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Outdoor Stair Lighting Ideas and Six Principles

Updated: Nov 22, 2022


The main factor to take into account while lighting stairs is safety. We're mostly just talking from a safety perspective, but it also needs to be aesthetically nice for outdoor step lighting.


The very long set of stairs usually has several landings, which is a lovely outdoor space with steps and landings. The garden will have many kinds of plants and trees, as well as natural rocks. To complete lighting the risers and landings, you will need to use every tool at your disposal to ensure lights fits well in your garden.

The landings, some stair treads, and some risers can be lit by stake lights or path lights. Additionally, hanging lights may enhance the atmosphere. As a result, the entire garden will be subtly well-behaved and well-lit. Wall washers will provide us with a focused lighting and an area definition and some refraction to spill the lights to other areas.


So how do we choose which site and what type of lighting to use?

This article provides a few techniques about outdoor stair lighting ideas and outdoor lighting options for achieving outcomes that are visually beautiful while putting safety first.


Principle one: Residual Lights

Use the residual light from surrounding fixtures to light the way.


We won't always need to focus all of the light on the steps themselves when utilizing wall washes or spotlights since the residual light will reappear to illuminate the walkway.


Many people want the stairs lighting as subtly as possible while still being able to move about comfortably.


Using the residual lights will achieve what they want, as these lights around will scatter the light in all directions. It can make for a more balanced lighting effect, with no very bright spots sticking out.


Principle two: Avoid large contrast

Light is not bendable. Please take into account both the riser and the top of the steps. Put some downlights in front of the stairs to illuminate the risers.


There will be a lot of shadows cast in a staircase if you merely illuminate the top of each step, which reduces the safety for those using the steps. When you have a lot of shadows, it might be challenging. It's a good idea to always position the moonlight slightly in advance of the stairs. That can highlight the risers and give everyone a sense of what to expect as they approach the stairs.


It is natural to illuminate the staircase with lights hanging from the tree, and this can reduce the striking contrast. Additionally, it is the ideal approach to make use of the plants in your garden without obstructing your vision with anything artificial.


This effectively cast strong lights, adding a second layer of safety by allowing visitors to concentrate on the steps. The entire set of steps is completely different from simply the light and dark contrast with lots of shadows.


Principle three: Moonlighting

To prevent shadows on risers, use a hanging pendant light to create the appearance of moonlight. The downlights may be used to create moonlights. The major objective is to position the light above the steps such that the riser and tread are illuminated differently.



Where should that pendant light to be installed? Whether it should be moved further ahead or farther back to change the stair's lighting effect?


The location of the light will have an impact on the lighting effect. The tread or riser may have the light. Basically, we wanted to distinguish them.


You may position the light farther forward if you wish to illuminate the riser. Or you may move them further back if you want less light on the riser. The location of the pendent light affects the riser's brightness.


Principle four: Lighting Fixture Placement

Start with the top stairs and equally distribute lights under landing caps to the bottom.


If you don't want the area to be too bright, you may illuminate the steps with under the top cap lights or lights mounted on the risers. Start at the top step and going down every other step all the way to the landing. Of course, they can also be installed at each step.


Principle five: Surrounding Lights

To better light up places, thinking about installing additional fixture lighting next to staircases.

When installing garden lighting, most people employ more than one type of light fixture and rarely merely illuminate the stairs. If the surrounding scenery has uplights or other lighting, they will also cast lights on the steps. For example, many people like to use string lights on the deck railing, which will definitely cast the lights on the stairs.


There is always a safety concern when we use step lighting since it provides a lot of contrast. When there is a lot of dark next to light, it is difficult to see the route and poses certain risks. Therefore, to create a safe set of steps, it is ideal to utilize lighting both under the caps light and illumination from the environment for residual lighting together.


Principle six: For Small Stairs

How can a small set of stairs with two to four steps be illuminated, such as the deck lights or the steps in front of your door?


Use the traditional path stake light, post LED lights or downlights for the smaller staircase, commencing at the top on the left side and alternating at the step landing on the right side.


It is quick and simple, and it requires fewer lights. If there is no down lighting or other lights, that is typical in small areas like this. For those corners needs lighting installations, this traditional style is a great choice.



If you are going to illuminate the steps outdoor in a place with abundant sunlight, you can try to use solar lights.





Solar lights are perfect for stairs because they are easy to install and maintain and require no wires or outlets. They can be placed anywhere in the yard and will work automatically at night. If you plan on using solar powered landscape lights, just make sure they receive enough sunlight during the day so that they’re fully charged by evening.


Solar lights have been developed relatively well, as long as you make sure there is enough sunlight, they can work very well. Moreover, basically all traditional types of lights have solar versions, such as post lights, stake lights, wall lights, step lights, downlights, inground lights, and other decorative lights.


Let's review the stair lighting ideas.


Most frequently, wall lights or under cap lights are used to illuminate staircases. For safety, they are inserted in each step's riser at regular intervals.


Path lights or downlights are excellent choices for staircases with fewer steps. Make careful to direct more light toward the tread of each stair than the riser.


Place lighting fixtures around the steps to highlight the hardscape and surrounding area. The route will be illuminated to make sure the steps are secure for walking.


Stairs and other elevation changes are one of the most crucial areas to add illumination when it comes to safety.


Try using solar light to save electricity bills as well as reduce carbon footprints.

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