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Shining the Light on 12 Classic Landscape Lighting Mistakes

Posted On: June 27,2018 By: Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

landscape-lighting-lancaster-paImagine your home being beautifully lit with strategic uplighting on trees and architectural features. The right lighting can make your front entrance look both stunning from the road and welcoming to those who come to visit.

In the backyard, professional lighting can illuminate your outdoor living area, making it not only more usable, but more attractive, too. After all, your space can take on a whole new look in the evening hours, assuming the lighting is installed properly.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of ways landscape lighting can go wrong. While you may know that you want to add lighting to your property, you might be worried that hiring the wrong person for the job could cause you a big headache—or maybe even cost you financially if mistakes were made. The last thing that you want to do is waste your time or your money.

Understanding some of the common landscape lighting mistakes can help you make wise choices so that you avoid them. Here are 12 of the most common mistakes we see made.

1. Too Many Lighting Fixtures

While the number of lighting fixtures you choose to implement is ultimately a personal preference, it’s generally best to start with “less is more” and add as needed. When going the DIY landscape lighting route, or even working with a less experienced contractor, it’s quite common to add more lights than needed.

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You wind up risking that your walkways look more like airport runways or that your spotlight fixtures are blinding rather than being helpful in seeing where you’re going. Soft lighting that is strategically placed is also much more attractive.

2. Not Enough Landscape Lighting Fixtures

It’s fair to say that most homeowners tend to overdo lighting rather than under-do it, but it’s certainly possible to skimp on lighting and fail to get the desired effect. If you’ve installed some landscape lighting and still have a lot of dark areas, you probably need to add more lights or perhaps re-think the placement of the lights you have. There is a lot more design involved in lighting than people tend to realize.

3. Using the Wrong Fixture

Using the proper fixture for the proper application or location is a key to the success of your project. This is an aspect of landscape lighting design that comes with experience. An experienced landscape lighting professional is going to know which fixtures will work best in which locations for the desired result.

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Many times there are multiple different ways to achieve a certain “look” and a skilled designer can discuss various setups with you to choose what you think is best.

4. Using Inferior Products

Generally speaking, you get what you pay for with landscape lighting products. The products purchased at a big box store simply are not going to last. They are low quality and not made for a long-term lifespan.

Of course, we have also heard from clients who have worked with an electrician for landscape lighting and found that their products didn’t last, either. Now they’re stuck with a problem and can’t get ahold of that electrician.

landscape lighting on steps

Here’s the thing—you can’t assume that hiring someone for the job automatically means they’re going to use a higher quality product. We’ve heard from plenty of clients who have worked with a “professional” but had box-store quality lighting installed. You want to be sure that your landscape lighting has a long-time warranty. For instance, the FX Lighting which Earth, Turf, & Wood installs has a 15-year warranty.

5. Not Using LED Bulbs

Failing to use LED bulbs, which is the latest in lighting technology, is a mistake you don’t want to make. Though LED bulbs costs a little bit more upfront, the benefits far outweigh that added cost. And because LED outperforms old landscape lighting, in the long-run, you'll actually be saving money in your electricity bills and maintenance expenses.

6. Bad Wire Connections

Bad wire connections can sometimes just be an inevitable problem that occurs with even properly installed landscape lighting setups. After all, the outdoors is an extremely hostile environment for lighting materials. But if you’re having multiple and ongoing issues with wire connections it could be related to poor installation or poor quality materials.

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7. Improper Mounting

The installation process makes a big difference in how your lighting fixture will ultimately perform. It’s frustrating when you notice that your spotlights have started to lean. With path lights, the use of a hub system that is cemented in will prevent those lights from beginning to lean.

8. Going with an Electrician, or Cheap, or Start-Up Business

You might think that an electrician for landscape lighting would make perfect sense. But the truth is, a lot of electricians are much more accustomed to working inside of the home, than out, and it’s quite a different ballgame. The fact is, an experienced landscape company that performs landscape lighting in Lancaster, PA, is a better fit.

When it comes to something as important as landscape lighting (which really will “make or break” the use of your space in the evening hours), don’t take a chance with what could be an inexperienced electrician just to get a good deal. It’s worth paying a little bit more on the front end and winding up with a spectacular project that won’t have long-term costs to deal with as a result of mistakes.

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You also want to be careful that you’re not choosing a company that could end up going out of business after they do your installation. This is another fear with using a start-up business. If they install lighting and you call them six months down the road because something went wrong, you want them to actually still be in business so that they can help you out. That’s why you should seek out a company that has decades of experience installing landscape lighting—not some small electrician that is going to flake out when you need them.

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9. Using an Inexperienced Landscaper

While it’s true that a landscaper is going to be more accustomed to outdoor projects, not all landscapers are well-versed in doing landscape lighting. They may have installed lighting here or there, but are not true experts in working with landscape lighting. Doing a couple jobs a year is simply not enough to become skilled.

If you want to be sure that the job is performed correctly, it’s important to hire a company that is truly experienced in this kind of work. It’s more complicated than people tend to realize and even a professional landscaper could get in over their head. At Earth, Turf, & Wood, we install landscape lighting on the majority of our projects. It’s not just something we do occasionally.

10. Expectations That Don’t Match Your Budget

There are a lot of different product options for different budgets, making it quite possible to satisfy a range of project levels. Plus, larger projects can often be performed in phases that would allow you to start with a more basic package and add-on.

pool with landscape lighting

Even so, it’s possible to have unrealistic expectations for the budget you’re working with. You may be expecting a lot but only willing to invest a little. When this is the case, it’s quite easy to be unsatisfied with the end result. It’s important to go into the process with a realistic understanding of how much landscape lighting costs.

11. Lack of Automation

These days everything around your home is probably becoming increasingly automated and you want the same for your outdoor lighting. There are many different transformer control system options available, including smartphone controls.

Using an app on your smartphone, the control of your outdoor lighting is incredibly simplified. You can add other exciting lighting features, such as color control. If you’re planning a party or a special event you can have color changing lighting preset to coordinate with the theme.

12. Failing to Work with a Design

A lot of people think that landscape lighting is as simple as throwing down a few spotlights and lining your path with path lights. While you could do that, it’s not very aesthetically appealing. The truth is, there’s quite a bit of design involved in creating a professionally lit property. You can certainly tell the difference between a property that went the DIY landscape lighting route and one that went with a true professional.

Investing in Landscape Lighting in Lancaster, PA

Outdoor lighting walkway stepsThere’s no doubt that high quality, professionally installed landscape lighting can be a substantial investment. But we also believe it’s a valuable one. That’s because the right landscape lighting can be a matter of whether your space is functionally usable in the evening hours, or not.

By working with a landscape lighting professional who is going to know what to do to avoid these landscape lighting mistakes, you’ll end up with the best possible results. It is a night and day difference between a home that was professionally lit and one that was done by an unskilled professional or even a DIY approach. If you want the best for your outdoor space, then be sure not to skimp where it counts.

If you’d like to discuss adding landscape lighting as part of a complete outdoor living space at your Harrisburg, Lancaster, York, Hershey, or Reading PA home, then contact us for a free consultation and let us help illuminate the space you’ve been dreaming of.

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Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

Written by Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

Mary Hatch Dresser is a Registered Landscape Architect with a Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Georgia School of Environmental Design. Mary has designed landscapes for 32 years and joined ETW exclusively in 2009. Mary is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA); and also serves on the Shade Tree Committee in Strasburg Borough where she resides. Mary prides herself in carefully listening to her clients to professionally meld their ideas and personal criteria with sound, experienced design practice.

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