When to Use Wall Grazing

Grazing is the ideal outdoor lighting technique for highlighting beautiful or unique textures or irregular surfaces such as a property’s walls, a home’s facade, veneers, stone columns, or bark on trees. Because wall grazing produces a particular gradient of light, it does a superb job of accentuating these textures and adding more depth and complexity without any major home renovations. This translates to enhancing the look and design of your home for a fraction of the time and cost.   Grazing works especially well on natural stone or wood, emphasizing the unique textures and the detail of the material. Other textured surfaces, such as faux stone and stone veneer look great under wall grazing, too. The weathered surface of stone is particularly suited for this landscape lighting technique, creating little shadows in the natural indentations of the rock and highlighting raised areas. Even simple concrete walls look more interesting as grazing accentuates its rough surface.

How to Implement a Wall Grazing Design Like a Pro

When installed correctly, wall grazing does a fantastic job of showing off a material’s texture, but when installed improperly, the surface material becomes washed out and the primary focus becomes the lighting itself—a cardinal error in the landscape lighting industry. In places like the Southwest, rock is plentiful and is a primary building material for homes and businesses. We love this fact because it offers wonderful textures and rich colors that are begging to be lit up and showed off in a different way. During the day, the color of the stone is what is prominent, but at night—with expertly installed landscape lighting and employment of the wall grazing technique—the focus becomes the amazing rough, natural surface. This is where the right fixture, light color, light level, and beam spread come into play. First, consider the color of the rock. Dark colors absorb light while light colors reflect it, right? The color of the stone or other façade determines the light level or lumen output necessary for the project and lighting objectives. Too low of a light level on a dark wall fails to deliver the desired effect, but, too much light on a very reflective surface causes glare and visual discomfort. Here are some quick rules of thumb: With walls that are no more than 10 feet tall, use between 100 to 150 lumens. For walls that are 10 to 20 feet tall, use between 150 to 200 lumens, and for walls that are 20 to 30 feet tall, use 200 to 350 lumens. Next, consider the beam spread or beam angle. Generally speaking, beam spreads on the narrower side, or a beam angle of about 36 degrees, are used for wall grazing. Now, unlike the beam spread and light level, the color or temperature of the light is primarily personal preference. The color of the surface may help you decide the light temperature. A warm light will bring out warm earthy colors like red or brown, while a whiter light will make cool blues and whites really stand out. Finally, let’s discuss the type and placement of lighting fixtures required to achieve a successful grazing effect. We recommend wall lights or directional lights. We also recommend positioning your outdoor lighting fixtures directly beneath or to the side of your surface at a steep angle. This helps accentuate the texture on stone, stucco, brick walls, and tree trunks by creating broken shadows and interesting patterns on the irregular surface. Placement is also determined by the material being lit, but generally speaking, you should position fixtures within 1 foot of walls or tree trunks. Tilt the fixture away from the wall or tree to minimize the potential for a hot spot while providing a more even light distribution from top to bottom.

Practice Makes Perfect

Advanced landscape lighting techniques like grazing require a lot of practice. As you can see, it takes a great deal of planning, skill, and, experience to create a landscape lighting design that includes grazing, which is why we recommend relying on a seasoned professional to assist with this project. After reading all that’s involved in the art—and science—of grazing, we hope you do, too!