Illuminating sidewalks, driveways and steps is one of the most important tasks of a landscape lighting designer. Fortunately, though utilitarian, this type of lighting can be made as beautiful as it is safety enhancing.

Traverse lighting fixtures come in different styles. Path lights are equipped with a side-mounted stem and a hat. The light source is usually mounted in the center facing down.

Area lights have a center stem and a reflective top hat. The lamp or integrated light source is inside the lensed portion of the fixture.

Bollards come in reflective and nonreflective styles. Reflective bollards will have a hidden light source which produces light on the ground, while nonreflective bollards are manufactured with a light source that can be seen.

When designing traverse lighting, consider a site’s terrain, weather conditions and architectural style.

Cobblestone, slate and flagstone walkways naturally settle if set in earth or sand, creating uneven surfaces which can be challenging to light. You may have to use path and down lights. The down lights may have to be mounted in trees or on the eaves of a building so shadows are less likely.

It’s best to avoid installing ground-mounted lights in grassy lawn areas, as fixtures can become damaged by mowers and string trimmers. If you must install fixtures in a lawn area, it’s best to mount them to larger mounting posts like those used in 120-volt lighting. In some cases, a concrete pad should be poured around a mounting post for extra protection.

In colder regions, snow can cover path and area lights, so use fixtures with taller, more rugged stems. Semi-custom fixtures may be available by special order; check with your local manufacturer’s representative.

Many times, fixtures are specified because of their shape and design, to harmonize with architectural elements on the property.

Always remember your customers’ personal needs. Eyesight changes as we age, night vision especially. Ask your customers about their needs, but never make assumptions. A night demonstration might be required to establish a customer’s comfort level.

Start thinking of traverse lighting as a requirement and not as just another option. Combine safety and beauty in every job.

Kevin Smith is the national technical support and trainer at Brilliance LED LLC, Carefree, Arizona, and can be reached at