Designing the lighting for your landscape can feel a bit overwhelming when you’ve got flower beds, trees, shrubs, fixtures, pathways, furniture, playsets, grassy areas, and steps to figure into your completed design. Making sure you cover both safety and aesthetics while you’re planning can complicate things, especially when it comes to lighting outdoor steps.
When it comes to safety, lighting your steps may be at the heart of your design, but you don’t want to lose out on aesthetics. To help make this process easier, we’re answering the 5 most common questions we get about landscape step lighting.
What You Need to Know About Landscape Lighting Steps.
Before we dig in, here are two important things to keep in mind overall when adding step lights to your landscape:
- Your eyes have a harder time adjusting quickly between light and dark at night, and this difficulty adjusting can be a safety hazard no matter where lighting is placed, but especially where step lights are concerned.
- No matter what fixtures you choose, make sure they include frosted glass or have a glare shield placed and adjusted at the top of the fixture to prevent dangerous glares.
- A multi lumen fixture, or dimmable fixture is a perfect choice to allow you to adjust your light levels, avoiding hot spots on stair treads where the risers are a maximum of 6" to 7" from the tread itself.
Where should landscape lights be placed?
Step lights are usually placed on the riser of the step. If there is enough of a lip or overhang on the step, this is also an option for light placement, similar in idea to the lights you put under your kitchen cabinets. Don’t place lights on every step as this can cause the lighting to be too bright, making it difficult to see the surrounding steps. You also don’t want too many steps between lights as it has the opposite effect: You’ll have dark patches that make it hard to see where you’re stepping. Alternating steps and fixture position will allow you to better cover those dark areas.
When placing your step lights, be sure to focus the light downward and sideways. Here’s why:
- Lights placed with the light shining upwards can make it difficult to see the steps as the light is basically shining right into your eyes.
- With the light shining upwards, it’s hard to see the surrounding steps, which are now cast in dark shadows.
How far apart should landscape lights be placed?
A general rule of thumb is to place lights every 3-4 feet on each step on wider steps, but the answer to this question depends on how wide your steps are and how many steps you have in each location. Be sure to keep in mind that you’ll want to place your step lights far enough apart so there’s no single bright streams of light that can be distracting and make it harder to see the surrounding steps. If possible, and before any installation begins, lean your lights against the step risers where you think they’ll be placed and see if you have the correct placement once the sun goes down. Then adjust accordingly.
Related: Top 5 Tips for Lighting Pathways
How many lights do you need?
Again, the answer to this question depends on your steps. It’s important not to get caught up in fixed numbers at the start. This is why creating a landscape light design/plan first is a must. You’ll want to consider the function of the lights, aesthetics, and the specifics of your stairs and pathways.
Ask yourself: How wide your steps are and how many do you have? That general 3-4 feet rule comes into play here also, but this placement depends on how well lights placed at these increments will both provide safety and aesthetics for your steps.
What is the proper height for step lights?
If you’re placing your lights on the riser of each step, using engineered wall lights, placed directly under the stair treads at the 6”-7” height will do the trick. This will allow you to have fixtures that are not too low or too high, providing optimal amount of light to keep you and your guests safe.
Can you add lights to existing steps (i.e. concrete)?
With the correct tools—a drill, a diamond bit, and some know-how, the answer here is yes! If you feel like this project is out of your skillset, contact the professionals and let them put their expertise to work for you so you can spend your valuable time on other parts of your landscaping project. One could also use a deck light or an area directional light placed on the sides of the stairs or stairwell.
Since designing and installing step lights can tend to be problematic both in time and money, contact us today and let us put our 20 years of lighting expertise to work for you and your landscape steps. We’ll turn those steps into a stunning asset for years to come!