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The Bright Ideas Blog

Design inspiration and outdoor lighting tips and advice for homeowners

4 Great Ways To Light Your Outdoor Steps and Stairways


In the dark, something as simple as walking can pose a serious hazard. This goes doubly so for walking up and down stairways. Adding light to your back patio's door step, or your balconies descending staircase, will enable you to more safely tread an otherwise risky evening venture. Safety is important, but light does more than illuminate dangers. When done right, light can create a charming atmosphere. Bringing that extra element of aesthetic pleasure, light doesn't merely show us where we are going, it creates an entry. 

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While you may be questioning whether or not you can add lighting to your existing outdoor stairway, the truth is that there is always a way if you are creative with your design. Most of the technical installations we do are on existing structures. Tread lights, post lights, down lights, and core lights are all approaches used for stair lighting that can be invaluable components to any outdoor lighting system. 

So how do you choose which lighting technique you will use for your stairs? Answer: it depends on how you are using the particular space and the effect you want to achieve. Doing this and making it feel natural is why it may not be a bad idea to consult with a professional. Lighting, the effect it creates, the way it is cast, is not something everyone is used to thinking about. Consider some of these methods. 

Tread/Recessed lighting - This is lighting that fits right into the vertical face of the steps. Positioned here, it casts light down onto the step directly beneath it. Providing a soft light, the fixture looks natural and is barely seen because of the way it is installed. The tricky thing is that a hole has to be cut to house each fixture. If done wrong, it will need to be completely redone: another reason you may want to hire a professional. 

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Down Lighting - This is a technique used to dapple a particular scene with a soft moon-like wash. To accomplish this, fixtures emitting a soft wash light are mounted high up in a tree or architecturally. Directed onto a staircase, this type of lighting can provide effective lighting, while also maintaining a serene atmosphere. It should be noted that to do this effectively, fixtures need to sometimes be placed 30 or more feet in the air. Ladders are an effective way to work at these heights. However, for your own safety, it's never a bad idea to have a professional do this type of ladder work. 

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Path Lighting- Often times step lighting is done, not in a stair case, but alongside the far apart steps in a descending or ascending path. Path lighting is done to illuminate pathways, but can also be used to light up the steps that a pathway can sometimes have.

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Post Rail Lighting - These fixtures are mounted onto the post or railing of your stairs. They are an effective way to light the ground beneath them, or more often, the steps beneath them. The installation and wiring of this particular type of fixture can become extremely technical. With lots of drilling and fishing, it's something that can be a permanent mistake if, for example, a hole is drilled in the wrong spot by accident. This is why it's a good idea to consult with your lighting professional about having this done. 

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These installations often require precise placement and technical know how, it's important to hire someone that knows what they are doing. If a fixture is not mounted properly, wired correctly or aimed accurately, it can create uninvited issues down the road.

If you would like to see what we can do to make your stairways not only beautiful but safe give us a call at 801-440-7647 for a free consultation or simply fill out our form at www.utahlights.com.

Located in Midvale, Landscape Lighting Pro of Utah serves throughout Utah's residential areas, including Salt Lake City, Park City, Draper, Davis and Utah Counties. 

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