5 Great Ways to Light Your Outdoor Steps

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Why Outdoor Lighting Matters

BY :CAST Lighting

landscape lighting

We often give the advice that when you’re ready to take your property to the next level with landscape lighting, or even just toying with the idea, start small. Dip your toes by selecting one area of importance to light rather than the whole nine yards.

This tends to be the backyard to add a level of security by warding off possible intruders. A very close second is illuminating areas and features that may be difficult or hazardous to navigate without outdoor lighting, such as pathways, stairways and steps. This adds a needed element of safety, allowing people to navigate a property more easily.

Adding light to your balcony staircase, a patio doorstep, or beautifully hardscaped steps to a pool or entertaining area eliminates danger and potential injury. Outdoor lighting also adds a beautification factor that can set a mood and truly make a home stand out while adding value to the property.

 

Does Landscape Lighting Work for Me?

landscape lighting

Maybe you like the idea of adding landscape lighting, but you don’t think there is room or can’t it be retrofitted into your landscape and hardscape design. This shouldn’t deter you in the slightest. Landscape lighting is all about creativity and problem solving. A lot of the time, landscape lighting is added after the fact to existing structures and landscapes that weren’t necessarily designed with outdoor lighting in mind. Post lights, down lights or moon lights, and core lights are all fixtures used for outdoor step lighting that are invaluable to every landscape lighting system.

With all that said, now you be asking, “How do I choose which lighting fixture or technique is best for my application?” The short answer is not the simplest one. It all depends on how you are using the space where the steps or stairs are located and what effect you are trying to achieve beyond creating a safer environment. This is where chatting with a professional comes in handy—especially if you’re unsure of which lighting technique you want to use, which effect would look best, and what would be most effective overall.

Here’s a quick summary of five outdoor step lighting to consider:
 

Path lighting
landscape lighting

A lot of the time step lighting is accomplished not by adding lights to the actual steps themselves, but alongside them. This is otherwise known as path lighting—afterall, a stairway is a form of a path! Path lighting is a basic landscape lighting technique which uses path or area lights. Often times, the purpose of path lighting is to light planting beds and paths to provide seamless transition between lighting scenes for both safety and cohesion.

One recommendation is to alternate placement of path light fixtures from one side of the step to the other to light the path evenly and attractively. The goal is to provide enough illumination to prevent tripping hazards, but also to space fixtures far enough apart to create distinct pools of light so your eye naturally moves through the space. Lighting both sides of each step, on the other hand, is not aesthetically pleasing and feels unnatural when walking along a path.
 

Downlighting, moonlighting
Light Your Outdoor Steps

Another way to light steps or stairs is downlighting. A more advanced downlighting technique is known as moonlighting. Moonlighting uses tree lights with the purpose of providing soft natural lighting over large areas. Moonlighting serves as an ideal transition connecting different lighting scenes together and eliminating black holes from the project, and again, providing safety and cohesion.

To successfully create a moonlighting effect, fixtures should be placed in a tree at least 25 feet high—at least two lights per tree—and directed down onto the stairway.
 

Hardscape Lighting
Light Your Outdoor Steps

Hardscape lighting is also exactly how it sounds: Using engineered wall lights within stones, or a hardscape, steps and stairways can be lit safely and evenly using hardscape lighting. This is a lovely and sophisticated way to light outdoor steps while highlighting thoughtful hardscape design. Either the walls on both side of a stairway or the stairs themselves can be lit with hardscape lighting, which brings us to our fifth way to light outdoor steps: tread lighting.
 

Post rail lighting

These fixtures are exactly how they sound: They mount onto a post of railing of a stairway, effectively illuminating the path beneath them. One type of post rail light fixture that CAST offers is actually a deck light, which serves the same purpose and blends nicely with a wooden or metal railing. Be forewarned, though, installation and wiring of post rail fixture can get complicated and if the drilling and fishing isn’t done properly, it could result in a permanent and unsightly mistake such as a hole drilled in the wrong spot. Thus, we recommend working with a professional on this kind of lighting project.
 

Tread Lighting

Tread lighting is a type of stair lighting that uses step lights, strip lights, or slim hardscape lights. These strips of light that are placed under each step, washing each one with a gentle, even glow that gives it the illusion that it is floating. This is a dazzling and unique light effect that offers a customized look enjoyed by many.
 

The #1 Takeaway of All 5 Outdoor Step Lighting Options
Light Your Outdoor Steps

We briefly touched on this top takeaway in our post rail lighting section—and that’s the consideration that all three of the above lighting installs require precision and technical prowess. Our #1 takeaway here is to make sure to consult a professional landscape lighting designer before trying your hand at this outdoor step lighting. It’s critical to select the right fixture and lighting effect to safely and beautiful illuminate your steps. And to take it one step further, it’s just as important to wire and mount the fixtures at the proper height and beam angle—then test and tweak the lights at night—to ensure a successful lighting project.

Good luck, have fun, and enjoy the results!

Front Entrance Renovation

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looking for curb appeal? check out this complete front entrance renovation featuring an all new paver walkway, complete landscape over haul, Mongolian Basalt column fountain and landscape lighting. The old drab typical concrete walkway was removed to make way for a beautiful new Unilock paver walkway. All existing landscape and some grass areas were removed to make way for all new landscape beds. the landscape beds including all newly designed planting throughout the front of the home as well as along the driveway area. Landscape lighting was also installed throughout the planting beds to up light some of the existing mature trees as well as the fountain by the front door. The fountains is a 3 column Mongolian basalt fountain also highlighted with landscape lighting. This is the first phase of a project that will eventually include a complete backyard renovation as well. Stay tuned!

 

Tips for a Healthy Summertime Pond

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It’s hot, In case you haven’t noticed. When the heat is scorching you’re finned friends need a little extra TLC. So we have some amazing Tips for a healthy summertime pond to help you keep your fish and your pond happy as can be.
 
BY: AQUASCAPE

The beauty and joy of a pond makes summer more memorable and relaxing! To fully enjoy the “Aquascape Lifestyle,” you want to make sure your water feature is healthy and functioning optimally throughout the warmer months. When water temperature rises above 80 degrees this summer, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.

Healthy Summertime Pond

Health of Your Pond Fish

Keep an eye on your fish. Do your finned friends appear stressed out, gasping for air close to the water’s surface or especially close to a fountain or waterfall? Warm water has a low capacity for holding oxygen, while cooler water can hold very large amounts of oxygen.

Warm pond water and increased activity go hand and hand, and that increased activity also means your fish require more oxygen when less oxygen is available, thus creating a vicious cycle. Stressed fish often begin to develop diseases, and soon enough you’ll have a domino effect.

Add oxygen to your pond by placing an aerator or AquaForce® pump in your pond. You can also install a fountain with a pump if your pond doesn’t have a waterfall or stream. Make sure all areas of the pond are skimmed and the water circulated. And keep in mind that waterfalls, streams, and even fountains play a huge part in the oxygenation of the water in your pond.
 

Beat the Heat

There are some preventative measures you can take in order to keep your pond from becoming a warm, unhealthy mess. It all starts with a well-designed water feature. Depth, plant coverage, shade, and circulation should all be considered when designing and building a pond. A minimum depth of two feet is suggested; the bottom of the pond will remain cooler.

You’ll also want to stock your pond with a lot of plants to provide shade for the fish. A good rule of thumb is to provide plant coverage of approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of the pond’s surface area.

Perhaps one of the most important parts of pond design is circulation. If possible, you’ll want to place your biological filter and mechanical filter across the pond from each other, so that your pond receives optimal circulation.

 

Additional Summer Pond Tips

During the hot summer months, you can use some of these tips to help keep your pond performing optimally:

  • If you feed your fish, feed them in the morning and be careful not to overfeed. Uneaten food decays faster in warmer water and can pollute the pond.
  • Be sure to remove dying leaves and flowers before they have a chance to decay in the warmer water.

The bottom line is that you need to keep an eye on your pond and let your fish and plants do the talking. If you have a balanced ecosystem, you’ll find it much easier to maintain the health of your pond, fish, and plants.

Healthy Summertime Pond

Mongolian Basalt Column Fountains

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Mongolian Basalt Column Fountains installed in Lancaster, PA

Basalt Column Fountains installed in Lancaster, PA

New Fountain Display installed at Dental Care of Lancaster. This fountain consists of six Mongolian Basalt Columns displayed directly in front of the entrance to the dental center. The entrance was plain and drab so we had to hook it up with something fresh and welcoming to all the patients. Besides the basalt columns we added a few weathered limestone boulders and some drift wood to really set off the display.

Fountains installed in Lancaster, PA

Fountains installed in Lancaster, PA

Fountains installed in Lancaster, PA

Fountains installed in Lancaster, PA

Fountains installed in Lancaster, PA

Fountains installed in Lancaster, PA

Fountains installed in Lancaster, PA

Fountains installed in Lancaster, PA

Mongolian Basalt Column Fountains installed in Lancaster, PA

Mongolian Basalt Column Fountains installed in Lancaster, PA

Mongolian Basalt Column Fountains installed in Lancaster, PA

Mongolian Basalt Column Fountains installed in Lancaster, PA

Fountains installed in Lancaster, PA

Fountains installed in Lancaster, PA

Wooded Retreat

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Wooded Retreat installed in Lancaster, PA

Wooded Retreat installed in Lancaster, PA


 
This Wooded Retreat project started with the removal of a large area of bamboo roots, re-grading the area after, and installing bamboo containment barrier. All root materials were be excavated and disposed of off site. We then graded the side yard to eliminate mounds and low areas, removed rocks and boulders which were be used on front bank. Grading was also done in preparation for fence installation. Bamboo containment barrier was installed from street down to back of property.

Natural Flagstone Patio installed in Lancaster, PA

Natural Flagstone Patio installed in Lancaster, PA


 
2 truckloads of top soil was hauled in to fill areas where bamboo roots were excavated. The newly installed topsoil was fine graded to prep for the fence and plantings.

Wooded Retreat installed in Lancaster, PA

Wooded Retreat installed in Lancaster, PA

Natural Stone Steps and Walkway with Landscape Lighting in Lancaster, PA

Natural Stone Steps and Walkway with Landscape Lighting in Lancaster, PA


 
Tree work including tree trimming and tree removal throughout the site was done by Arborist Enterprises.

Wooded Retreat installed in Lancaster, PA

Wooded Retreat installed in Lancaster, PA

Boulder Retaining Wall and Flagstone Patio installed in Lancaster, PA

Boulder Retaining Wall and Flagstone Patio installed in Lancaster, PA

 
This luxurious portion of this project included a complete landscape design featuring Trees and shrub installation with all disturbed ground covered with natural wood chips. Natural stone steps along driveway were installed using local gray/earth tone treads. The patio surface was installed using natural irregular flagstone, natural stone treads for steps, and PA Limestone boulders to retain grade around patio. The fire pit consisted of a natural stacked stone ring and ‘Zentro’ Smokeless Fire Pit insert. Natural stone paths were installed using natural large irregular flagstone slabs. All landscape lighting installed was Kichler LED light fixtures.

Natural Stone Outdoor Living area installed in Lancaster, PA

Natural Stone Outdoor Living area installed in Lancaster, PA

Outdoor Adventures

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Who’s ready for some Outdoor Adventures???? Summer is FINALLY here even though it rains every single day here in Lancaster County :(. No need to fret though, because when the sun is shining this backyard will be full of life. I mean what more could you possibly ask for?

Poolside Patio Area in Quarryville, PA

Poolside Patio Area in Quarryville, PA

This AMAZING outdoor living space in Quarryville, PA was just recently completed. The project included the installation of paver pool decking, boulder retaining walls, irregular natural stone steps, and hidden sliding board mound. surrounding the pool and paver patio we installed new plantings, mulch beds, decorative river gravel beds, flagstone walkways, landscape lighting, fine grading, seeding, and erosion control to dress up all the disturbed areas. I don’t know about you but I’m ready to take a trip down that sliding board…………..

Outdoor Adventures in Lancaster County

Outdoor Adventures in Lancaster County

Poolside Patio Area in Quarryville, PA

DCIM100GOPROGOPR3897.JPG

Poolside Patio Area in Quarryville, PA

Poolside Patio Area in Quarryville, PA

Poolside Patio Area in Quarryville, PA

Poolside Patio Area in Quarryville, PA

Outdoor Adventures in Lancaster County

Outdoor Adventures in Lancaster County

Outdoor Adventures in Lancaster County

Outdoor Adventures in Lancaster County

 Poolside Patio Area in Quarryville, PA

Poolside Patio Area in Quarryville, PA

Poolside Patio Area in Quarryville, PA

Poolside Patio Area in Quarryville, PA

Wet Tile Saw the “BEAST”

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Testing out the “Beast” wet tile saw on a large Porcelain tile outdoor living area. While on this job we’ve tried just about every method and style of saw to cut through the porcelain tile pavers but none would do the trick. That is until our good friends at Watson Supply put us on to the “BEAST”.
 

The BEAST 10″ Wet Tile Saw provides large format capability in a portable frame. This new saw has been manufactured with incredibly tight tolerances, stainless steel hardware, superior materials, and designed as a true professional level tile saw. The new BEAST10 has the largest cutting capacity in its class and is accurate to within 1/32″ over a 24″ cut.

Wet Tile Saw the "BEAST"

Wet Tile Saw the “BEAST”


 

The BEAST10 is capable of performing a diagonal cut on a 24″ x 24″ tile and can execute a 34″ Rip Cut (39″ Rip with plunge). The plunge cut feature makes it easy to execute V-Cap cuts, cut-outs for wall sockets and much more. Each saw comes with a removable table extension for large format tiles and an innovative snake pipe water nozzle which allows for precise water control and placement. An optional side plastic water tray will catch drip and divert water back to the water pan. The durable steel pipe saw frame is constructed to withstand the toughest conditions any contractor will experience. The BEAST10 has a 3-year warranty.

*Two optional choices for stands (sold separately)

Wet Tile Saw the "BEAST"

Wet Tile Saw the “BEAST”


 

Largest rip/diagonal cutting capacity in its class
Power 15 amp motor will cut hard materials such as porcelain, stone and thicker materials
Heavy-duty rail system engineered for exceptionally straight, accurate and smooth cuts
Motor tilts to ensure accurate 22.5º and 45º bevel cuts
Removable extension table for use with larger format tiles
Saw frame constructed of durable steel pipe
Dual-snake pipe water nozzle allows precise water control and placement
Front access to water tray greatly simplifies cleaning and draining process
Heavy-duty rip fence with positive stops at 0°, 22.5° AND 45°
Water supply line is externally mounted and easily accessible for cleaning or replacement
Blade guard easily opens and secures with finger knob
Blade splash guard and back splash tray keeps work area dry and returns water to water tray
Water pump designed for use in water tray or side bucket
Divider in water tray filters slurry and extends pump life

Wet Tile Saw the "BEAST"

Wet Tile Saw the “BEAST”


 

Natural Stone Patio Addition

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Natural Stone Patio Addition in Ephrata, PA

Natural Stone Patio Addition in Ephrata, PA

This Natural Stone Patio Addition project included approximately 800 square feet of Irregular flagstone. The flagstone patio and walkway was added to an existing paver patio pool area. New trees and shrubs were installed throughout the property as well. This project also included edging and mulching the remaining pool area not being replanted during walkway and patio construction as well as the front of the house across the porch to the driveway. This included edging, pre-emergent weed preventer and triple cut bark mulch. New landscape lighting was installed on select trees as well as 11 path lights along the walkway and front of the home.

Natural Stone Patio Addition in Ephrata, PA

Natural Stone Patio Addition in Ephrata, PA

Natural Stone Patio Addition in Ephrata, PA

Natural Stone Patio Addition in Ephrata, PA

Natural Stone Patio Addition in Ephrata, PA

Natural Stone Patio Addition in Ephrata, PA

Natural Stone Patio Addition in Ephrata, PA

Natural Stone walkway in Ephrata, PA

Natural Stone walkway in Ephrata, PA

Natural Stone walkway in Ephrata, PA

Natural Stone walkway in Ephrata, PA

this is the second phase of a project that included a Driveway Entrance Landscape Renovation. The entrance way included installation of retaining walls, landscape beds, plants and trees, and landscape lighting. The retaining walls and pillars were constructed using concrete block and faced with stone veneer. Some tree removal, as well as grading and seeding of disturbed areas were also included. Low voltage lighting was also installed along retaining walls and throughout the surrounding landscape. This project was installed in Ephrata, PA.

Driveway Entrance Landscape Renovation in Ephrata, PA

Driveway Entrance Landscape Renovation in Ephrata, PA

POND FISH HEALTH

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Pond Fish Health

Pond Fish Health

 

POND FISH HEALTH: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

BY: Aquascape

Pond season is finally here for most of the country! Watching your fish swim happily about is a sight for sore eyes after a long winter. But do you have a pond that promotes the health of your fish? Several factors influence whether a pond is habitable by fish, so before your stock your new pond or choose a few new finned friends at your water gardening store, take a few minutes to assess your fish’s dwelling space as it relates to pond fish health.

Healthy Fish and Koi in Aquascape Ecosystem Pond
Healthy Fish and Koi in Aquascape Ecosystem Pond
 

Size Matters

It all starts with the size of your pond. You need to make sure that it is large enough to support fish and their growth. Pond fish generally need 10 gallons of water for every inch of their length, and you have to be ready for them to grow larger, so be careful not to overstock, no matter how tempting this may be! Some pond experts go so far as to recommend only ½ inch of fish per 10 gallons of water as a maximum stocking density.

On occasion, you may encounter ponds crowded with two or even three inches of fish per 10 gallons of water and the fish seem to be fine. However, the density and ecological strain of this loading turn these ponds into fragile systems. The pH tends to sag, the fish tend to grow more slowly, and disease can become a common occurrence.

You won’t be able to salvage sick fish in a pond that’s overcrowded. Eventually, Mother Nature will pick off your favorite fish to achieve her ideal stocking density based on the system the fish are in, and then the remainder will recover as if by magical intervention. So reduce the number of fish if your pond is over-stocked before Mother Nature handles this crucial step for you.
 

Good Morning, Sunshine

Ponds that have some sunlight are also beneficial to fish due to the valuable vitamins that are produced. Sunlight also helps the plants in your pond grow, thereby reducing nitrates in the water. Unfortunately, you can’t just up and move your pond so if you have a shaded pond, simply add shade-loving plants to help balance the water. Aquatic plants play a critical role when it comes to enhancing pond fish health.

Pond plants that tolerate shade include Taro, Papyrus, Horsetail, Cardinal Flower, Lizard’s Tail, and Water Forget-Me-Not.
 

Two Feet

When it comes to pond depth, koi aren’t very picky. Just be sure that the pond is deep enough (generally about 2 to 2 ½ feet) to give the fish a chance to get out of the way of predators. This depth also provides ample space for over-wintering fish in northern climes.
 

A Balancing Act

The quality of your water is critical to pond fish health and you want to make sure your water garden is balanced. The proper mix of fish, plants, filtration, circulation, and rocks and gravel all provide an important role in your pond’s ecosystem. Work with Mother Nature, not against her, and you’ll find you spend more time enjoying your pond and less time maintaining it. Consider adding the Aquascape Automatic Dosing System to keep your pond water balanced and your fish healthy throughout the season.

 

What You Need to Know about Pond Fish Health

Travertine Paver Paradise

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Travertine Paver Paradise (Before & After)

Travertine Paver Paradise (Before & After)


 

Travertine Paver Paradise Before & After

This Amazing Dream Backyard Travertine Paver Project features just about all the options you have ever dreamed about having in your very own backyard. We just recently completed this project and as you can tell from the video and photos below it’s quite the dream backyard. But dreams can came true, and for these homeowners they certainly have. So proud of our team for coming together and installing another amazing backyard paradise. The outdoor living area features everything from fire to water and includes multiple travertine patio areas, flagstone and travertine walkways, stone steps, pondless waterfall, landscape lighting, outdoor audio, fire pit, and landscaping. To think where the project came from a decrepit old deck to this beautiful work of art is almost unreal!


 

Travertine Paver Patio and Fire Pit

The dream backyard project included the installation of various hardscape items including travertine patio, Seating walls, Steps, and walkways. The patio material is silver travertine laid in French pattern. The patio area is approximately 1,012 sq ft with antiqued finish and natural edge. All walls and steps are constructed using natural stone Semco ‘Cedar Ridge’ sawn wall stone. Caps and stair treads are constructed of natural stone ‘Chateau Limestone’ 2″ thick and 14″ deep, thermal top and rock faced edges. Cap stone for grill wall is 18″ wide polished and sealed top. Under grill area the patio is outdoor ‘wood look’ porcelain tile. A Semco ‘Cedar Ridge’ 57″ Fire Pit with Large Zentro ‘Smokeless’ insert is installed on the lower patio area. As of these pictures and this video the fire pit insert has yet to be installed. Sealing of Travertine surfaces using GST stain blocking sealer will be completed once the project is entirely finished. Stepping stone pathway to the side of the home is full color Pa Flagstone irregular steppers.


 

Landscaping

Landscape beds, plants, trees, edging and mulching was done around the entire back and side yards of the home using triple cut bark mulch. Plant variety and size specifications were all chosen by our amazing designer Wes. The landscaping portion of this project also included the grading, lawn repair, and seeding of all the areas damaged and disturbed during construction.

Outdoor Living Area installed in Lancaster, PA

Travertine Paver Area installed in Lancaster, PA


 

Pondless Waterfall

A 15′ pondless waterfall was installed into the new landscape to the side of the lower patio for maximum viewing. The waterfall features approximately 15 foot of stream with multiple waterfalls. Two side by side spillways merge into a wide stream with a small waterfall before turning and going into the final falls at the basin area. The Waterfall is outfitted with low voltage LED underwater landscape lighting throughout.

Pondless Waterfall Installed in Lancaster, PA

Pondless Waterfall Installed in Lancaster, PA


 

Outdoor Sound

The Outdoor Sound System installed was a TRU Audio 4 speaker system and 12″ outdoor hardscape subwoofer. This system also includes the amplifier which is located in the home owners basement as well as Apple Airport Express and Blue Tooth Connection.