Guides to outdoor and landscape lighting usually suggest specific design uses for the various types of fixtures. Readers, however, aren’t always familiar with the trade lexicon. Let’s go over the outdoor lighting fixtures menu and shed a little light on it.


Floodlights and spotlights are the basic workhorse fixtures of the electric age. They’re similar, but not identical. Floods are generally brighter and illuminate wider areas than spots.  In fact, floodlights are still the mainstay of high-voltage commercial and institutional systems where security and safety are paramount. In contrast, spotlight fixtures are more refined, more subtle, and throw more focused beams. We use them in landscape lighting the same way they serve in stage shows. They provide emphasis, calling the eye to a feature. Most residential outdoor and landscape lighting should avoid brute force floodlights. Less is more. Artfully chosen spots, however, provide beautiful effects uplighting and moonlighting trees, shadowing, and grazing.


Wall wash lights are a cousin of floodlights that work well in residential designs. They throw a beam that evenly illuminates a broad surface.  Fixtures are usually mounted above the wall itself, aimed down at a very shallow angle so the light, yes, washes the wall. The wide angle of these fixtures means placement about 3-4 feet apart works to provide uniform illumination. Any wall with a textured surface is a good candidate for wall wash.


Well fixtures install nicely in turf, aimed up, flush with the surface so mowers can pass over them. The lighting effect is similar to wall wash, only bottom-up instead of top down. Well lights are perfect for lighting isolated vertical features like columns and statues. Since they can be installed flush with hard surfaces, they’re useful for path lighting in walkways and driveways, too.


These fixtures show the way, throwing illumination down and away from the bulb.  Area lights cover a wider radius, revealing the area around the path as well. They typically mount on low uprights 1 – 1.5 feet high. The intervals between them should be just enough for safety, with no dark spots. Too many, and it looks like an airport runway.


These fixtures are special types of path and area lights. Step lights generally mount on the vertical surfaces (risers) of each stair, illuminating the flat step below it. When steps have enough overhang step lights can mount underneath, shining down.   Deck lights are similar, but mount on upright rail posts and lighting the deck itself.


The team at Houston Lightscapes takes pride in their many years of experience in the landscape lighting industry. They've been serving the greater Houston area for over 30 years bringing innovation and elegance to their designs. Learn more about Houston Lightscapes here.