked in with mud. Digging into it with a screwdriver, he was able to pull out all the caked and hardened dirt. We Googled and figured out that it was a Mud dauber nest, a type of wasp in our area. Luckily, it was abandoned. A good shot of hornet and wasp spray was reassuring, if perhaps unnecessary.
Keep in mind when you do outside projects that insects and wildlife can get into the smallest and most unexpected places. Always be cautious so you don’t startle a critter or stir up a hornets’ nest.
The refinishing process
Your first step is to take the lights apart. Amazing how many pieces there can be! Using acetone on a rag, you can wipe the surfaces to clean them. Acetone is a surprisingly effective cleaning agent for oxidized painted surfaces. In a well-ventilated area, like on the patio, lay out a large plastic drop cloth to protect the floor. Position the pieces on wood blocks so they will be up off the ground with the edges exposed.
Next, apply two to three light coats of black spray paint. I used Rust-oleum Professional High Performance Enamel for a hard finish.
Tip: Use several light coats of paint not one heavy coat. Otherwise, you will get drips and bubbles and a very blotchy paint job.
Details that matter
If your lights are all in pieces anyway, it’s a perfect time to fix any details that may have bothered you. I never liked the trim inside our lights, which was a bright brass color. I decided to paint the brass-colored pieces with Rust-oleum Universal Metallic All-surface paint in satin nickel.
I really made a mess of this. The pieces were long plastic cylinders and long metal pipes. I tried spraying them by propping them up, but my work surface was outside, and when the wind came up they blew all over the place. I had blotched and glopped paint everywhere.
To fix my mess, I had to sand the pieces and start completely over. This time I crafted a holder made of bent wire coat hangers to hold the cylinders. Also, I took the project inside, out of the wind.
Finally, I had success! The satin nickel looks great with the black light covers and matches the silver caming in the glass of my front door.
Remember that the details matter. You can fix almost anything if you just plan and take your time with your project.
Better than new
After reassembling all the pieces, you can turn off the breaker and reinstall your lights. What a difference a small renovation can make to the curb appeal of your house. And the only cost is a couple cans of spray paint and a little time. Your lights aren’t faded any more – now they are fabulous!