What Is Hardscape Lighting?

What is hardscape lighting? It is when lighting is strategically used to illuminate stone and concrete features to accentuate the space and make it seem larger.

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What is hardscape lighting? It is when lighting is strategically used to illuminate stone and concrete features to accentuate the space and make it seem larger.

Hardscaping is projected to be a big trend in 2022 because it adds value and personality to a home. However, features like stone steps, columns, fire pits, pergolas, low walls, and flowerbeds often fall short because they take up space and make the backyard seem cramped. Hard, man-made features in the yard can also be a safety hazard, especially stone steps and low walls.

Hardscape lighting is a method of adding dimension and ambiance to an area by strategically placing lights to illuminate hardscape features. For example, hardscape lighting is often placed on the riser of stone steps, near the top of stone walls, and at the base of fountains or statues. 

Hardscape lighting is not only about ambiance and accentuating the space, it is also important for safety. Placing small lights under each step on outdoor stairs will make it easier to navigate in the dark. Additional lighting, such as lights on low walls and flower beds will reduce risk of tripping in the dark. Homeowners and decorators have many options for hardscape lighting, including solar lights and easy to assemble lighting kits that they can do themselves.

Sources for hardscape lighting include: Architectural Digest, Clever, Washington Post, and HGTV. Whether you are considering a remodel or looking for small ways to improve your current backyard, you should consider adding hardscape lighting.

Table of Contents

What is Hardscape Lighting in Landscaping?

The term “hardscape” refers to any part of a yard that is not alive, so it includes everything except plants. Hardscape normally means stone or concrete structures, such as steps, paths, retaining walls, flower beds, fire pits, high walls, statues, fountains, pergolas, benches, seating, features about a pool, and outdoor bars.

Hardscape lighting is when homeowners or landscapers add additional outdoor lights onto their hardscape surfaces. This can bring out the personality and the craftsmanship of these features, as well as set the mood for the backyard.

If you have ever taken a stroll around the botanical gardens at night or toured Washington DC monuments after dark, you have probably seen examples of well-executed hardscape lighting. In the same way that you distribute lamps around your house or add canopy lights in the garden, hardscape lighting is helpful for making a space come together.

Without lighting on steps, fences, and retaining walls, the yard loses all its beauty after the sun goes down. It is also more dangerous to navigate stone steps without enough light to illuminate the next step.

How To Execute Successful Hardscape Lighting

The key to successfully lighting your hardscapes is to be strategic about which types of lights go where. Depending on what structures you have, there will be an ideal way to light them.

Stairs & Retaining Walls

The best way to add hardscape lighting to stairs and retaining walls is with small undercap lights that are installed on the riser or below the cap of the wall. This placement will allow the light to wash down the stone, bringing out the color and shape. Undercap lighting for stairs is the best way to illuminate them subtly without any glare or risk of damage.

Path & Driveways

Lanterns and streetlights normally keep driveways and paths illuminated; however, for those with longer driveways, portions of it may fall into darkness. In this case, lack of hardscape lighting is a safety issue. There are several ways to light paths and driveways. Garden-style canopy lights can be placed every few feet on either side of the path to highlight it.

Overhead lights can also be the solution to dim driveways. This type of lighting can be mounted on a higher surface like the exterior of a house, a fence, or a wall. When properly positioned, it will flood the driveway or path with enough light that it is safe to navigate at night.

Statues, Fountains, and Fences

Statues and fountains are normally lit from below to make them seem larger and more grand. There are two types of lighting that can easily accomplish this. Bullet lighting is a type of light that is planted into the ground and it shines a strong, narrow beam up at the feature. Flood lighting is the opposite; it produces a wide, diffused beam of light that illuminates both the feature and anything close to it.

Walls & Home Exteriors

Large, flat surfaces like stone walls and the outside of a home should be minimalistically lit with either well lights or wash lights. Both types of hardscape lighting are placed into the ground and shine up at the wall or house. Wash lights are slightly more diffused than well lights and are built to be precisely angles to best flatter the surface. Well lights, on the other hand, only shine straight up and cannot be pointed or adjusted.

When lighting large surfaces like walls, it is best to space the lights 6 to 7 feet apart. If a yard is overly lit, it loses its beauty and dimension. Hardscape lighting should be spaced to allow for areas of shadow.

Should I Add Hardscape Lighting To My Home?

According to Architectural Digest, the answer is a resounding yes. One of the biggest trends for 2022 is investment in outdoor spaces.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, people are more often utilizing their balconies, patios, and decks for social gatherings. This has caused an uptick in the number of improvement projects, including adding fire pits, pergolas, pools, outdoor bars, and new garden beds. Many homeowners are also redoing their decks to use more attractive and durable materials.

Hardscape lighting is like the icing on the cake. Adding hardscape features will increase the value of your home and make the yard more enjoyable.Hardscape lighting brings in the extra beauty that will wow both guests and prospective buyers. Adding hardscape lighting is a low cost, easy project that gives the house extra curb appeal. When it comes time to sell, a small investment in quality lighting will do wonders for increasing what sellers can set as asking price.

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