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What Is Hardscape and Why You Should Use Them

What Is Hardscape and Why You Should Use Them


With a deck or patio, the first thing to attend to are steps and edges that could be potential safety hazards. Lighting these areas allows for easier movement around the space and creates a good base for your lighting installation. Working from here, use accent lights to illuminate trees, shrubs and other plant material around the deck or patio and create more indirect illumination for your outdoor space. Accent lights for water features and a down light above the grill are great additions to complete a deck or patio lighting plan.

When working with decks and patios, fences and retaining walls, there are lots of specialty lights that can be useful in creating interesting lighting effects. Hardscaping lights can be inserted between patio paver or retaining wall blocks to provide illumination and create interest along the wall. Wall lights are small decorative fixtures that can be fastened to benches, fences, walls or along stairways to add a decorative flourish and provide added light where you need it.

With decks and patios, the key to a good lighting installation is to keep the lighting low and indirect. This keeps the safety hazards illuminated while providing a low-key atmosphere for socializing. It creates a great ambience for social gatherings or for time with the family at the end of the day.


The Three Building Blocks of Hardscape Lighting

1. Steps

Lighting up steps accentuates the beauty of this feature and provides a safe, visible pathway at night. A simple LED brick light can be integrated in the riser of each step, or another way is to insert a hardscape light under the cap of each step.


2. Railings & Posts

Deck posts can be illuminated with a variety of deck post lights (e.g., half-moon lights), available in cast aluminum and cast brass. Another option is to highlight deck railings using hardscape lights hidden under the lip of the railing.


3. Sitting Walls

A 12V hardscape light can be integrated into a brick or stone wall during construction. Hardscape lights are usually installed just underneath the top cap of a sitting wall or retaining wall, and are typically installed before the top cap is placed on the wall. You may need to ask the hardscape contractor to create a channel for your fixture wire run.

Kichler® hardscape lights are available in different sizes to match the size of your wall, with lengths ranging from 3" to 18.9".


Basic Tips

  • Plan ahead: It’s much easier to design and install hardscapes and lighting at the same time, as opposed to doing hardscapes first and lighting later, with no coordination. If you are working with a hardscape contractor, let them know where the lights need to go, and work together to determine the wire routing.
  • Find a partner: If you’re not comfortable doing hardscape work yourself, partner up with a hardscape contractor. Introduce yourself, show them photos of your work, and let them know you are willing to work with them. An in-person meeting can leave a lasting impression and could lead to a lot more work for you.
  • Leave a little extra: When you’re installing a hardscape fixture, leave yourself a little extra wire if possible. If you should ever have to service the light, you will be able to unscrew it from the plate and pull it out. After servicing, you can feed the wire back into the wall.

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  • John Bottoms