The front porch is often the first impression a home gives to guests. A well-lit porch helps dinner guests find the doorbell, guides the key in the lock after a long day at work and boosts curb appeal after dark.
Here are some guidelines for choosing the right outdoor entry lights for the home.
Location, Location, Location
Indoor and outdoor lights sold in the U.S. have an Underwriters Laboratories, or UL rating, on the label. The UL rating tells which location a light is suited for. For example, a dry-rated light is not suitable for outdoors or anywhere that has excessive moisture. If the porch is sheltered and protected from rainwater, a damp-rated fixture is the best option. Wet-rated fixtures use drain holes, seals and protective gaskets to stop water from collecting on live wires and electrical components, so a wet-rated fixture is needed for any porch lighting exposed to rain, fog, snow or salty air.
Generally, the size of the front door should inform the size of the outdoor entryway lights. For a balanced look, keep these proportions in mind:
- Wall Sconces: ¼ to ⅓ the height and width of the door (including trim)
- Pendants: ⅕ the height and width of the door
- Flushmounts: ¼ the height and width of the door
If considering outdoor sconces and the door is 100 inches high and 60 inches wide, look for fixtures that are about 25 inches high and 15 inches wide.
If the front entry is symmetrical, hanging two wall sconces on either side of the door is a natural choice. Flanking the front door with a pair of eye-catching wall sconces can dress up the space, creating an intriguing and inviting atmosphere. Try to purchase wall sconces about a quarter height of the door.
Placement Guidelines: Set outdoor wall lights approximately 66 inches (5.5 feet) from the porch floor to the bottom of the fixture. Leave 6-12 inches on either side of the door casing. For asymmetrical entryways or when space is limited, a single wall fixture will do. Hang it on the doorknob side for a well-lit doorway.
For porches with high ceilings and no wind exposure, an outdoor pendant light is a good choice. A combination of wall and pendant outdoor entry lights in harmonizing styles will make the home’s exterior warm and welcoming.
Placement Guidelines: Hang pendants about 84 inches (7 feet) from the porch floor.
Size: The pendant should be centered about 6 inches above the door. Its size should be about 1/5th the height of the door itself. Pendants are usually hung by chain, wire, cable or stem. With a chain option, there will be more room to adjust the height. Remember that the pendant should be in proportion to the space, so take visual note of how it looks and feels around the entryway, then adjust accordingly.
A flushmount porch light adds welcome light without detracting from your main entrance, columns and other architectural elements. If there isn’t enough room on one or both sides of the door for wall sconces, the front porch has a low ceiling or is open to wet weather, a flushmount above the door will be the ideal solution. Place it somewhere that provides ample light to the door as well as the rest of the porch.
Placement Guidelines: Flushmounts should be a minimum of 80 inches (6.6 feet) from the floor.
Remember, homes only have one chance to make a good first impression. No matter what style is chosen, keep in mind lighting the important things: doorbell and address numbers are key for guests, deliveries and emergency responders. The type of fixture and spread of light is up to personal choice – ensure the fixture chosen matches with the style and provides the desired effect to create the most impact.