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Light Up the Night

Light Up the Night

Exterior lighting can turn your house into a showstopper once the sun goes down.

By FamilyTime

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Illuminating the outside of your house is just as important as good lighting indoors. Not only do strategically placed lights make your house more inviting and attractive, they are important safety features.

Sensible outdoor lighting means there’s less possibility that a guest or family member will fall or trip — it also means your front door will be a beacon of welcome to anyone coming to the house.

A well lit exterior discourages trespassers and intruders, too.

What to Illuminate?

You may have a good light above the front door and on the back porch and so feel your needs are pretty much met. And yet, other spots could be begging for attention.

Walk around your property after dark (take a flashlight so you don’t trip!) and decide where lighting would make a difference.

This might be a practical difference — the side door is hard to find; the step to the patio is uneven — or it could be a dramatic one — a graceful tree would look lovely if up lit; an illuminated garden path would be charming viewed from the dining room windows.

Illumination Musts

There are a few places in your yard that need to be lit. The most obvious is the front door, which welcomes guests and other visitors.

Second is the driveway. If you have a long drive, don’t worry about stringing lights along its length. Instead, put a post lantern at the entrance and perhaps two or three smaller lights staggered along the drive. Make sure the parking area is well lit — perhaps by lights mounted on the garage, the side of the house, or even a tree.

Third are the walkways. You may opt to install small mushroom or similar style lights mounted on spiked stakes placed at intervals along the paths. The stakes usually are sold in various lengths to conform to the landscaping needs. On the other hand, you may decide to affix a light to the porch or side of the house that provides ample light for a short pathway.


While solar lights are great for areas that need only gentle illuminating, you may not want to depend on them for more forceful light. Install solar lights along pathways, in the garden, and around the perimeter of a patio or terrace.

Count on hard-wired fixtures for the front porch, over the garage door, and on the deck. (Don’t forget to put a small fixture over the grill so when darkness falls, you can see what’s cooking!)

Lighting designers say that outside illumination should be soft, never bright or harsh. You aren’t lighting a football field! Think moonlight and keep the intensity of your outdoor fixtures at that level.

Of course, if you or your kids play a lot of nighttime basketball in the driveway, you could install a bright light there, but overall, keep it low.

You never want the lights to be so low that your safety is in jeopardy — from falls or from intruders — but glaring lights are not soothing at night -- and create pockets of deep shadow. Plus, you want the lights on your deck, patio or screen porch to be gentle as they will most likely be augmented with candles.

Consider motion-sensing lights in certain areas of the yard. These save energy and do the job of providing light when needed.

In the end, think safety, practicality, and beauty — and enjoy how your house looks after sunset.


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