Weekend Project

Justin Newcombe's tips on outdoor DIY projects

Weekend project: Light up your life

By Justin Newcombe

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Garden lighting can add another dimension to your outdoor spaces - but make sure you approach it carefully, advises Justin Newcombe.

These bush steps required specific lighting for safety's sake. Photo / Natalie Slade
These bush steps required specific lighting for safety's sake. Photo / Natalie Slade

There are many reasons to put lighting into your garden - and as many lighting options to match. First and foremost it's important to work out what you need your lighting to do. This may sound obvious, but ask yourself - is the light for security? For safe travels on paths and steps? To highlight a garden feature? To light an eating or barbecue area? This will help you decide on what type of lighting will work for you.

Of course, lighting requires a degree of practicality but that's not the only consideration. Garden lighting has come a long way since the days of the security light above the barbecue going on and off as we shuffled around underneath the sensor. Also, the lights themselves need to be worked into the landscape, so choosing the right fittings and mounting solutions is key.

All garden situations are different but one idea that I like to work with a lot is the notion of drift. Light drift means lighting up areas of your garden and using the reflected or secondary light as a light source for another area such as the patio or lawn. This encourages the viewer to look out into the garden and makes the most of the landscape at night.

Direct light on living areas and lawn reduces the feeling of space and ambience and gives the garden a harsh utilitarian feel.

Other situations like this bush staircase require a different approach. Although lighting up the bush around the staircase and creating drift would give an ambient collective effect, for safety and easy identification steps need to have specific lighting. I like to use small covered lamps and go for "little and often" rather than a big flood. Doing these achieves the necessary balance between aesthetics and utility.

I've mounted the lights on a sleeper with the top cut on a 45 degree angle, set in concrete for stability. These bollards have a "bush walk" feel. The angled cut gives good run off, not allowing any water to settle on top of the plinth. Or, if you prefer, you could waterproof a square-cut top with copper sheeting, which will weather to a nice patina.

Lastly and most importantly most decent lighting requires an electrician. Whatever you do, don't muck about with electricity - mistakes can be fatal.

Plus I've found some electricians to be a great source of information and ideas.

Step 1

Cut and set the sleeper posts into the ground. For some of these I was able to coach screw them to the timber that formed the staircase.

Step 2

Mark the centre of the sleeper where you want to put the lighting and drill out a tight-fitting hole. Check with the people at Bunnings for the best height for the light you've chosen.

Step 3

Mount the lighting into the sleeper. Do not fix permanently until the lights have been wired by your electrician.

Step 4

Have an electrician visit the site and discuss switch and sensor options with you. Take your notes with you to Bunnings so they can provide you with the specifics; once this is all done have the electrician connect the lighting and fix the lamps to the posts.

- NZ Herald

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