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Landscape Lighting 101

Beautiful patio pavers and perfectly accented retaining wall systems should not go into hiding once nighttime arrives. Bring out your landscape design’s best features in literally a whole new light through the use of strategically placed landscaping lighting fixtures. Landscape lighting can highlight your home’s best architectural features, draw attention to focal points, and make your backyard a safe and welcoming place to hang out after the sun dips below the horizon.

The process of installing landscape lighting may be part of a bigger outdoor living project or become its own project. You’ll want to be aware of the various terminology and strategies of lighting your landscape at night as you explore your options with a landscape contractor. Learn about Unilock Authorized Contractors here.


Explore Your Landscape Lighting Preferences

Lighting up your landscaping involves a variety of considerations, from your safety and security concerns to your design style and brightness preferences. It can be helpful to begin with a rough idea of your intentions:

  • Are there areas of your landscape that feel unsafe at night? Do you want lighting that detects movement?
  • What exterior areas or specific objects do you want to illuminate?
  • Are you hoping to create a particular mood or tone with your lighting? (Are your evenings more about intimate chatter, admiration of the landscape design, or free-flowing entertainment?)
  • What type of lighting techniques, fixtures, and accessories are you drawn to when you look at other homes?
  • Is your home’s panel currently equipped to handle extensive landscape lighting, or will you need an upgrade?


Explore the Purpose

If you have multiple outdoor rooms and outdoor living features, coming up with an overarching landscape lighting plan on your own would be overwhelming. Entrust the big-picture thinking to an expert landscape contractor, who can help you break out the intended purpose of each section of lighting. For example, adding lighting to your landscape could:

  • Subtly illuminate garden steps for safety and aesthetic reasons rather than shining a bright overhead light on an area of the landscape you rarely use at night.
  • Add drama to a water feature or a garden sculpture.
  • Create a romantic and inviting feel in the dining area of your patio.
  • View your cooking and prep work in the outdoor kitchen (known as task lighting) without lighting up the entire neighborhood.
  • Reduce the scariness factor of a dark corner in your landscape.


Landscape Lighting 101

A Unilock Artline patio with a water feature made of Lineo Dimensional Stone is beautifully illuminated through the use of lighting built into steps, uplighting beneath trees, and spotlights on the water feature.


Once you have identified your reasons for installing outdoor lighting, potential places that need more lighting, and the mood you want to achieve, you can start looking at specific lighting solutions. What you will end up with will depend on the lights and the materials involved. Keep in mind that hard surfaces and water reflect light, while vegetation tends to absorb it.


Landscape Lighting Methods

Your landscape contractor may use a variety of terms to explain your lighting options. You’ll want to be familiar with the following methods as you finalize a plan:

  • Area lighting or downlighting: Positioning bright lights high on a house or in trees will illuminate a large space while adding usability and security to your landscape. You can also use downlighting to illuminate a pathway or garden by having the lights positioned close to the ground.
  • Accent or spot lighting: A fairly narrow and intense beam of light highlights focal points. This type of lighting can be built into steps, seating walls, and more.
  • Cross lighting: Illuminate a landscape feature, like a tree or garden sculpture, from two or more sides.
  • Diffused or spread lighting: Non-direct light is often used to provide low-level illumination.
  • Grazing: A closely placed light can bring out the texture of an object like masonry walls and trees.
  • Moonlighting: Similar to the effect created through downlighting, moonlighting uses softer light sources positioned up high, typically in trees, to re-create the look of the moon’s light filtering through the branches.
  • Underwater lighting: A dramatic effect can occur within pools, fountains, and other water features.
  • Uplighting: Textured walls, trees, or interesting objects are illuminated with lights aimed upward. Uplighting is directed away from gathering areas to avoid an unpleasant glare.
  • Shadowing: Interesting shadows are created by lighting an object adjacent to a wall or lighting it from the front and from below.
  • Silhouetting: Lights placed behind a tree or garden sculpture can be concealed for a dreamy effect on one of your landscape’s best features.

Landscape Lighting 101

Dramatic and functional lighting draws attention to the texture and beauty of a Unilock Brussels Dimensional wall while enabling visitors to find their way at night.


Types of Landscape Fixtures

Various types of landscape lighting fixtures give you exactly the look you want:

  • Cylinder, box, or bullet shaped fixtures reduce glare and protect the fixture from debris and moisture. These types of lights can be incorporated into steps and walls.
  • In-ground or well lights conceal the light source to uplight trees or graze textured walls.
  • Spread/diffused low-level lights softly illuminate a broad area such as flower beds, driveways, paths, or steps.
  • Chain-hung lanterns or lanterns installed on top of pillars provide visual interest, a festive feel, and illuminate a dining or conversation area.
  • Spot or accent lights are versatile fixtures that can be used in almost any position or configuration to provide uplighting, crosslighting, accenting, downlighting, grazing, or moonlighting.
  • Wall lights are small fixtures with a thin metal plate that slides between courses in a retaining wall, seating wall, or staircase.
  • Solar-powered post lights are popular for illuminating pathways and driveways.
  • Sconces and recessed fixtures provide light for retaining walls and steps.


Built-In Lighting

One of the most elegant and functional ways to incorporate lighting into an outdoor space is through built-in lighting. This solution creates a clean look that provides the right amount of ambient and task lighting without the harsh feel of overly bright spotlights. Doing it well requires foresight and expertise. Work with your Unilock Authorized Contractor to go over the options, as changes to the lighting plan after the project gets underway can be more costly and challenging. Planning for lighting optimizes how it can be installed with structures as they are built.

There are several wonderful options for lights built into patio features:

  • Sconces on retaining walls provide dramatic ambient light.
  • Recessed lighting under steps perfectly illuminates each individual step while maintaining a tranquil atmosphere.
  • Spotlights installed behind flowing water in a fountain create a surprising amount of ambient light through the reflection of light through the water.
  • Lanterns installed on top of pillars or low walls provide ambient light as well as helping to define the space.

Landscape Lighting 101

A combination of sconces, uplighting, and soft downlights sets a mood, enhances safety, and directs attention toward a water feature using Copthorne pavers.


Lighting Your Landscape’s Best Features

In addition to installing hardscapes, skilled landscape contractors perhaps a Unilock Authorized Contractor can often also handle your landscape lighting needs, bringing extra safety and security to the beauty of your Unilock pavers and walls. Our durable, weather-resistant pavers are created with spaces like yours in mind so that they retain their attraction through the daylight and nighttime hours.


Landscape lighting 101

The textures of a modern Unilock retaining wall are highlighted as the sun goes down.


Landscape Lighting 101


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