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The Bright Ideas Blog

Design inspiration and outdoor lighting tips and advice for homeowners

When to Install Your Landscape Lighting: New Vs. Existing Landscape

New_Lighting_InstallationWhen is the right time for a landscape lighting designer to get involved in a landscaping project? Before it begins? As it begins? After everything else is done?

Here at Landscape Lighting Pro of Utah, we get a lot of questions about when to install landscape lighting.

And the answer is...well, it depends.

There are times when it’s handy for us to be involved at the very beginning. It can save us time, which saves the client money.

Other times, it’s actually easier for us to come in after the landscaping is done.

The truth is, we can do a topnotch job in either situation.

But let’s take a look at some of the timing issues involved in a landscape lighting project.

Why It Helps To Contact A Lighting Designer Early On

Sometimes a head start on installing landscape lighting makes our job easier — and less costly for the client.

It helps us if conduit — PVC pipe that protects the wiring — is installed beneath any hardscape surfaces before they’re installed. That will prevent us from having to tunnel under or bore through to lay our wiring. That can save a few hundred dollars in labor costs.

If a pergola is part of your landscaping plan, and you plan to light it, it helps us if the carpenters drill out the pergola posts so we can tuck our wiring neatly inside, out of sight.

If an outdoor kitchen is part of your plan, yes, it helps if we’re in on that from the beginning.

We can hide wires and fixtures more easily if we work in conjunction with the carpenters and electricians.

If you’d like to have path lights along your front walkway leading to the curb or to your driveway, we’d advise you not to plant grass along both sides of the walk. Leave at least one side as a flowerbed.

Why? We don’t put lighting fixtures in a lawn. Mowers and trimmers can damage even the best quality fixtures. We prefer to nestle those path lights in a flowerbed lining the walk, where they’re safer.

These are the types of situations where being involved early on in a project can be beneficial.

Why A Lighting Designer Can Join The Project Later

Many customers assume the landscape lighting designer has to be in on the project from the beginning, but we really don’t.

Sometimes, it's actually harder for us if we’re in at the beginning, because it requires more frequent trips to the job site to coordinate with landscapers and irrigation installers.

Yes, you’d think it would be easier for us to run our wiring when landscapers are digging drenches for irrigation, but the two jobs don't necessarily line up. While irrigation lines need to be installed in straight lines, our wires can take twists and turns, and sometimes that works out better.

While landscapers tear up the lawn a bit to put in irrigation, we don't need to do that.

We take the flat edge of a shovel and wiggle it back and forth to create a small v in the ground. Then we tuck in our wiring and neatly close the opening back up.

You’ll never know we were there.  We give your yard back to you the way we found it — your flowerbeds intact.

If we show up after the landscaping is done, we can get in, do our job, and get out.

Expert Installation Techniques For An Established Landscape

If your landscaping is already complete, we have the skill, expertise and tools to install a beautifully designed lighting system.

If we need to install wiring beneath your driveway or walkways, we head for the expansion joint — the seam — and use a concrete saw to make the seam bigger. We install the wiring and then seal it back up.

We can drill a 5-inch concrete core out of a driveway to install recessed lighting to highlight a home’s architectural features.

It’s a tricky job, but our lighting experts are part artist, part skilled craftsmen. And we have the tools to do the job. It takes a $5,000 drill, a diamond bit and skilled expertise.

Yes, it would be easier to place our recessed fixtures before the concrete is poured. That would save about $100 per light. But we can do the job, either way.

Lighting New Vs. Established Landscapes

tree-japanese-maple-lighting-sandy-utahLighting a brand new landscape, with sapling trees and new plantings, takes a different kind of skill than lighting a mature landscape.

New trees, for instance, can’t support the fixtures needed for a moonlighting effect — they’re not tall or sturdy enough. So we head to your home’s soffits or gables instead to mount lights there.

Say you have a start-up landscape, with a 3-foot Japanese maple.

That little tree doesn’t need a 450 lumen bulb shining on it. It would overwhelm its delicate features. A softer 150 or 200 lumen bulb would do nicely.

So we start with a lower wattage. But as the tree grows, we can simply change the light bulb, without changing the fixture. We adjust the lighting as the landscape grows.

I’ve seen a lot of mature landscapes with 10 or so trees, and each tree is lit with the same kind of light bulb — usually a standard, one-size-fits-all MR16 lamp.

That’s no good. Every tree is different.

A majestic maple might need two or three fixtures to artistically light it. One with a narrow beam spread to penetrate high in the tree. Another with a wider beam spread to softly accentuate the leaves and branches.

A low-growing Japanese maple needs a fixture with a wide 120-degree beam spread, to give it a lower, wider wash of light.

We might use five different degrees of beam spread and three or four different wattages to light those 10 trees the other guys lit with a one-size-fits-all lamp.

We design with 30 different types of light bulbs — not just one.

Why Use A Landscape Lighting Designer?

The technical skills I’ve been talking about here are one reason you should involve a professional landscape lighting designer — not just a landscaper — in your outdoor project.

A lighting professional knows that using different color temperatures will bring out your trees’ beauty much better than a one-size-fits-all lighting approach.

A beautiful blue spruce needs a lamp with a 3,500 to 4,000 Kelvin temperature — cool lighting — to bring out its natural blue hue.

A majestic red maple needs a much warmer, softer temperature bulb, especially in the autumn.

A landscape lighting specialist doesn’t just bring wiring, bulbs and fixtures to the job. We bring artistry, skill and design experience.  

We interview the homeowner, so we know exactly how you plan to use your yard. We ask lots of questions, so we can turn your outdoor space into a place that brings you joy every day once the sun goes down.

Installing Lighting For Easy Maintenance Later On

tree-and-pathway-lighting-salt-lake-city-utahThe reason we offer a lifetime warranty isn’t just because our products are of the highest quality, but because of the way we install them.

So many landscape lighting projects are designed to fail. They use low-quality plastic, composite or aluminum fixtures. And they connect those fixtures to the wiring with wire nuts and pierce point connectors. Those connectors aren’t designed to go underground, yet lots of landscapers use them anyway. Pierce point connections to the main line tend to loosen and will have corrosion at the pierce point.

We use top-quality brass and copper fixtures. We install watertight, heat-shrink connectors that will resist corroding when underground.

A landscape lighting expert places those fixtures deliberately and precisely, so fixtures won't be beat up by trimmers, overgrown by a spruce tree or pelted with falling icicles.

Our LED lighting systems come with a lifetime warranty that covers fixtures and installation. That lifetime warranty doesn’t cover the bulbs, but those come with a five-year manufacturer’s warranty.

Don’t plan on changing them anytime soon. Most of today’s LED bulbs are rated to last 50,000 hours.

In Conclusion

Yes, it can save some time and money if you involve your landscape lighting designer at the beginning of your outdoor project. But skilled professionals with the right tools and skills can handle the job even after all the landscaping is done.

A landscape lighting expert knows how to use artistry and technique to light both newly installed landscapes and mature properties — and the different techniques each of these require.

Give Us A Call

If you’d like to add professional landscape lighting to your outdoor project, we'd love to hear from you. Give us a call at (801) 440-7647 to schedule a free consultation, or fill out our simple contact form.

Located in Sandy, Landscape Lighting Pro of Utah serves customers throughout Utah's residential areas, including Salt Lake City, Park City, Draper and Holladay. Our outdoor lighting portfolio includes projects from Salt Lake County and Utah County, to Davis County and Summit County - and beyond.

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