There are many ways one can take advantage of the porch area in front of their homes. It can easily host small gatherings, even well into the evening, and also serves as part of your home's face. Your porch creates the space people will first view before even entering. Lighting is such a large part of both atmosphere and function; you're going to want to know the right place to put it. So, where should your lighting go when compared to your door? Well, we have researched the question for you down below.
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Experts agree that outdoor lighting works best when just above the eye level of the average home visitor. Usually, placing your light anywhere from 65 to 67 inches above the ground or porch floor will make it so your visitors can approach without being negatively impacted by the bright light. Placing junction boxes 6 to 12 inches or so from the door itself will also help with this.
There are a lot of factors that can go into finding the perfect placement for your porchlights, including light types, door placements, and bulb wattage, to name a few. We'll break down these variables and more in the article down below for you.
Some things to keep in mind while choosing lights
One of the first things you'll need to know before placing your porch lights is what kind you're going to be using. There are a lot of factors that come into play with porch lights. These include everything from the bulbs to the materials of the cast. All of these come into play in one way or another.
The light bulbs in your porch lights go a long way in establishing atmosphere and practicality alike. While wattage and base light can vary, LED bulbs are helpful when applicable. They save money and energy over the long term, last longer than incandescent bulbs, and are available in various colors. When choosing lights for more atmospheric purposes, these variable color palettes will go a long way.
What makes up your fixture
The material that comprises your fixture will play a significant role in where you can place it. If your fixture is going to come in contact with the elements, you'll need to make sure it's of a suitable material. Resin, copper, and brass are among the more resilient materials.
Keep in mind that while the patina copper develops over time can be tasteful, these fixtures will need polishing and upkeep in coastal and humid areas. If you don't want to engage in this upkeep, marine-grade fixtures do exist for coastal regions.
Damp vs. Wet rated fixtures
This one is an essential matter of safety. To be safely used outside, all porch lights have either a Damp or Wet rating. These sound similar but are not the same thing. Damp-rated fixtures are suitable for use in covered areas where direct contact from precipitation will be minimal. Wet-rated fixtures, however, can be exposed to direct amounts of precipitation without danger of short-circuiting.
Now that you know a few important things to consider before choosing your fixture, we can move on to where to best place them when you've decided.
Where should porch lights be placed?
The outside of your house plays a crucial role in where you're going to want to place your outdoor porch lights. For example, any pathways leading to your steps or porch need to be adequately illuminated by some light. Whether you achieve this by lights directly on the path or a light bright enough to serve this purpose from the walls of your home is up to you.
Porch lights tend to go in pairs on either side of an entryway or garage door. The purpose of these lights is to spread light out and downwards. As previously mentioned, shoulder height is the recommended height for these lights, as this will help you achieve tasks by their light without blinding you directly in the eye.
If your porch or outdoor area has a ceiling covering the top, you can consider the hanging light fixture. These lights hang from an attachment on the roof and come in two main types.
Flush mounted outdoor lights
These lights sit flush to the ceiling and shine most of their light downward. Outdoor ceiling lights should be placed above an entrance or area where you will be walking. Keep in mind that these types of light do cast downward shadows. You can offset this by providing side light from a nearby light fixture.
Outdoor pendant lighting
These outdoor lights hang down from a chain or cord with a lantern at the end. These lights emit light from the sides as well as directly down. You will need a high ceiling to accommodate the pendant and leave enough headroom for people walking beneath them. Alternatively, you can hang these lanterns above furniture or seating areas, where the need to stand is less so.
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How big should porch lights be?
This is a question with a lot of variables and situational factors at hand. If you are placing lights at your door, have them be around 1/3 the size of your door and trim. If your home is a bit on the snugger side outwardly, go for 1/4th the size. Lights on the side of your garage door should follow an identical sizing scheme, compared to your garage door, of course.
If putting an outside light on a garden lamppost or out by the driveway, the light should be about 1/4th the height of the total mounting post used. These also look best placed about 5 to 6 and a half feet high.
For pendant lights hanging above the ceiling in front of your door, it's recommended you go with a lantern around 1/5th the length of your door. They should also be centered about 6 inches above the door. For a patio light or chandelier above a table, it's recommended to go about 2/3rds the width of your table. You can go as small as 1/2 the width if you like for a more compact look.
These are just some of the lights you can employ on your porch, but this should give you a good baseline on how size proportions work to make your porch furniture and house exterior go with your outdoor lighting.
Should all your outdoor lights match?
Unlike the inside of your house, the outdoors are full of various patterns and colors that are constantly shifting. You can choose to employ a uniform style with your outdoor lighting, but variety is highly encouraged, much like the nature surrounding your home. Not only will different parts of your home require different kinds of lighting, but it will offer some additional customization to your home's exterior.
That being said, don't go overkill on your mixing and matching. Two to 3 metals are about the most you'll want to mix into your fixture scheme. Any more will become distracting to the viewer, detracting from the appeal.
Like interior color schemes, you can opt for high contrast or similar colors in your palettes. Consider how your lighting works with the colors of your outdoor furniture, front door, and even backyard when choosing colors.
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What type of outdoor lighting is best?
This is another question without a simple direct answer. The type of lighting that works the best for you is very likely context-sensitive for many reasons.
Landscape lighting will always be the go-to when it comes to lighting pathways and preventing accidents. Ceiling mounts and pendant lights are excellent at showcasing an area with furniture or sitting spaces. You can always consider a buying guide like the one found here.
One thing to consider when purchasing outdoor lighting is the effect of light pollution. The International Dark-Sky Association is an organization that dedicates itself to reducing light pollution and minimizing the adverse effects of artificial light on the natural world. Consider looking for the Dark Sky and Good Neighbor seals and classifications on your outdoor lighting for IDA-approved fixtures to do your part.
We don't often consider the exterior of our house as an area to customize. The yard, sure, but the actual house often goes unthought of. But outdoor lighting is an excellent way to prove that your aesthetic taste and imagination can be as easily applied to your home's outside as it can be the inside. From shape and size to material and color, the possibilities for what you can do here are endless. We hope this article has helped you realize just what your dreams for your home's exterior might be.