Landscape Lighting Installation in Snow
Feb 21st, 2018
Low Voltage LED Landscape Lighting installed in Winter
This was our first big job of the year, and it was a challenge for a number of reasons, but we're so happy with the results. Although we generally like to keep the actual installation of landscape lights down to one day, the initial planning, fixture selection and site preparation must be considered beforehand. In this job, initial measurements of lighting cables were inaccurate. As a result, we needed to create another connection in the system. The correct cable length would've enabled us to have a more efficient system. Our installation was completed in 2 days, though I believe we could get it done in one day if we had a similiar job in the future.
The completed property, nightscape
The first challenge was the navigation of the client's hardscape features. In order to get lights to all the focal points of the property, we had to run cables up two retaining walls. The homeowner requirement was that the wire be flush to the surface of the stone walls in order to be as unobtrusive as possible. I had to figure out how to make that work. The solution was to rent a Rotary Hammer drill and Impact drill which allows you to make clean holes into concrete and then mount brackets into it. I rented one off of Ron of RNET Artisans (regular they sell for close to 400.00$!), a good friend and fellow contractor whom I go to for advice. He generously spent an afternoon teaching me how to use it, and even went to the supply store and showed me which tools and bits I needed to properly do the job.
Mounting the transformer to the stucco on the house
The house had a stucco finish, and was a little more difficult to drill into because of the uneven texture. If there was a foot of concrete coming from the ground up, you could assume the walls were of wood and could use a regular drill. The stucco was coming up about 4" from the base, which meant the walls were made of concrete and needed special tools. Both the Rotary Hammer drill for the hole, and an Impact drill for the screws were needed to mount the transfomer to the house.
Mounting onto Hardscape
Here the landscape lighting cable is mounted onto the concrete retaining wall. As long as you find a smooth surface, the Rotary hammer drill is able to make clean core drills into the concrete. We were able to get the wire flush with the 4' wall with 2 brackets, one at the top and one at the bottom, to keep the wire snug. The conduit at the top is protecting the wire as it runs underneath a boxwood shrub that is regularly shaped and hedged with a hedge trimmer.
How to run Landscape Lighting Wiring underneath concrete
Now here was another challenge. We needed to light symetrical features on both sides of a concrete pathway. The challenge was getting the wire across to the other side while keeping it hidden. There was also an arbor over the pathway that we thought about running the landscape cable up and over. However, after talking to fellow contractors, we decided the best solution would to be to go underground. The thing to check for was if the foundation of the walkway would be OK after excavation. We had to first figure out if it was thick enough. 4" and higher and we would be able to go under. Also, we had to check ridgelines. These are put into concrete to prevent cracking or random breaking over time. The deeper these ridgelines, the more confident we can be that it was poured correctly and we wouldn't be causing future maintenance problems by digging underneath. Although the ridgeline wasn't extremely deep (only about 1/2") we decided that based on the thickness of the slab (4") it would be Okay. The photo below is actually after we ran the conduit and wiring under the slab. You can't even tell the difference, right?
Running conduit underneath sidewalk
We made it to the other side (4.5' width) after 4 man-hours of digging at each end. We used a tunneling shovel, crowbar and hand trowel for most of the work. It was difficult because of the depth of the pathway made it hard to see where we were digging. This kind of excavation has to be done by hand, as machines would be too obtrusive and would threaten the stability of the walkway. Even thought the conduit only needs a 1/2" diameter to get through, we still had to dig out a diameter of about a foot, and about 2' deep, to make it through, because of the difficulty of digging underneath the grade. You can see the conduit sticking out on both ends of the walkway. We bury the the landscape lighting cable underneath the river rocks, and then stick it through the conduit to come out to the other side. We then backfill with 3/4" clear crushed road base.
The landscape lighting cable is buried directly beneath the grass to a minimum depth of 6" using a tunneling shovel or edger. We do straight lines and give the client a map of the wiring, transformers and lighting fixtures upon each completed project. This project required 190 feet of low voltage underground landscape lighting cable. Wire is also buried under soil or landscaping rock to a depth of at least 4".