Buying Guide: How to Properly Size Outdoor Lighting Fixtures

Create a warm and inviting – as well as safe – entry for family, friends and guests by installing outdoor lighting fixtures that banish shadows and complement the style of your home as well as your landscaping. You know when you drive down streets in your neighborhood that your eye is drawn to the house with the attractive lighting, and your home could be that kind of beacon, too.

Choosing the fixtures that match the style and theme of your house is only half of the process for creating the right look and feel; you also need to hang them at the right height no matter if you’ve chosen sconces, a ceiling flush-mount or an outdoor pendant. Here’s how to figure it all out:


Outdoor sconces that flank entry doors are typically larger than you might expect, but consider standing up to 50 feet away from them. Fixtures shrink by as much as half when viewed from a distance. Still, a general rule is to measure your door from the bottom to the top, including the casing, and size your sconces to 1/4 to 1/3 the total height of the door. For installations with just one light, use the 1/4 measurement rule; two fixtures should follow the 1/3 measurement guide.

To hang them at the proper height, find where inside the fixture the light source is located and pinpoint the center. Measure 65 to 72 inches from the bottom of the door and place your sconce(s) so the center of the light source hits that mark.

Outdoor flush mount

Sizing your exterior flush mount fixture follows many of the same rules you followed to choose the right sconces. Take the total measurement of your front door – plus the casing – and divide that number by four. This is the total width you should look for when shopping for a flush-mounted fixture for your front porch.

If you’re pairing your flush mount with sconces, be sure you choose fixtures that reflect the same style and are in the same general metal finish family.

Outdoor pendant lights

If you prefer the look of pendant light instead of a flush-mount, you’ll need a fixture that measures just 1/5 the total height of your door and that uses LED lamps of 20 to 40 total watts or bulbs that combined equal the same.

Hanging the pendant can be a little tricky, but we recommend you suspend it so the bottom of your fixture sits about equal with the top of the door casing. This way, you’re making sure guests have plenty of clearance and plenty of illumination at the same time.

We do have to caution you, though. If your front porch is often exposed to windy conditions, a pendant light is not an ideal fixture, and we recommend you install a flush-mount in conjunction with sconces instead.



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