Whether you’re re-decorating or completely renovating a property it will be an ideal opportunity to re-think the residential stair lighting effects that you have. The most common arrangement is to have a light suspended from the ceiling at the top of the stairs and one similarly suspended from the ceiling at the bottom of the stairs, that can be turned on or off by two-way switches at the top and bottom. However, there is no rule or law that makes you have to adopt that system for residential stair lighting.
Safety and Stair Lighting
If the stairway you want to illuminate connects between the floors of a property then there are some safety considerations you need to make, regarding the power of the lighting you install. This is especially important if the stairway is enclosed between walls, compared to one that is an open-plan stairway. Roughly speaking you want at least 10 watts of light for every meter squared of surface area on the stairway.
If you have conventional stair light fittings, at the top and bottom of the stairs, the total wattage required should be split evenly between the two fittings. If you opt for a different stair lighting arrangement, then the total wattage required can be divided amongst the total number of light fittings to be used.
For the vast majority of residential stairways connecting two floors, 120 watts of lighting is invariably sufficient. However, you are of course encouraged to use modern energy efficient bulbs in your light fittings, so you only require the equivalent of 120 watts of power.
Conventional Residential Stair Lighting Options
The stair lighting you chose to install will invariably be decided by how big a project you want to take on as DIY/home enthusiast. For some people changing the existing light fittings from pendant to suspended ones, or vice-versa, will create a change in the style of lighting sufficient to satisfy themselves that the new lighting has been installed to create a new ambience.
When thinking about changing your residential stair lighting do consider carefully what you have as a ceiling light at the bottom of the stairs, especially if this is by an entrance door or hallway.
Having a bright and warming light at the entrance of any property is always welcoming to visitors on dark nights. Perhaps you might have the space to install a chandelier type light fitting here? At the top of the stairs you need to maintain a light fitting that is more concerned with performing its safety function and one that, due to its position, can be easily maintained; so it’s probably best to avoid elaborate chandelier style ones here.
Decorative Stair Lights
As mentioned above if you’re undertaking a renovation project then you might like to consider installing decorative stair lights, recessed into a wall or the ceiling of the staircase, or even into the stair risers themselves? These recessed lights are ideal an decorative feature but, as they are low powered LED lights you are advised to retain more powerful ceiling mounted lighting at the very top and bottom of the stairs. As these recessed lights are being used for decorative purposes rather than safety ones, you can have some fun with them too.
You could incorporate pressure switches that illuminate the lights on the next step up and down as you ascend or descend the stairs, you could incorporate strips of LED lights along the stair edges or have LED lights of varying power fitted that decrease in power as you descend the stairs. You’ll find a great range of decorative stair lights in your DIY store and what you eventually fit is only limited by your imagination.
Photo by ktylerconk, Creative Commons Attribution License