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Front Door Lighting

The coach light on my neighbor’s home is installed upside-down and on the wrong side of the door. Each time I leave my house, I look directly at a very common lighting mistake. Here are a few things to understand in order to get the lighting on your front door correct.

Size

Lighting fixtures located at the front door should be sized somewhere between 1/5th and 1/6th the height of the doorway. A large majority of front entries are 7’-0” tall, (6’-8” door) so most homes will be well served with a luminaire height between 14” and 17”. (84” ÷ 6 = 14” / 84” ÷ 5 = 17”) With this baseline understood, let’s take into account reasons to vary.

Ranch style homes built with 8’-0” ceilings will have a “low” exterior elevation, so the smaller dimension will appear more visually comfortable. Conversely, a two story home with 10’-0” ceilings will demand a taller light at the door. Even the 17” height might appear puny. This taller architecture needs a light somewhere between 20” and 24”.

Many very old and very new homes employ 8’-0” to 10’-0” front doors. Some even feature double-doors. Additionally, these homes often include tall, dominant rooflines that extend the verticality. Commensurate fixture heights up to 30” should be considered.

Quantity

Most homes will be well suited with a single light, located on the side of the door that contains the handle/keyhole/doorknob. Unlike my neighbor, where the open door blocks the light, the proper location will easily facilitate key entry. If you have a new digital keypad lock, having the correct amount of light becomes even more important.

With a larger front entry, the inclusion of a second light becomes more important. If a double-door is installed, a second light is an absolute necessity.

Orientation

The reason for my neighbor’s unfortunate luminaire orientation is the overhead eave. It prevents the light from being installed correctly. Their solution was to turn it upside-down. While it looks bad, this can also be a safety concern. Most outdoor products are UL listed for a specific orientation. Ignoring that requirement will void the protection, and could cause an electric short, should there be a buildup of rainwater. Always follow UL installation labels.

Most major manufacturers build products in multiple configurations. Catalogs and websites will include a “height from center of wall opening” dimension. This will insure the product fits. Measure before buying! Coach light are made with a mounting canopy high, midpoint and low. Select the correct configuration to meet your home’s outlet box placement.

In new construction, install the product 66” above the floor, or threshold of door. With taller doorways, that dimension can be increased.

Style

Relative to the building, a lighting fixture is small. The style of architecture is the dominant feature. The lighting style should always bow to that of the building. This is not a place to make an aesthetic statement. Match the product style to the architectural style. Anything less will look wrong.

Additionally, all lights installed on a home should be of the same aesthetic family. Again, this is a very common feature provided by almost every manufacturer. The large porch light, garage lights, post light and backdoor light should be from the same supplier and of the same design family. This is the only way to respect the architecture.

Lumen Output

While large amounts of light can usually be installed in outdoor luminaries, I always suggest using very low levels of light. Remember, when we are outdoors at night, our eyes adapt to the dark. A bright blast will hinder rather than help our ability to see. This momentary blindness could also prevent us from noticing any security infractions. Visually, the lower lights will look better on the home as well.

Lighting at the front door is only one part of a well-lit home. The perfectly lit residence should also include a professional landscape lighting systems, but that is a topic of another post! Meanwhile, the correct selection, installation and illumination can be a great first step to an inviting introduction to your home.

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