Outdoor Landscape Lighting Tips For Your Best Pathway
We want our homes to be welcoming places for our family and friends, even before they enter through the front door. Whether getting out of their cars or walking up your street, you can make your home look friendly and inviting with attractive outdoor lighting for your home, pathways and walkways.
But don’t settle for the ho-hum out-of-the-box look everyone else is using. Outdoor lighting is a great way to highlight the character and design of your home. From your front walk, the path to the pool, or the sidewalk to the back deck, all of these areas can come alive at night with effective use of pathway lighting.
Path lighting doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but you should consider a few things before you buy.
Tips For Pathway Lighting
When choosing what type of lighting best suits your needs, form should follow function as designers say. What do you need the pathway lighting to do? Are you lighting a path for aesthetic reasons or is there a safety element involved as well? Are there gardens along the path that could add diverse tones or shadows?
Glow Not Glare
You want to highlight the unique details of a stone path or the walkway garden you’ve spent so much time on, not blind your guests. Pathway lighting should provide subtle light to help people navigate the walkway easily. The walk to your back deck is not a crime scene so don’t light it like one.
Tip: Select fixtures that direct light at your feet not in your eyes. This might mean a cover, shield, or other decorative device that directs the light to the ground.
There are a wide variety of lights available on the market from whimsical to minimal to historic. Whatever you prefer, try to keep the same theme with style and materials throughout.
Avoid Row Upon Row
You don’t need to direct guests down a runway, so don’t light your pathways like one. Instead of placing your lighting row on row making sure each fixture is precisely the same distance from all the others in a straight line, why not mix it up? By alternating sides, you can guide guests down the path in a subtle way that lets you highlight the landscape elements you’re proud of. Use natural curves or angles as a guide of where to place pathway lighting instead a rigid design.
Tip: If straight lines fit the style of your home go with that, but don’t be afraid to hide a light in a bush or ornamental grass next to the path. Light the path from the side here and there. Mix it up.
Tip: Space fixtures as much as 10 to 15 ft apart, depending on the length of your pathway, to guide people instead of direct. Place a bollard, pillard or other type of light that’s brighter than the pathway lighting to provide a focal point.
Mix It Up
Mixing up the styles of lighting, three kinds of stake lights on a single pathway, is not wise, however mixing up the height of the pathway lighting is a great way to highlight details. There are three main types of pathway lighting: downlighting (stake lights are an example – the light is pointed down), recessed or paver lights (the light is mounted in the walkway or recessed on the edge of a pathway or other fixture), and pillars, bollards, or something similar. Use a low light to highlight your favourite ground cover plants.
Tip: Set lights slightly back from the edge to highlight plants along the walkway.
Tip: Adjust the height of the light in relation to the plants surrounding them. The light should be slightly taller than the plant.
Professional or DIY?
There can be a significant price difference between a professionally installed outdoor lighting system and one done DIY – with good reason. You’re not just paying for the better fixtures, wiring, timers, etc. but you’re also paying for the expertise of the professional designer and installer.
Purchasing a DIY lighting system, whether solar or electric will often be less expensive than hiring a landscape lighting professional – no question. But the lighting kits often aren’t as hearty as what the pro’s would use, leaving you in the dark after a season. The cheaper the kit, the less reliable the lighting will be.
The great thing about hiring a professional outdoor lighting specialist is that they bring top-quality fixtures, wiring, timers – everything you’ll need plus they’ll install the system. There’s no willy-nilly placement. A pro will create ambiance and mood and make the most of your home and gardens. They know all the products available and have an eye for perfect placement, not only to make it look beautiful, but safe.
How much maintenance?
Depending on how many fixtures you have, maintenance on a professionally installed outdoor lighting system could be minimal from replacing burnt-out bulbs to removing debris and leaves or trimming back bushes to keep your lights from over-heating. Replacing individual fixtures or the whole system will depend on the level of warranty your fixtures have and the quality you’re looking for. Cheaper ones made of plastic could last a couple of seasons, whereas high quality brass fixtures could last for decades.
Professional landscape lighting companies will often have maintenance packages so you don’t have to spend your weekends cleaning your fixtures.
If you’re thinking of going DIY with your outdoor landscape lighting for your pathways, here are some of the most common design faux-pas we see.
This is one of the most common DIY path lighting mistakes – assuming that it’s all about symmetry. Placing lights parallel to each other on either side of a path creates an unattractive landing strip effect. Not only does this lack subtlety, but it will cast shadows and leave dark spots that can be disorienting.
The Hollywood Premiere
With this outdoor lighting mistake, we’re never sure if there’s a movie premiere, a car dealership or someone signalling to extraterrestrials. Using lights that are too bright or beams that are improperly focused can cause unwanted light pollution for you and your neighbours, which is especially hazardous when the glare affects safe navigation of pathways.
Most outdoor lighting kits from your local hardware store are designed to catch your eye with a slick design and finish, and the actual quality of lighting and fixture construction is secondary. Also, kit lighting isn’t engineered to take into account custom power requirements or runs of various lengths, which means you will find yourself constantly replacing bulbs and fixtures.
With these kinds of path lights, you definitely get what you pay for. For some people, they aren’t able or don’t want to invest in quality outdoor lighting and are happy to replace what they have every year or two. Ultimately, the point is to draw attention to attractive lighting and not necessarily attractive fixtures.
Watch Your Step
Even if a DIY-er accomplishes an effective pathway lighting setup, we often see major safety issues when it comes to step lighting. Whether it’s at the front door or the deck area, steps are sometimes left in pools of shadow in between lights – or worse – they’re not lit at all. Improperly lit steps in a nighttime lighting design is worse than no outdoor lighting at all, since a person’s eyes become accustomed to a certain amount of illumination which makes unlit steps seem even less visible.
Set It and Forget It
We assume that the culprits of this mistake never have their chimney cleaned or their furnace serviced either. A lack of maintenance of your Oakville outdoor lighting will start to show in the number of burnt-out bulbs or in power lines that come to the surface of the soil or mulch. Plants and shrubs that border the pathway may grow over a fixture to the point that you forget it’s there.
All of this creates further hazards at night, and decreases the value of whatever investment you made in your system.
We love to hear our clients’ DIY design ideas and translate those into a lighting system that makes a home look spectacular at night. A professionally-designed system doesn’t have to break the bank to get the results that you want, and the added services available to keep your system humming will ensure that you will enjoy it for years to come.
We want your home to shine from the street – day and night! Why not chat with our expert team at Nite Time Décor Oakville for a professional evaluation of your home and yard. We’ll take care of the details to ensure everything is done right the first time, and you can sit back as the compliments from neighbours and guests pour in!