Lighting Up Outdoor Living Spaces
Lighting Up Outdoor Living Spaces
Lighting Up Outdoor Living Spaces
Patio and yard lighting considerations for safety, convenience, and ambiance
By Scott Bish
As the weather gets warmer, it’s time to head outdoors and spend more time relaxing, playing lawn games, grilling out, and more. However you spend your time outside, the proper exterior lighting makes every moment safer and more enjoyable.
There are three main types of outdoor lighting: safety, task, and ambient. Here’s what you should be mindful of for each, plus some tips for choosing specific types of lights and where and how to mount them.
Tip
USE CAUTION: Any time you work with electricity, always turn off the power at the circuit breaker for your personal safety.
/ Safety Lighting: Making It Easy to Watch Your Step /
Safety lighting refers to illuminating areas where people walk, such as steps and pathways, to help them avoid tripping or stumbling. More than just functional, safety lighting can also beautify your outdoor spaces.
Stairway Lighting:
If your stairs are not outfitted with electrical outlets, you may want to consider solar, battery-powered, or low-voltage lighting. Make sure the lights have a weatherproof seal to keep out moisture. You should also choose a style that has motion sensors so the lights will automatically go on when someone’s walking past to safely light their way.
Walkway Lighting:
Select lighting fixtures that will subtly blend into the surroundings. This means choosing lights that have a natural or neutral color and the proper height. For example, if your path lights are set among plants, they should be slightly taller so their glow is not blocked by the leaves.

Before buying path lights, determine how many you’ll need:

Measure the area where you want to install the lights.
Multiply the length by two, since lights will run down both sides of the path.
Divide total distance by six, so that lights can be placed 6 feet apart.
Measure the area where you want to install the lights.
Multiply the length by two, since lights will run down both sides of the path.
Divide total distance by six, so that lights can be placed 6 feet apart.
For example, for a 30-foot walkway
30-foot walkway x 2 sides = 60 feet
60 feet ÷ 6 feet apart = 10 lights needed
Image of S’mores Crispy Bars
/ Task Lighting: Shine a Light on What You’re Doing /
Exterior task lighting is ideal for targeting specific areas of your deck or patio for better visibility. It’s handy for areas where you’ll be grilling, prepping food, or dining. Common types of task lighting fixtures include overhead spotlights, undermount bar lights, and portable lights.
Choosing Task Lighting:
You can use an overhead light or choose a spotlight for precise control. When installing a spotlight, be sure to mount it on an overhead beam so it can direct the light right to where you need it.

If you have an outdoor grilling area with a countertop, consider weatherproof light bars mounted underneath your counter. These lights will provide enough brightness for tasks you’re completing on the counter, such as chopping ingredients, peeling vegetables, checking food temperatures, and plating.

Another versatile lighting solution is a portable grill light. Some styles can attach to a wall or railing near your grill. Others feature a screw clamp that mounts right to the grill handle. While these moveable lamps are great for grilling, they’re also a sound option for outdoor reading and writing and nighttime card-game playing, as well as work lamps.

Royal Wing
Image of Outdoor Lighting
Image of Ambient Lighting
Image of Outdoor Lighting
/ Ambient Lighting: Bring a Cozy Glow to Your Outdoor Living Space /
Ambient light is the closest thing to natural lighting. It casts a gentle glow without a harsh, blinding glare, and it can often enhance the design and décor of outdoor living spaces. Ambient lighting is a common choice for gathering spots like under gazebos, on patios and decks, and in picnic areas since it creates a more relaxing mood.
Adding Ambiance with String Lights:
While there are many types of decorative lights and lamps, string lights are very popular because of their festive look. String lights are also easy to use: You can string them around the perimeter of your patio or deck, as well as wrap railings, banisters, columns, posts, and trees. For a romantic and enchanted effect, suspend several strands over a dining space to form a canopy that mimics a starry sky.

The easiest way to determine the length of lights you will need is to measure using a roll of twine.

Separation
Start at your first hanging point and stretch the twine as you walk over to the second.
Continue stringing twine across to every point that you want the lights to go and finish at an electrical outlet.
Measure the length of twine you used. That length should match the length of your string lights and should guide how many strands you buy.
Start at your first hanging point and stretch the twine as you walk over to the second.
Continue stringing twine across to every point that you want the lights to go and finish at an electrical outlet.
Measure the length of twine you used. That length should match the length of your string lights and should guide how many strands you buy.
Image of Family gathering
To install, you’ll need use a staple gun with 3/8-inch galvanized-steel staples (they won’t rust). Starting at the power outlet, begin stapling your light strings to beams, columns, and trees to get the look you desire. Always center the stapler over the center of the wire; be careful to not staple through the wiring. For safety, do not plug in the lights until you’re done. Staple halfway between each bulb. If lights are heavier, you may need to apply additional staples to keep the strings from sagging.
Now that you know the types of outdoor lighting available, you’re ready to create your own beautifully lit patio or deck space to enjoy throughout the warm months.
If you’re ready to add safety, task, or ambient lighting to your outdoor space, a friendly team member at Tractor Supply would be happy to help you choose the perfect products for your needs.
About the Writer
Scott Bish is a writer who hails from Ohio.

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