The Ultimate Guide to Outdoor Lighting for Your Garden

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Outdoor lighting needs to be able to withstand the elements as water conducts electricity, meaning it can carry an electrical current and cause an electric shock if you touch the fitting. To ensure the fixtures are suitable for their location, you’ll need to check what IP rating they have. IP stands for Ingress Protection and is a rating of a product’s resistance to particles and water.

Lightbulbs are generally not waterproof themselves, no matter what type of bulbs they are and it is the fitting which needs to be waterproof. IP ratings provide more information on exactly how waterproof the fitting is.

IP ratings are written as ‘IP’ followed by two numbers - the first number refers to the amount of protection a fitting has from solid objects, such as accidental touch by fingers, and the second number refers to the protection level provided against liquids, ranging from 0 for no protection, to 8 for fittings able to be immersed under water. For example, an outdoor fitting exposed to direct rain mounted on a wall needs to be typically IP44 onwards.

An IP65 rated fitting is protected against dust and low jets of water from all directions. This type of fitting is more than sufficient for outdoor use and this is the most common IP rating used on a lot of fittings. The highest level of protection for a fitting is IP68 and this is suitable for underwater lighting such as swimming pools.

Types of outdoor lighting

Depending on the size and layout of your outdoor space, you can zone your garden with lighting to ensure each area is lit appropriately for its intended purpose, without over-lighting it and creating a flood-lit look. Lighting a garden correctly can extend its use well beyond daylight hours and can ensure that even on dark winter nights, there is always an impressive view of your garden.

Entrance lighting

outdoor entrance lighting

A well-lit entrance to your home can create a welcoming first impression and allow anyone entering or leaving your home to do so safely. Good lighting can improve security as you can easily identify anyone at your door after dark. Task lighting is the technical term for lights which focus on a specific area, in this case an entrance, and the light should be bright enough to feel welcoming without dazzling callers.

The wattage required for your entrance will depend on whether your house is located on a well-lit road or a more isolated location. If your entrance way is lit with light coming from streetlights, then a 60W bulb should provide plenty of light, anywhere remote with no street lighting should be lit with 100W bulb.

One important thing to avoid with entrance lighting is glare. Glare happens when a light source is too bright for the area it’s designed to light up nd this excessive brightness can cause discomfort or reduced visibility. It might take some experimentation to achieve the optimum level of light but start with a lower watt bulb and see if this provides enough light without creating glare. To avoid dazzling people, a good rule of thumb is to ensure low-voltage lights are placed no higher than 2 feet above ground and that lights of a standard voltage are placed higher than 7 feet. This means that the lights won’t be at anyone’s eye level.

Fluorescent tube wall lighting is one way to avoid glare and flush ceiling lights (lights which are fitted flush to the ceiling rather than pendant lights that hang down) are ideal as they are very easy to maintain, will avoid cobwebs and provide an even level of light, rather than the directional light that can come from pendant fittings.

Patio lighting

patio lighting

Ambient lighting is a must for patio and decking areas as this is where you’ll spend the majority of time in your garden relaxing and entertaining. With the right lighting, your patio can feel like an extension of your home and act as an extra room in warmer months. For a perfectly lit patio, use general lighting to add instant illumination to areas you use regularly, such as by doorways and pathways. This type of general lighting can come from lights mounted on walls, or overhead when used on covered patios.

Task lighting makes it possible to light certain areas of your patio correctly for their intended purpose. This could include spotlights for areas where you might want to read or pendant lighting for dining and BBQ areas.

Accent lighting is what creates the perfect atmosphere on your patio, whether that be relaxing or to create a party atmosphere if you’re hosting an al fresco dinner party for example, or even to highlight a particular feature such as a statue.

As with areas inside which are used for social gatherings, warm white colours work well on patios and compact fluorescent tubes are ideal as there is a shape to fit most fixtures and they are an affordable and environmentally friendly option. The only downside of using compact fluorescent lightbulbs outside is that in cold temperatures they can take longer to fully light up.


LED bulbs are a long lasting, energy saving alternative to compact fluorescent tubes or regular fluorescent tubes for patio lighting. For a unique, fun lighting idea, use LED strip light ribbons wrapped around decking rails. For an elegant, understated look, LED lights can be fitted into the flooring of decked areas or on the steps to show visitors safely up the stairs and to create a welcoming entrance into the main patio or decking area. You could even add strips of LED lights under step lips to create a continuous light under each step.

You can combine this ambient lighting with brighter security lighting that comes on automatically when movement is detected to increase safety when the area is not in use.

Walkway, steps and driveway lighting

Safety and aesthetics need to combine when lighting walkways, steps and driveways to ensure people can see where they’re going, as well as highlighting pretty boarders or paving.

Often paths are lit with down-lighters that project pools of light towards the ground, allowing people to see where they are walking, without dazzling them.

If you have too many lights  either side of a walkway then you can run the risk of creating a ‘landing strip’ feeling which looks unnatural. The best idea is to lead people’s eyes down the path as they walk by placing lights far enough apart to create distinct pools of light. This will help people to navigate the path naturally rather than over-lighting the way.


Focal point lighting

Trees, statues, water features and any other focal point in your garden can benefit from specific lighting. The best colour to use for lighting focal points is to light statues and other manmade focal points with warm hues, and natural focal points, such as trees, with cool hues which, when cleverly placed, can mimic the look of moonlight. Accent lighting can highlight statues or other features which are at a distance, allowing you to see them from your home, no matter what time of year it is. To ensure larger focal points have enough light to stand out, use a 50W bulb to highlight the object.


For something a little different, try accenting the shadow of a plant or statue, rather than the object itself to create a dramatic backdrop on a wall.

To light a water feature, the fitting must be IP rated to 7 or above to ensure it’s safe to be submerged. Lighting under water can create stunning ripple effects on trees or surrounding structures. Bear in mind that the lighting effect will only be able to be seen in clear water and muddy water will significantly dim the light.

Fitting choices

Garden lighting fittings tend to be available in a range of colours including brown and black which are designed to blend in with the natural surroundings in the garden. Silver and white fittings are best avoided as most people want their lighting to be subtle and not draw attention to where the light source is coming from. The exception to this are statement light fittings where the fitting itself is a feature, such as with pendant lighting, freestanding lamps or LEDs, fluorescent tubes and CFLs. To find out more browse our bulb selection or call the team on 0113 887 6270.

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Published 2016/09/12

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