Article | Installing the undercover hardscape light (step by step)
The VOLT® Undercover Hardscape light is a rugged, solid brass landscape lighting fixture that provides a wonderful and elegant solution for illuminating an area where a typical path or area landscape light would not be possible.
Columns: In recent years, the landscape design industry has moved more towards segmental block and pavers over traditional stone and mortar for many patio and wall installations due to the relatively lower cost of materials and ease of installation. Columns near entryways and garden spaces are becoming far more commonplace in everyday garden spaces. In years past, you would typically see a bright post light mounted on top of a column. We professionals in the landscape lighting industry refer to these lights as “glare bombs”. You know the ones, when you are sitting on a friend's deck and you have to shield your eyes because of that awful glare. Yes, they are a nuisance. The hardscape light is completely different. It hides its light source and softly, bathes the stone down along the face of the column and onto the surrounding walkways or landscape that surround it where you really need it.
Walls: The hardscape light is also a great solution for illuminating a patio space or walkway that may extend right up to a sitting or retaining wall. The soft diffused glow from the hardscape light that is mounted into one of these walls will softly broadcast its light out onto the path way or patio space where a typical path light just can't be placed. This will make those hard surface areas much more accessible and enjoyable in the evening hours. If the wall stone is quite interesting, the hardscape light is a great way to highlight the unique qualities of the wall material.
For this project you will need the following tools:
- Tape measure
- Marking pencil or Sharpie marker
- Masonry Chisel and mini-sledge hammer
- 4 inch or 4-1/2 inch angle grinder w/ diamond blade
- Hammer drill with a 1/4 inch masonry drill bit.
- Caulking gun and a block adhesive
- Philips head screwdriver
Note - for the following installation instructions, I will be referring to working with segmental stone block.
Retaining Wall: Using the hardscape light is a great way to accent retaining walls and add some extra light in your landscape.
A. The first step is to lay out the desired placement for your new lights. I typically like to space mine between 6-7 feet apart. Use a sharpie or pencil to mark the center point of each light.
B. Take your masonry chisel and stick it into a gap between the bottom of the capstone and the top of the stone below it. Begin hammering the chisel and advancing it into the gap. (*Note- if the chisel does not want to drive into the gap, try a different spot and begin chiseling again.) As the chisel advances into the crack, you will begin to feel the glue break away as the stone lifts free.
C. Once you have unboxed the light, set the center of the light (where the cord comes out of the back of the fixture) on the mark you made earlier. Take your pencil and mark a line from the front of the stone (by the fixture) to the back of the stone (by the dirt). This will be the line we will score with our grinder for the cable to lay in.
D. Take your 4 inch or 4-1/2 inch grinder with a diamond blade and begin scoring the stone on the line you marked. You will want the groove to be at least 1/2 to 3/4 inches wide and deep. This will be the slot you will put the wire in when securing your light. The slot must be deep enough to completely hold the wire. If the wire is sticking up above the slot at all, the top stone will not sit flush against the stone next to it when you go to put the caps back on.
E. Push the brass wire sleeve all the way up tight to the back of the fixture and set the light in place with the wire laying in the slot. Take a pencil and mark the location of the holes to be drilled on the back of the fixture plate. (*Note- if you do not have the proper tools for drilling and securing the fixture in place, you can forego fastening the fixture in place. Simply squirt the landscape block adhesive on the top stone making sure to keep it a good 2 inches or more back from any edges out of which it might ooze. Set the back plate of the light in a good dab of glue and set the top capstones in place. The weight of the caps will hold the light in place until it is dry. – This is not the recommended way, but it is an option if you are not able to drill and secure).
F. Take your hammer drill with a 1/4 inch masonry bit and begin drilling the holes for the masonry anchors. You will want to drill these a good 3/4 to 1 inch deep. Blow all the dust out of the holes and insert the plastic anchors.
G. Screw the fixture in place with the screws provided. This is the best way to secure the fixture to the stone.
H. Your fixture is installed and ready for wiring. (Fig. 9)
I. Strip the wire ends and make a waterproof connection. Bury the wire and connection in the dirt behind the wall.
J. Sweep off the top of stones until they are relatively free of dust and grit. Squirt a good dab of masonry/block adhesive on the top block around the light.
K. Set the capstones back into their original location and give them a little tap. This completes the installation of the hardscape light in a retaining wall.
Freestanding wall: Adding the hardscape light to a freestanding or sitting wall is a great way to get light in some of those more inaccessible places. The steps are very similar to the retaining wall with a few exceptions.
A. With the capstones removed, lay out the desired placement for your new lights. I typically like to space mine between 6-7 feet apart. Use a sharpie or pencil to mark the center point of each light. (*Note- you will only mark to the center of the stone where the wire is running for this application)
B. You will now need to cut the wire about 7-8” to one side or the other from the line we are going to score with the grinder. Move the 2 ends of the wire out of the way so they are not damaged when we use the grinder. (Fig. 15)
C. Take your 4 or 4-1/2 inch grinder with a diamond blade and begin scoring the stone on the line you marked. You will want the groove to be at least 1/2-3/4 inches wide and deep. This will be the slot you will put the wire in when securing your light. The slot must be deep enough to completely hold the wire. If the wire is sticking up above the slot at all, the top stone will not sit flush against the stone next to it when you go to put the caps back on. Only score back to the line where the main wire is running. Widen out a gap where you cut the wire. We will need to make our connection here. With the grinder, widen out a spot for the connection that is roughly 4-5 inches long, 2 inches wide and about 1 foot to 1-1/2 feet deep.
D. Fasten the fixture to the stone with the provided hardware. See details in retaining wall instructions above
E. Strip the cable ends and make your connections so that they will fit in the slot you cut out for them. Using adhesive lined, heat shrink connectors are the best solution for keeping the finished connection compact and waterproof. Once the connections are made, slide the sleeves over the connections and begin shrinking them in place by using a butane torch or heat gun to shrink the tube in place around the connection.
F. Sweep off the top of stones until they are relatively free of dust and grit. Squirt a good dab of masonry/block adhesive on the top block around the light.
G. Set the capstones back into their original location and give them a little tap. This completes the installation of the hardscape light in a freestanding retaining wall.