Inspiring DIY Lighting Ideas for Your Outdoor Space

Lighting up your outdoor space is a fun DIY project that will reward you with many enchanted evenings under the stars. When the moon isn’t full or on a cloudy night, you’ll be glad that you’ve added some brightness to your backyard or front garden.

The best part of DIY outdoor lighting is that there is a huge selection of lighting features to choose from, and the new sustainable LED models go easy on your energy bill.

You can easily design and install your own original lighting scheme or purchase a kit that includes light fixtures, a transformer, easy-lock connectors and a low-voltage power cable.

Plan your lighting

When night falls, take yourself and a flashlight on a tour of your property to see where you most need lighting.

Do you need to light up your steps to make them safer, or maybe the dining area on the deck or a path to the gardens?

Look for special features of your home and property you’d like to highlight, including trees and shrubbery. Maybe you’d prefer extra lighting to improve your home and family’s security or to place a warm glow on your home’s exterior walls after the sun has set. Take note of where you could place lights and where you may need to build a support or post for a light fixture.

You can purchase easy DIY lighting kits for your garden and outdoor spaces, as well as buy more fixtures separately.

Rules of thumb

  • Place light fixtures one foot to one and a half feet away from the tree or other feature of your home.
  • Use the same colored lights throughout for a consistent appearance.
  • Place one light on each side of a window or door for a balanced look when lighting your home’s exterior walls.
  • Take note of the location of your electrical outlets to calculate the length of cord you’ll need.

After brainstorming and looking at different types of lighting and pricing, you can narrow down your fixture choices and work on a budget.

Types of lighting

  • Spotlights or accent lights will show off your home’s unique features, retaining walls, waterfalls, trees and shrubs.
  • Path and garden lighting for walkways and flower beds.
  • Hardscape lights for retaining walls, decks and steps.
  • In-ground and well lights are low maintenance choices and ideal in the garden and grass.
  • Wash lights give a smooth, subtle effect, and should be placed at least a foot away from walls. Place the fixture less than one foot from the wall’s features to create shadows for more interest and texture.
  • Floodlights add beauty to your home while providing security.
  • Motion sensor lights give you added security and safety, with plugged-in, battery-powered, solar-powered and hard-wired versions.
  • Hang string lights from a pergola or walls, decking, fencing, tree branches or a sun umbrella.

Solar lights

A sustainable way to light your garden, solar lights come in a vast array of styles. They don’t need any wiring and you’ll get a lower electricity bill than with 12-volt lighting systems. Keep in mind that they are not as bright as lights on a 12-volt system.

Determining wattage and transformer needs
Once you have made a plan, you can calculate how much wattage you will need. Add up the wattage required for each fixture, then add 20% to make sure you purchase the correct size transformer. LED lights require less voltage than halogen lights, but check that you do not overload your transformer.

Plug your transformer into your home’s ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI)-protected receptacle, and it will convert to the low voltage needed for your fixtures.

Turning your transformer on and off
If you don’t want to turn your lights on and off manually, you can use a wireless timer or a solar switch to automatically turn your lights on at dusk and off at dawn.

Create original sustainable outdoor lighting

It’s fun to create enchanting outdoor lighting from items you find in nature such as driftwood, rocks and branches, as well as household items that are usually discarded or recycled.

Here are a few ideas to get you started!

#1. Repurpose a chandelier – Search in a thrift store for a chandelier, remove the electrical unit, paint it white, black or the color of your choice, and fasten candles or solar lights.

#2. Sconce – Another way to add lighting when you’re short on places to hang them is to make the most of your home’s walls and install a sconce.

#3. Hanging bottle candle holders – Add string lights to the inside of wine bottles and hang them from trees with wire.

#4. Plastic bottles – Make delicate paper lanterns by cutting out tiny shapes following a pattern on a sheet of paper. Glue the paper around a plastic bottle, place string lights inside to let the light shine through for a beautiful original lantern.

#5. Mason jar (or any jar) lantern ideas

  • Use Mod Podge to stick tissue paper, dried flower petals or leaves to the outside of a mason jar, and place a tea light inside for a simple and pretty candle.
  • Find a special home for your pebbles and sea shell collection. Arrange them in a mason jar, and place a tea light on top for a natural candle holder to light your walkways.
  • Mason jar oil candles with botanical clippings – Oil candles look beautiful and help keep the mosquitoes away. Fill your mason jar with water, add flowers, a teaspoon of vegetable oil and a drop of citronella oil.

#6. Solar mason jar lid lights – Put your extra mason jars to use with eco-friendly solar powered lids and string lights. Some solar powered lids come with a rechargeable battery. The solar-powered lids will need six or more hours of sun to give you eight to twelve hours of light.

#7. Recycled Tin cans – An old favorite, the tin can candle holder is a fun and easy way to upcycle and add interest to your outdoor décor. Using clean, recycled tins from your canned food products, first fill the cans with water and freeze. This will keep the shape of the tin while you work on it. Once the water is frozen, use a hammer and nail to punch holes for the light to escape. The ice will melt and leave you with an attractive design in the tin. Drop in a candle or LED light, and relax by the glow of your original lantern.

#8. Rocks and tea lights – Popular rock candle holders are a beautiful, rustic way to light your garden. You’ll need a diamond drill to make holes in the rock for the tea lights.

#9. Floating Tea Lights – Add some magic to your backyard with floating tea lights in a bird bath or large planter saucer.

#10. Marble globe light – Glue flat-bottom marbles to a globe vase then place it over a solar light for a jewel-like light in your garden.

#11. Party Cup Patio Lanterns – Cut a hole in the bottom of a party cup and pull an LED string light through it. Add as many cups as you need along the string and you’re ready to start the party!

#12. Water Features – Light up your water fountain or waterfall with submersible lights or down lights (recessed lights) for a complete sensory experience

Whether you’re highlighting your home’s architecture or lighting up an outdoor leisure area, you’ll be adding beauty, ambiance and safety to your outdoor space.