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Landscape Lighting and Outdoor Living Spaces

By Alan Brynjolfsson, President, Volt Corporation




With all that is needed for these higher-end projects, product quality is not an area to skimp. After core drilling out concrete to imbed a fixture, you want it to be permanent. Additionally, fixtures in outdoor living areas tend to be the most noticed fixtures in the yard because they are installed where people spend time. Image courtesy of Richard Cohen Landscape and construction

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Landscape lighting for outdoor living spaces are coveted projects that involve the higher end of the landscape lighting spectrum - across all fronts. They require more planning and skill from the contractor and more expense for the clients. However, the results are often the most stunning from a visual perspective, and most useful from a practical stand point.







A common hallmark of outdoor living landscape lighting is the integration of fixtures into the hardscapes. It is more similar to installing lighting inside a home, with permanent fixtures imbedded into walls, pavers and decks. There will be some fixtures in beds and installed using stakes around the perimeter of the outdoor living areas, but due to the core drilling and permanence of fixtures installed into hardscapes, it pays to spend a lot of extra time planning. Image courtesy of Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet


Before you embark on an outdoor living landscape lighting project there are some important things to consider:

Planning

Before you do anything speak with the client and find out the exact usage of the space so you can match the lighting to the needs. For example is the pergola with a table for aesthetics, or is it frequently used for dining? If it's more for aesthetics you can primarily up light the structure from the outside using up lights at the four corners and mounting the fixtures with ground stakes - making for a fairly easy and inexpensive installation.

Lighting Needs

Next, assign lighting usage needs to each area:

  • Task and down lighting for kitchens and work areas.
  • Path and step lighting for safety and egress on walkways and steps.
  • Up lighting to accent focal points like specimen trees, columns, statues, structure and architectural points of interest.
  • Area lights for ambient lighting around the perimeter of the outdoor living spaces. Illuminating beds and shrubs adjacent to outdoor living areas is a great way to provide subtle and intimate ambient lighting.
  • Deck light and integrated hardscape lights for subtle down lighting of smaller structures like kitchen islands, fire pits, rock walls and deck rails.
  • Finally downlighting/moonlighting for general natural area illumination. Use a fixture specifically designed for downlighting and a 20w 60 degree beam spread (BAB). Mount the fixture up as high as possible from a tree or structure (preferably 25' + high) and aim pretty much straight down. Do not aim more than 30 degrees away from straight down or unwanted glare will result.
With the above plan you will note there is a wide variety of lighting techniques employed. This will give a truly custom look and is far more advanced than the one dimensional approach of only using up lighting.







If the pergola is also used at night, you will need to install lighting inside the structure; preferably in the rafters/beams and tucked away to create indirect downlighting that provides both ambiance and task lighting. Using 20 watt 60 degree MR-16 (BAB) lamp will highlight the posts while also illuminating most of the structure without overpowering. Be sure to plan for an abundance of 120-volt outlets as well. Image courtesy of Alpine Landscape Company


Installation

If lighting is being done after the fact you will need the big boy power tools. Impact drills with core drilling bits and grinders with diamond blades can be rented if you do not have them. A grinder/cutting tool with a circular diamond blade can be very helpful for both hiding wire and cutting out hardscape.

TIP: If you cannot run wires under or around a hardscape try this instead: double stack 2 diamond blades on your grinder/cutting saw. Grind out a groove in the cement or grout deep enough to hide the wire. Save the dust (sweep into a pile and put aside) from grinding out the groove. Lay the wire into the groove and cover with fresh mortar mix. Spread the saved dust on top of the mortar for a perfect color match. If you do this on an existing expansion joint or along an edge it can be virtually undetectable.

Glare is your enemy. It can destroy the pleasure of using an outdoor living space at night. You must be aware of glare from all the viewing angles and insure there is never direct viewing of any lamp (aka light bulb to the layman) if possible.







If you can install conduit into hardscapes before or as they are being built it will make your job a whole lot easier. Install conduit under patios, walkways, to islands and inside stone walls and retaining walls. If lighting is being done after the fact you will need the big boy power tools. Image courtesy of Richard Cohen Landscape and construction


Products

With all that is needed for these higher end projects, product quality is not an area to skimp. After core drilling out concrete to imbed a fixture, you want it to be permanent. Additionally, fixtures in outdoor living areas tend to be the most noticed fixtures in the yard because they are around where people lounge and spend time. For these reasons solid cast brass is the pro's choice, followed by copper. Unless it is a very upper end architectural spec fixture, aluminum should be avoided.

TIP: Choosing fixtures that are ''Hub Ready'' (that come with a 25-foot lead wire) can make installing lighting in outdoor living area hardscapes easier and more professional looking. The longer lead wire, regardless of whether you use a hub method or not, enables you to make connections away from the fixture and out of sight. If you do not have 25-feet of lead wire to work with and must make the splice connection on a hardscape (on a deck rail for example) use an in-line connector like and ACE Connector or Lighting Shrink Connector to keep it discreet.

Installation will be much slower than a typical landscape lighting installation for a yard. You should be aware of this when bidding on the project. It is normal to significantly increase the pricing for fixtures involving hardscape, downlight/moonlighting from trees, and integrated fixtures.

Summary

Outdoor Living Areas are the prized sections of a landscape and you can make them come alive with the proper lighting techniques. Take advantage of the higher end projects to really showcase your creativity. For the reasons discussed above, solid cast brass is the pro's choice, followed by copper. Unless it is a very upper end architectural spec fixture, aluminum should be avoided. With the proper planning, fixture placement and techniques, you can create a masterpiece that will be the pride of both your portfolio and your customer's home.

For more information visit http://www.voltlighting.com/


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August 21, 2019, 1:34 am PDT

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