The Bright Ideas Blog

Design inspiration and outdoor lighting tips and advice for homeowners

Planning Landscape Lighting for Your New Landscape

rebuilding your landscape?

With landscape rebuilds there is a lot to plan. First you need a landscape design, then you need a good landscape contractor who is able to carry out your vision.


If you're looking to have a specialized lighting company tackle the landscape lighting rebuild, its always a good idea to get in contact with them early on. This way they can participate in the planning process, give you a realistic idea on the cost, and allow you to get on their schedule so they can be there when the time comes. 

when does the prep work for lighting begin? 

Lighting is always the very last piece. With 90% of the projects we install we are getting there after the fact. Lighting doesn't to be installed during the actual landscape build process. In fact, its usually best if the lighting goes in very last. This eliminates the possibilities of extra, unnecessary work needing to be done: 

  • Plans seem to change a lot between the initial concept and finished product. A tree was removed from the design or placed somewhere different from where it was initially supposed to go. If wiring is ran following the initial blueprint, it could have to be redone as the project naturally unfolds: This creates a lot of needless extra work. This is one reason why it makes sense to have the lighting go in last. The lighting is there to accent and showcase the finished product. 

  • In addition, if wires are buried in the ground while the landscape is being built, they could be cut unintentionally by another contractor doing work who didn't know or realize the wires were ran where they were excavating. The worst part about this is that no one usually knows wires were damaged until its time to start installing the rest of the system. All the fixtures are installed and then when they are powered up a whole zone of lights isn't turning on. This creates more work because the cut wire has to be located and repaired. Locating  a cut line is doable, but requires a lot of troubleshooting to find. This is one reason why wires shouldn't be ran until after everyone else participating in the landscape build has done their part.


When it comes right down to it, lighting should be installed when all the other pieces in the landscape are complete. 

The installation of landscape lighting is far less invasive than people might think when it is done properly and with care. This is one reason why hiring a specialized landscape lighting company can be a great advantage. They understand how to leave the project looking just as good, if not better, than they initially found it. 

prep work you may need to plan for

There are certain things that should be prepared in anticipation of the lighting being installed later. 

  • Sweeps

When new patios or walk ways are being installed by the paver installers, pool contractors, etc., its always a good idea to make sure conduit is buried beneath new hardscape pieces so that there is access from one side to the other. These conduit access point are often times called sweeps. 

These sweeps allow the lighting contractor to come in after everything is done and pull their wire under the patio or walkway through to the other side without  the need to cut anything. Sweeps are always a good idea!

  • Hardscape Lighting Preparation

The hardscape (patio, firepit, pool deck, driveway, etc.) can be accented with different types of hardscape fixtures. About 80% of the time, no extra prep work is required in these places for the lighting contractor to run their wires where they need them / install the fixtures after everything is built.

But in certain cases, they may need to plan ahead to ensure they can get their wires ran where they need them. This is one reason why it is good to get your lighting contractor involved early. This way they can see whether extra prep work will be needed or not. 

myths about landscape lighting with new landscape builds

There are lots of landscape contractors, pool contractors, and sometimes even electricians who will offer to install landscape lighting for you as an added lighting package. OR they will offer to run wiring for you so you can have the option to add lighting later and save you money.

These are two problems we've seen over the years with contractors offering landscape lighting as a way to supplement their income: They often lack experience with landscape lighting design/installation, and they don't actually end up saving you money. 

1)Lacking design and Installation experience 

We've specialized in landscape lighting for a very long time. In the 20 years we've been doing lighting, we've seen a lot of old systems that have fallen apart, failed, and left the home owner asking themselves why they let their handyman or landscape guy install their lighting for them. 

We've seen systems fail in as few as 3 years after the initial installation. Why? Because they used sub quality products and didn't understand many of the fundamentals to building a system that will stand the test of time. 

When people ask if we can fix their failed system, we usually have to tell them no. Not because we cant fix it. We have to say no because we've been down this road with people before, and it puts us in an awkward position.

There is no sense in putting Band-Aids over bullet holes. If we get their system working again, and it fails in week or 6 months from now, we can't guarantee any of the work because it isn't our system and it  wasn't installed properly in the first place. Most of the time the only way to properly fix a failed lighting system is to simply start from scratch.

Otherwise the next couple of years will be spent trying to chase down the ghosts in the machine that continue to cause it to fail. Continuing to fix a failed system will carry an unnecessary cost over the years that will leave everyone feeling dissatisfied with the experience and relationship.  We'd rather just install a brand new system with a lifetime warranty we know will preform well for them and withstand the test of time. 


This isn't to say all landscape contractors install poorly designed and engineered lighting systems. There are plenty who do good work. However, the vast majority of contractors who offer landscape lighting to supplement their income have very little experience.

Your home is, essentially, an experiment for them to gain a small amount of experience for the next time they try installing a lighting system. If they say they've installed lighting before, the truth is they've probably only ever installed a small handful of systems.

What are the tell tail signs they don't have much experience? 

  • Do they show up with a catalog and ask you which fixtures you want installed? They should know which fixtures will blend in and compliment your home and landscape.
  • Do they ask you where you want the fixtures? This shouldn't be left up to you to decide. If they have a good eye for lighting design, they should know where you need light and where you do not.
  • Do they offer you composite or aluminum fixtures? These are cheap fixtures that will break and fail. Click here to learn more about quality fixtures.

  • Do they have a minimum fixture count requirement or lighting package? A lighting system should be tailored to fit your home, not how many fixtures they want to sell you. 

Ultimately, it requires someone who makes outdoor lighting their focus to build a quality lighting system that will last and be enjoyed for the years to come. Don't pay to have your lighting system be someone's experiment. 


2) Trying to save you money

Your contractor says you need to run the wires with the irrigation lines to save money? This might sound like it makes sense. And maybe with some very specific systems this could be.

However, the truth is this rarely saves you money. Why? Your irrigation lines are ran to where your sprinkler system needs to be, not where your lighting fixtures end up going. 

In the long run this really doesn't end up saving you money because the places where landscape lighting fixtures need to be placed rarely correlate with the irrigation system.

If the wires ran for the landscape system are ran with the irrigation system, they wont be located in the correct places for the lighting system. The wiring for the lighting will still need to be ran to the other locations where the lights will actually be placed.  

The irony of running wiring for the lighting with the irrigation to try and save money is that it often times ends up costing more money since the wiring has to be ran twice.

It might be also worth adding that often times they don't install the correct wire. They usually end up installing a small gaged wire that doesn't carry a power load like it should. For any system with more than a small handful of fixtures, a much larger wire gage will be required.

Are you in need of landscape lighting professional?

If you are looking for a high quality landscape lighting system for your home but don't know where to start, take the first step and request a consultation here! Let our designers create not only a functional property, but one that highlights the beauty of your home even at night. 


At Landscape Lighting Pro, the art of outdoor illumination is a real passion we work to perfect. Designing elegantly bespoke landscape lighting systems is simply all we do. For nearly 20 years, our award winning team of designers and craftsmen have striven to bring the best outdoor lighting experience possible to people's homes and businesses across the Wasatch Front & beyond. 



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