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One of the goals of outdoor lighting is to ensure that spaces are usable at night. 

Another function is safety and security. 

Those two goals come together when it comes to outdoor stairway lighting

Of course, stairways themselves may take many forms. 

Indoors, stairways are almost always a simple way to get from one building level to the next. 

Outdoors, the use can be more varied. 

In all of these cases, outdoor stairway lighting is crucial for the safety and enjoyment of your guests.

Types Of Outdoor Stairways

Some outdoor stairways are similar to indoor stairways, such as stairs leading from a raised deck to the patio or garden below. 

However, other stairs may look very little like indoor stairways. 

For example, many garden paths include stairs to ease guests along an elevation change. 

In this case, steps can be vast, far apart, and thus especially hard to see. 

Some stairs may be just a few extensive measures, such as steps leading down from a raised patio to a lawn or another patio below. 

In some instances, the entryway to the home may have degrees. 

Entryway steps are often broad and inviting and require special lighting techniques. 

For townhomes and more vertical houses, steep steps may lead to an entryway raised far off the ground.

The types of stairways you may encounter outdoors are as limitless as the imagination of architects and landscapers. 

However, with a few simple suggestions, you may find lighting your steps relatively easy. 

Of course, the main concern is safety first. 

After that, design and appearance are critical. 

For both safety and design, the aid of professional outdoor landscape lighting specialists is invaluable. 

If you need to light steps or stairs as part of your outdoor lighting design, Night Vision Outdoor Lighting has you covered. 

We can help you design beautiful, practical lighting for any steps or stairs.

Outdoor Stairway Lighting [infographic]

Adding Lights to Existing Stairways

One concern many homeowners have is whether there is still time to add lighting to existing stairs. 

The answer is that while it may require some extra work, any stairway can be retrofitted with proper lighting. 

Stairways made of stone or cement are challenging, but Night Vision has the tools. 

We can drill into your existing hardscaped steps and add any light you prefer. 

However, we don’t suggest adding lights to hardscape steps yourself. 

Once you prepare, there is no going back, so this is not a time for DIY experimentation.

Understated Outdoor Stairway Lighting

Stairway lighting, often called step lighting, can be subtle or pronounced.

 The choice is yours. We’ll start by discussing some of the more understated approaches.

One time-tested method of lighting steps is to use riser lighting. 

The riser is the vertical part of each step. 

A recessed light can be installed in the center of each riser which will shine enough light to help guests safely navigate. 

These lights are the dimmest lights in your outdoor lighting system. 

Step lighting, in general, is often at most 10-15 lumens, compared to 300 lumens for a floodlight. 

Usually, the step light is generally more of a visual cue to show guests where the step is than an actual light source.

Another type of riser lighting is small sconces. 

These may not be completely recessed, so they mustn’t stick out too far and become a tripping hazard. 

The sconce cover can be arranged only to shine downward light, illuminating the step below.

Another way to light a step with almost no visible fixture is to use LED strip lighting. 

As its name suggests, LED strip lighting is a plastic strip with tiny LEDs embedded in it. 

It usually comes in a lengthy roll, often with adhesive backing. 

Placing a strip of lights underneath the lip of each tread (the part of the stair you step on) lights up each step without any hint of the light source.

Outdoor Stairway Lighting for Traditional Stairways

There are some situations where you have a stairway similar to an indoor one. 

These are often outdoor stairways that serve the same function as indoor stairways, getting from one house level to another. 

Let’s examine a few examples and some unique ways to light them.

The once common outdoor stairway leads from a second-level porch or deck down to the ground level. 

This type of step provides a few options. 

First, these stairways almost always have a railing and usually some posts. 

This opens up two possibilities: post-lighting and rail lighting. It sounds like post-lighting, lighting the bars along the stairway. 

Since you won’t be lighting each step, post lights need to be slightly brighter and spread their morning wider than in-step lighting. 

Post lighting can be done with lights attached to the posts like small sconces. 

Alternatively, you can light the position itself, such as with a cap light. 

A cap light is a decorative cap for a post with a built-in lighting fixture. 

Post lighting and step lighting are often used together, with the post lights primarily for decoration.

Some types of outdoor stairways may be built with a wall instead of a railing. 0

Outdoor Stairway Lighting

If the steps follow a border on one or both sides, you can place lights there. 

The advantage of a wall over a fence is that the wall reflects light onto the steps. 

This makes sconces especially useful. 

Lights can also be embedded in a wall, similar to step lighting on risers. 

If the wall has a lip at its top, you can also use strip lighting.

Lighting for Unique Outdoor Stairways

Sometimes an outdoor stairway is very different from a stairway you would find indoors. 

Some stairways may have four, five, or more steps rising from one level up half a level or so. 

However, the steps are less numerous than steps leading from one floor to the next or as narrow. 

This type of step is typical of some large entryways, which may have a small series of stone steps leading to a wide landing at the entrance to the home. 

You can still use riser lights, but these steps are often much more comprehensive than indoor steps and may need more than one light per step. 

Strip lighting also works; you will need more of it. 

These types of actions are often in areas with other lighting forms, such as downlighting. 

In that case, the primary function of the step lights is to signify precisely where the edges of the steps are so no one trips.

Another unique situation occurs in gardens and unpaved areas. 

In these situations, long, broad steps may be separated by a few feet or more. Sometimes the efforts are made with large paving stones. 

In other cases, they may be built into the dirt with a reinforced riser to hold the soil in place. 

In this case, lighting the steps is especially important because the irregular shape and size mean you can’t just step down and know where the next step will be. 

For these types of actions, it may be possible to use pathway lighting. 

Instead of lighting each stage itself, pathway lights can be installed along the path that includes the steps. 

If you are concerned about seeing the steps, you can place a fixture at each stage.

Professional Outdoor Stairway Lighting

Outdoor stairway lighting is vital to the safety of you, your family, and your guests. 

It prevents potentially dangerous falls. 

So it doesn’t pay to experiment. 

You can’t afford a mistake. 

To ensure that you have reliable, appropriate, effective outdoor stairway lighting, there is no substitute for professional experience. 

Night Vision Outdoor Lighting has installed over 5,000 lighting systems over 20 years. 

That includes many, many steps, more than we can count. 

So if you need outdoor stairway lighting, contact us today!


In conclusion, outdoor stairway lighting is essential for both usability and safety. 

It ensures that stairways are functional at night and helps prevent accidents and falls. 

Whether you have traditional stairways, unique structures, or existing stairs that require retrofitting, professional expertise is crucial to design and install effective lighting solutions. 

Contact Night Vision Outdoor Lighting to ensure reliable and tailored outdoor stairway lighting that enhances the safety and enjoyment of your outdoor spaces.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q1. Why is outdoor stairway lighting important? 

Outdoor stairway lighting is important for both usability and safety. It allows stairways to function at night and helps prevent accidents and falls.

Q2. Can existing stairways be retrofitted with lighting? 

Yes, existing stairways can be retrofitted with proper lighting. However, it is recommended to seek professional assistance to ensure a successful installation.

Q3. What are some understated approaches to outdoor stairway lighting? 

Understated approaches include riser lighting, small sconces, and LED strip lighting. These options provide subtle illumination while maintaining a visually appealing look.

Q4. How can traditional outdoor stairways be illuminated? 

Traditional outdoor stairways can be illuminated through post-lighting and rail lighting. Post lights attached to the posts or cap lights can often be combined with step lighting.

Q5. What lighting options are suitable for unique outdoor stairways?

Outdoor Stairway Lighting 

Unique outdoor stairways may require tailored lighting solutions. Multiple lights per step, strip lighting, or pathway lighting can be used depending on the specific characteristics of the stairway.

Q6. Why should I hire a professional for outdoor stairway lighting? 

Professional expertise ensures reliable and appropriate outdoor stairway lighting. Mistakes can be costly regarding safety, so it is best to rely on professionals with experience in lighting installation.

Q7. How does outdoor stairway lighting enhance safety? 

Outdoor lighting enhances safety by providing visibility and guiding guests along the steps, preventing accidents and falls.

Q8. Can outdoor stairway lighting also serve decorative purposes? 

Yes, outdoor stairway lighting can serve both practical and decorative purposes. Lighting fixtures can be chosen to enhance the aesthetic appeal of the stairways.

Q9. Are there specific lighting considerations for gardens and unpaved areas? 

In gardens and unpaved areas, steps may require specific lighting considerations. Pathway lighting or fixtures installed along the path, including the steps, can provide adequate illumination.

Q10. How can I get reliable outdoor stairway lighting solutions? 

For reliable outdoor stairway lighting solutions, it is recommended to contact Night Vision Outdoor Lighting, an experienced professional in outdoor lighting installations.