How Far Apart Should Pathway Lights Be?

Tom Gaffey
by Tom Gaffey

Creating pathways outside your home can inspire both practical and whimsical journeys, depending on how they are designed. No matter what your vision, the odds are there will be a point you realize one of your outdoor walkways could use some additional lighting. As you prepare to purchase pathway lights for your home, you are bound to ask yourself how many pathway lights you need, and how much space you should leave between each of them.

The typical distance between outdoor pathway lights is 8 and 15 feet. But this distance can vary based on several factors. The strength of the bulbs, height and design of the lights, the type of path and even your personal preference can change the distance needed between pathway lights. If your pathway involves steps, make sure you have ample safety lighting to prevent trips and falls.

Your home’s outdoor path, regardless of how you plan it, will need some sort of lighting to ensure you and others get across it safely. This is where pathway lights come into play. While there are guidelines for how far apart you should position your pathway lights, there are no absolute rules. The perfect distance between lights will depend on logistical factors and personal design preference.

Determining The Perfect Distance Between Pathway Lights

The standard distance between pathway lights is 8 to 10 feet apart. This allows for the entire pathway to have strong or ambient light throughout the path without it being too bright or overwhelming. This does not, however, mean that you need to follow those exact measurements. In fact, depending on the type of pathway lights you use, the type of path you are lighting and your desired design aesthetic, you may decide to place your pathway lights much differently.

Four Factors That Affect Distance Between Pathway Lights

1. Bulb Strength

One of the biggest factors to consider when placing your pathway lights is the strength and brightness of your bulbs. If you have high watt and large bulbs, you can get away with fewer lights. When you have bright lights, spacing them a few feet off the pathway is helpful, as it allows the arc of light to reach out, without too much harsh lighting on any one spot of the path.

If, on the other hand, you light subtle glowing lights, you may want to space your pathway lights closer. Amber, muted lights that do not reach more than a few feet will help guide the path, but they won’t be effective at lighting the entire way. This is fine if your path is flat, but if there are bumps and grooves, make sure your lights are closer together.

2. Light Height

As a rule of thumb, when your pathway lights are higher, they often reach further distances. This means if you opt for a taller pathway light, you can certainly space them out every 10 to 15 feet or even further. Higher lights also mean you can see them from farther away, which is helpful if your pathway is on a slope or angle.

If you have pathway lights that are very low to the ground, you might consider having them closer together. Lower lights are great at showing the direction of the path, but are not always the best at extending light long distances.

3. Pathway Size And Design

The size and shape of your pathway should also factor in to how far apart you should space your pathway lights. If you have a fairly straight and flat pathway, you can, as a rule, get away with fewer pathway lights. After all, walking a straight line requires fairly minimal guidance, as long as there are a few lights to guide the way.

If, however, you have a pathway that is on a hill, or if it twists and turns, you will need more lights. For pathways on a hill, having lights to illuminate the entire slope is important for safety. For pathways that twist and turn, it is good to anchor lights at any point where the pathway changes direction. This helps prevent people from veering off course.

Concrete slab pathways are generally safe and fairly trip resistant. If you have a more elaborate pathway with individual stone slabs or other materials, make sure there is enough light to prevent tripping. This might mean having lights closer together. In this case, space them about 5 to 10 feet apart, depending on how bright your bulbs are.

4. Personal Preference

When it comes down to designing your pathway light scheme, it is really all about your own preference. Your vision will determine how many lights you need. For example, if you want to go for a muted and magical vibe, you might want to have dim lights spaced every 5 feet.

If you have a pathway made of natural rock that is slippery when wet, you most likely will want to take more safety precautions. This might mean bright lights at every twist and turn.

If, however, you have a straight concrete pathway, you can safely sprinkle pathway lights every 15 feet or further, and you should be just fine.

Provide enough Distance For Solar Lights

Solar pathway lights are incredibly common for those purchasing pathway lights. You can follow all the same rules of thumb as you would with any other pathway light. Just make sure you remember the power source. Your solar pathway lights need ample solar energy to work effectively.

Make sure the lights aren’t fighting for the same light, and are positioned where they can soak up plenty of energy. Consult the manufacturer if you are concerned about spacing your specific solar pathway lights.

Provide Ample Safety Lighting Along Steps

If your pathway incorporates one or more steps, you should take additional precautions, and have additional lighting. Steps along a path can come abruptly, and nearly everyone has tripped up or down a step. The best way to prevent trips and falls along your pathway is to alert people the steps are coming. This means highlighting each of the steps by lighting them at night.

There are several ways you can light your pathway steps. If you want a simple solution, consider an overhead flood light. You can also use pathway lights at each step. For a more alluring and professional look, you can install lights in each step riser. This is a sleek look that helps illuminate each step and the height of each riser.

Pathways Lights In Combination With Other Outdoor Lighting

The distance you need to factor between your pathway lights can also change based on how much existing outdoor lighting you already have. This is particularly true if your pathway is mostly in front of your home’s perimeter.

In order to determine how far apart you need to space your pathway lights when you already have outdoor lighting is by inspecting the area at night. Do a walkthrough at night and see how well you can make out the pathway. If you are able to see the general outline of the path already, you likely only need lights every 10 to 15 feet.

There is a chance your pathway is already lit well by your existing outdoor lighting. If this is the case, you will place pathway lights for purely decorative reasons. When this is the case, you should place as many pathway lights as you feel looks best in combination with the existing outdoor lighting.

Check With The Light Manufacturer

If you are purchasing a particular type of lights for your pathway, you may want to check the installation instructions or contact the manufacturer. Often pathway lights will have their own guidelines on how far apart you should place each light. Of course, this will vary based on the variables we have already explained. Still, it is great to take the manufacturing guidelines as a good baseline, and then adjust from there.

Hiring A Professional To Install Pathway Lights

One final option you have when you decide how far apart to place your pathway lights is to simply hire a professional. This will take all the decision making out of your hands. Instead, it puts it in the control of someone who can take your vision and make it a reality.

Hiring a professional to install your pathway lights can cost hundreds, or even thousands, more than doing it yourself. There are some benefits to going with a professional, though. If you happen to have a complicated pathway with many twists and turns and limited natural light, a consider a professional. Safety should be a priority. If you are worried you can’t get the pathway safe and looking great at night, a professional is a good bet.

Professionals can also recommend the best electrical energy options for you as well. This can be very helpful if solar lights aren’t really an option for you.

Wrapping Up The Ideal Distance Between Pathway Lights

When preparing to design lighting for your pathways, there are several factors to consider when you space them. In general, lights should be spaced about 8 to10 feet apart, with extremes of 5 feet and 15 feet, respectively. Your pathway’s design and the light fixture design can affect how far apart you need your pathway lights to be. The light strength and the height of the light fixtures also plays into the space you should allow between pathway lights.

Tom Gaffey
Tom Gaffey

Tom Gaffey is an expert writer who currently resides in Washington D.C. Tom has a passion for real estate and home improvement writing, as well as travel and lifestyle writing. He lived the last twelve years in Hawaii where he worked closely with luxury resorts and event planners, mastering his knowledge of aesthetics and luxury products. This is where he found his passion for home improvement and a keen interest in DIY projects. Currently, Tom resides in Washington D.C, and also working on his debut fiction novel.

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