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5 Simple Outdoor Stair Lighting Ideas

When it comes to outdoor stair lighting, there needs to be enough surrounding ambient light to see the stairs clearly. If there is not enough to provide adequate lighting for the stairs, specific stair lighting fixtures will need to be installed. Not only is this needed to increase the safety, but it will also increase the visual appeal and also add to the property value.

The kind of outdoor light fixtures you will be able to use will be based on the layout and the surroundings of your stairs.  Other considerations need to be taken such as, do you want to add permanent, durable fixtures that require wiring or would you want simple to install and flexible to arrange solar powered outdoor lighting.

photo: Craig A Rodway The Modern Choice: Recessed Stair Lighting (Ideal For Deck Stair Lighting)

Recessed lighting, or light fixtures that are flushed with the wall/floor are a popular choice as they provide a minimalistic, sophisticated and modern look. This type of lighting for exterior staircases will require work to be done to install them: cutting of the stairs, stone path, or wall will need to be done for the light fixtures to fit flush with the surroundings. There is the option to use solar recessed lights, which will not require any wiring, but will still need areas cut out for them to be placed into.

There are 3 ways in which you can arrange recessed stair lights:

Place them in the sides of the top of the steps (fig. 1)

Inserted them within the vertical part of the step (fig. 2)

If you have walls on either side of the stairs they can be placed within them (fig. 3)

Recessed lighting on the steps themselves Recessed lights placed within the step Recessed lights placed on the walls





Recessed lights placed within the steps

Using Down Lights For Outdoor Stair Lighting

You can use down lights as an alternative to the trendy recessed lights. Unlike recessed lights, solar powered down lights will not require any major work to be done to install them. If you plan on using electrical down lights then installation work will need to be done to fit the wirings around the stairs/walls.

A down light fixture

Down lights would be one of the best options of exterior stair lighting, as it is a traditional and elegant lighting form. Because they are pointed downwards they do not interfere with a person’s vision, whereas recessed lighting can. Using this kind of lighting along with post cap lighting will create a sophisticated lighting design plan.

To be able to use these fixtures you will need to have a wall on either side of the stairs or even both. If you do plan on putting down lights on both sides of your stairs, see if it will look better alternating the sides on which the lights are on. The “airport runway” effect is when you have lights lined up on both sides, which you want to avoid.

Post Lighting or Solar Stakes

An example of a solar post stake light

If you do not have walls on either side of your stairs one option would be to use post lighting. These are stakes with light fixtures attached on top. These then that get buried within soil or rock. It is common to have the post lights electrically wired, but it would be much easier, faster and cheaper to use solar stake lighting.

Using Post Cap Lights For Exterior Stair Lighting

Any railing that has posts can have post caps placed on them. Though they might not provide enough lighting to illuminate the stairs, adding these to your lighting design creates different lighting effects (key in creating visual appeal with lighting).  Once again these can be solar stair lighting fixtures, providing a quicker and easier lighting solution.

Under Railing or Step Lip Lighting

photo: ceridwenn

An example of stair lip lighting

An alternative to post cap lighting would be under railing lighting. For this, it is common to install rope lights under the hand railing, out of eye sight. Rope lights are led lights encased within a plastic tube to create a rope. When it comes to design aesthetics, using post cap lights would be a better choice for railing lighting. If you do not have any posts to place the caps on, then under railing lighting will be second best.

These rope lights can also be installed right under the lip of the stairs, as an alternative to the other stair lighting techniques.


Lighting Design Tips:

The Runway Effect

You will want to avoid the runway effect. This is when the outdoor light fixtures are placed on both sides of the stairs right opposite each other. Instead, look to alternate the placing. Also with lighting techniques such as step lip or recessed lighting, you do not have to have lights on every step. It is better to use a number of low lighting fixtures (installed around the steps, railings, or on the sides), than to use a few powerful, overbearing light fixtures.

Varying The Types Of Light Fixtures

As mentioned above, it is important to vary the type of light fixtures used when planning your outdoor lighting.

For example use a combination:

  • Down lights on the walls/railings + post caps
  • Solar post lights + step lip lighting

Varying the type of light fixtures you use creates different lighting effects, which is much more visually appealing than using one type of light fixture, creating a monotone look. As well as being a visually appealing it will be more comfortable on the eye when walking on the stairs at night.

Tiki Torches: Landscape Design Guide

When it comes to landscape lighting ideas and design, outdoor tiki torches provide a simple and inexpensive way of adding light to your garden.  They will create a warm and tropical atmosphere that invites people to enjoy the space in your garden. When it comes to tiki torches there are a few areas to know about that will help make the planning and design of your landscape what you wish it to be.


  • Choosing Between Kerosene or Gas Fueled Tiki Torches
  • What is Citronella Oil
  • Garden Landscaping and The Different Styles of Tiki Torches
  • The Placement of Tiki Torches Around The Garden
  • Tiki Torch Safety
  • Prices of Tiki Torches

Choosing Between Kerosene or Gas Fueled Tiki Torches

The average tiki torch stands at 5 feet and comes as kerosene or gas fueled versions. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Kerosene Tiki Torches

The most common outdoor tiki torches are the kerosene-fueled torches, which can easily be found in hardware stores and even large supermarkets. For fuel you will have the choice of kerosene, citronella oil, or the cleanest burning fuel is paraffin oil.

Kerosene torches are generally made of bamboo or the more expensive kinds are made out of aluminum.   They will have a shaft that is used to press into dirt or a bucket of sand to hold it upright. The top part of the torch is usually made out of straw or bamboo that holds the plastic fuel container. Each torch has a metal top that exposes one end of the wick, and the other end is submerged into the plastic bottle. The cord (wick) is lit and it draws fuel from the oil in the plastic bottle.

These can burn for a few hours at a time before you will need to refuel and adjust the wick to expose more of it.

The advantages of kerosene, oil tiki torches are that they are inexpensive, flexible and you do not require any complex installation. You are able to place the tiki torch wherever you like, as you do not require underground gas piping.

Gas Fueled Tiki Torches

Going for gas tiki torches can be a sizable investment. The reason people do so is because of the greater quality in light and lower maintenance.

A gas based tiki torch is fueled by a controllable source, which will allow you to control the flame of the torch. You can make the flame a lot larger and brighter than kerosene or oil tiki torches. The flame will be at a constant height for the duration of the night, whereas a kerosene tiki torch will need attention after a number of hours: refilling and wick extension. You can also light a number of gas tiki torches at the same time from a master control.

The only maintenance needed for gas based tiki torches is that they need to be kept clean of garden debris, leafs, twigs, etc. The added benefits of this type of torch comes from the initial hard work of laying out gas piping under the garden. Trenching will be required, making this a long-term landscape design plan.

What is Citronella Oil

An added benefit of kerosene and oil tiki torches is that you can fuel them with citronella oil. Made from a relative of the lemon grass, citronella oil harvested from citronella grass is a natural insect repellent. This plant based, non-toxic biopesticide burns slowly providing hours of light and insect repellent through the night.

Citronella tiki torches also burn without producing smoke. You will want to place your citronella tiki torches 15 feet apart to provide effective insect repellent.

Garden Landscaping and The Different Styles of Tiki Torches

There is a range of choices when it comes to tiki torches. Choosing among them will be determined by your preference in function (kerosene vs. gas), landscape design style, and budget.

The most common torches used for casual landscape lighting are the simple rattan or bamboo tiki torches. These are inexpensive, simple to use and are easily found online and offline. But these will look out of place in contemporary gardens with outdoor kitchens, wooden or granite patios. There are more modern and high-grade outdoor tiki torches available for these types of gardens.

More modern and permanent torches can be found such as copper tiki torches, brass, aluminum, steel, and glass, and will come as stakes that you can plant into the ground, or will have their own base to stand on.

You can also find tabletop versions, deck torches that can be attached to railings, hanging torches, path torches, wall mounted, and solar tiki torches.

The Placement of Tiki Torches Around The Garden

Kerosene and oil tiki torches can serve a number of functions around the garden. They can be used for ambient lighting, task lighting and accent lighting.

Ambient lighting

Most people will use tiki torches for ambient lighting, placing them around the garden or patio. Depending on the space you are looking to light, the general method is to place the torches 15 feet apart, and 3-4 feet away from chairs or tables.

Task lighting

Task lighting is lighting that helps people do something like walking down a path, finding their car in a driveway. Tiki torches can also be placed around the food area in a garden providing light for people to see the food. When it comes to lighting a path or a driveway with outdoor tiki torches you will want to alternate the sides they are on so not to make your path look like an airport runway.

Accent lighting

Another way of adding light to your landscape is to use accent lighting. Accent lighting is used to highlight a certain area or object in your garden. You can place tiki torches around a swimming pool, above ground deck, or fountain highlighting those areas of your garden.

Tiki Torch Safety

It is important to take precautions when using flame based lighting in gardens.

  • Avoid placing your tiki torches near bushes and low hanging trees.
  • If you have a small garden, trees and bushes need to be kept trimmed
  • Leave ample room between torches and plants, trees, etc.
  • Short wicks on kerosene based torches reduces the chances of flying sparks
  • Look for the taller torches that are out of reach from children

Prices of Tiki Torches

The typical and common rattan and bamboo tiki torches can be found for $5 to $30 at places like Amazon or even local supermarkets. They will come as single torches or in a set. Prices for more modern and permanent fixtures can range from $30 to $100 and even up to $300.

The versatility of outdoor tiki torches provide people with many options when it comes to garden lighting. From inexpensive, flexible options, to more expensive, permanent tiki fixtures. Either way your garden will be transformed into a warm and inviting space to be enjoyed when the sun goes down.


Related Posts:

10 Simple Wireless Deck Lighting Ideas

Design Guide: Ideas for Outdoor Pendant Lighting Fixtures

5 DIY Oil Lamp Ideas: From Shadow Projectors to Wine Bottle Tiki Torches


Using Outdoor String Lights For Your Garden

Many people think landscape lighting is expensive and complicated, but is not. One way of lighting your garden is to use decorative outdoor string lights, and using solar powered lights will make it even easier.

Outdoor string lights are a number of light bulbs connected together. The lights can range from colorful to warm or white outdoor sting lights, and come in styles such as large lanterns, circular, rustic, modern, or small festive lights. They are great because they can be used for exterior lighting all year round. String lights should not be mistaken with rope lights, which are LED lights in-cased within a clear tube to form a rope.

From paper DIY paper origami shades to wine bottle lamps, have a look at our post here for a range of outdoor string lighting ideas

Decorative outdoor string lights are used for ambient lighting: to outline driveways, walkways or steps, they look great for deck lighting, patios and porches. String lights cast a soft glow but when used with other forms of landscape lighting will enhance the look of any garden.

Depending on the quality and length of the decorative outdoor string lights, the prices can range from $15 to $150. The lights can come in lengths of 10 to 40+ feet, and some string lights are able to connect together.

Decorative Outdoor String Lights
The kind of decorative string lights to buy will be based on how you want your garden to look. If you are decorating for the festive season then red and green or other colorful string lights will turn the garden into a festive wonderland. If you are looking for a natural, year round design, one that is calm and relaxing like a European café, then white outdoor garden lights or off white will be the best choice.

Standard Outdoor String Lights: These are the most common outdoor string lights. You can get them in many different styles, colors, and lengths. There are many choices, from mini lanterns to colored blown glass.

Victorian String Light

Victorian String Lights

Lantern String Lights

Lantern String Lights

Glass Globes String Lights

Glass Globes String Lights

LED Outdoor String Lights: An energy efficient option is to use LED outdoor string lights. They are versatile and can be used to light trees, plants or other parts of the garden. More commonly seen as Christmas decorations, they now come in white and off white colors, which can be used all year round.

Japanese lanterns: A creative option for outdoors string lighting is to use Japanese lanterns. These are usually made of paper and can be fitted with an electric cord to attach light bulbs.

Going Solar
Using solar outdoor string lights will make it much easier to install and place the lights where you want. There is also no need to have timers or to switch the lights on and off, as they will automatically come on at night. They are becoming cheaper to buy and they don’t cost anything to run. More and more styles, shapes and colors are being made available as more people turn to solar powered lights.

Using decorative outdoor string lights is a great way of adding ambient lighting to your garden. It can easily turn an area into a festive, colorful place or make an area relaxing and elegant. Adding any kind of lighting to a garden will make it an enjoyable place to experience during night.

photo by photojenni

Outdoor String Lights


Using Solar Garden Lights For Landscape Lighting

Solar garden lights use to be quite expensive and would not last long or shine too brightly. But as more and more people are turning to alternative energy sources, the solar power industry has advanced to the point now where solar garden lights are able to capture the suns energy more efficiently, shine brighter, and last longer. They also come in a range of different sizes and styles to fit many different landscaping design needs.

Landscape Lighting Design
Landscape lighting, or outdoor lighting, is important for a number of reasons: it makes the garden more homely at night, is more attractive to potential buyers, and is beneficial for security reasons. If it is done wrong, it can wash out the colors and features of plants and can also cast imposing shadows across the garden. Many people believe that outdoor landscape lighting is complicated and expensive, but it is not, especially if you use outdoor solar garden lights.

The first thing to consider when thinking of a garden lighting plan is to ensure that there is enough outdoor lighting for safety and security.  This includes lighting for steps, driveways and door entrances. Once this is covered, the next step is to look at ambient lighting, or lighting that enhances the feel, look and style of your landscape. When buying light fixtures for the outdoors, it is key to spend wisely. Cheap, low quality solar equipment won’t last long, shine bright enough and will just add stress and costs to your landscape lighting design.

photo by mistercam

Solar Garden Light

Solar Garden Lights
Many people and landscape lighting designers are turning to outdoor solar garden lights as they are:

–       easy to install

–       can be placed anywhere

–       there is no need for timers or need to switch them on or off

–       cost effective (they are cheap to buy, and don’t cost anything to run)

–       eco-friendly

–       come in range of styles and colors that can fit into any garden design


Solar garden lights are made up of low voltage LED lights, which can last a number of years and are commonly powered by a rechargeable NiCad battery.  Each light has a solar panel on the top and a light sensor to know when to switch on and off. Most LED solar garden lights these days can provide up to 10 hours of light.

Types of Solar Garden Lights
The first thing to think about even before looking at decorative solar garden lights, is how you want the garden to feel. A garden can feel more lively and festive by using colorful and decorative lights, or a garden can feel more romantic and relaxed by using rustic orange and white lights.


Ground Stake Solar Lights: These are the more common solar powered garden lights. They are versatile, and easy to install. They come in short and tall sizes. All you need to do is push them firmly into soil and they will stand upright. Uses for garden stake solar lights include ambient lighting and lighting a drive or walkway. To avoid making your path lighting look like a runway, you need to alternate the side of the path you place the lights.

Solar Powered Recessed Lights: For step or deck lighting, you can install recessed stainless steel solar garden lights, lights that are fitted within the steps or the deck. They are mainly used for safety reasons but also make a landscape more aesthetically pleasing.

Hanging Solar Lights: Can be used for pathway and driveway lighting, doorway lighting and outdoor celebration events. You can get them in a range of different styles such as Japanese lanterns or Victorian lamps.

Solar Spot Lights: These are used for accent lighting as they provide a focused point of light.  They can be used as decorative outdoor lighting to highlight the trunk of a tree, a fountain, a statue, a bush of flowers, a pond or other landscape features you want to showcase.

Solar String Lights: Mainly known as Christmas lights, the more modern versions come in a range of different sizes and styles. They work great on decks and patios as it makes the area look like a European café, and can also be used to outline driveways and walking paths.

Solar Outdoor Rope Lights: Rope lights are made up of LED lights that form of a rope. They can be used to wrap around a tree, hung on fences, or outline flowerbeds. They are very versatile and come in a range of colors.

The Sun Jar

The Sun Jar

Sun Jar: The Sun Jar is a designer, decorative solar garden light. They are vintage style jars that light up at night, easily placed anywhere around the garden or on a table.

Motion Detector Solar Lights: These lights are becoming more popular and are being used as security/intruder spotlights. They are usually installed around the garage, or the front and back door.

Floating Solar Lights: These are ideal for placing in a pond and will highlight the area at night.

The placement of your solar powered garden lights is essential. They need to be in areas where they can get a few hours of sunlight a day. You need to make sure that they are not covered up by plants or tall grass, not only because it will block the sunlight, but when the light comes on at night it will then cast unwanted shadows across the garden. You also don’t people to be able to see the light fixtures, so look to hide them behind rocks or big plants.

One other thing to keep in mind is to keep the color of the light consistent. This is a small but important detail, as different light fixtures can give off different shades of light (white, warm orange, cold blue).

The many advantages of outdoor solar garden lights makes landscape lighting easy and non-expensive. Anyone now can design their landscape lighting just how they want their garden to look and feel.

photo by children of the neon god

Garden Lights