Guide to Garage Lighting

If you’re looking for a home improvement project with a big payoff, consider a new lighting scheme for your garage. Even though it might not be the place for a crystal chandelier or set of silk-shaded sconces, most garages hold potential to be much more than a parking spot and storage unit. With some organization and new lighting, you might find space for a workshop bench, workout center, bike rack, music venue, even a video game lounge. When lighting your garage, use the “three layers of light” strategy to choose fixtures for ambient, accent, and task lighting. Read through this guide for specific ideas on making your garage a more productive and pleasing place!

Unique Interior Garage Lighting

Begin with an assessment of the exterior and interior of the garage, taking note of any interesting architectural features to emphasize and showcase with light. Also consider that the lights themselves can be unique conversation pieces. For instance, the chrome tripod pictured above – while for indoor use only – can give you stylish and inspired directional light for in-garage projects. Also look for safety hazards or areas exposed to harsh conditions – you might be able to improve the level of safety and protection by adding lights to dark areas.

Visually Dynamic Exterior Garage Lighting

Pro Tip: Since many garages have limited wiring — sometimes just a single light bulb strung into the rafters — think about how your new fixtures will be installed and mounted, planning in the cost of a professional electrician if necessary.

Exterior Garage Features

Garage Exterior Light Tips

Your garage lighting scheme shouldn’t ignore the outside of the structure. Especially if the garage is attached to the house, the main door, side doors, and walkways can benefit from light.

Look for fixtures designed to illuminate the entrances, sidewalks, and landscaping. When selecting your exterior lights, plan to point the light downward to prevent trespass of light onto your neighbor’s property. Of course, approved Dark Sky lights will dampen light trespass expertly. Also choose a style that suits your home’s architecture, such as (hypothetically) a pair of square silver modern sconces for a modern home or a set of bronze lanterns for a colonial or ranch. To save electricity, consider fixtures that detect motion, as they’ll light up only when sensing activity inside their range. (Be aware, squirrels might set them off!)

Motion Sensor
"Dark Sky" Friendly
LED Scoops

If you use the area outside the garage for projects or sports, you might add lights at the corners of the garage, on nearby fencing, or in the trees above. Small LED spotlights work well for task lighting and can be managed through a central set of switches wired to your house or the garage interior. Don’t forget accent lights — set small solar lights in flower beds, along pathways, or invest in an underground low-wattage system to control with timers and smart technology.

Garage Interior Ambient Lighting

Artist Rendering of Ambient Garage Light

Inside the garage, you’ll want ample overhead light throughout the space. This ambient layer is a fundamental part of the design, so measure carefully and spend some time shopping for the fixtures, choosing lumens that will meet your needs in both day and evening hours. In a garage with exposed rafters, you might look for small sconces to mount on one or both sides of the central support beams. If the garage roof peaks upward, you might have room for a hanging fixture like a metal drum pendant or stylish industrial lantern with an exposed vintage bulb.

Metal Drum Pendant
Semi Flush

If your garage has a finished ceiling, try a flush or semi flush mount fixture such as a dome, square, or rectangle. Many garages are built with florescent lights, but you can remove the hanging fixtures and upgrade to lights that look better and don’t cast harsh shadows on what lies below. If you prefer florescent lights because of their brightness, shop for stylish holders in chrome or bronze to hang in horizontal or vertical rows. As an alternative to florescent lights, consider a set of spotlights set into a metal track. You’ll find models in a variety of shapes and bright colors. Try the LED versions for extra-bright energy-efficient light that puts a sparkle on your car and toolboxes.

Task Lighting
Task Lighting

Once your ambient light is planned out, it’s time to choose your task lighting. Identify the spaces where you work. If you change your oil while lying on the floor or frequently explore under the car hood, for example, you could benefit from task lighting in the walls nearby. Consider can lights, florescent panels, sconces or moveable track lights installed at waist level. At a table or bench, task lighting is especially important and should help you work more efficiently. When choosing task lights, consider not only the wattage but also the hue because some projects, such as painting or wood refinishing, can be affected by the clarity of the light. Also look for fixtures that can be wired into the central box so you don’t have to fumble around looking for switches.

White Directional Spotlights
Brushed Nickel Directional Spotlights

Directional spotlights in sturdy materials such as metals or plastic can give you focused, bright task lighting. A little further off the beaten path for garages, pendant lights are well-suited for workbench task light, so try a pair of clear globes or pub-style artisan glass cups overhead. If you want a more practical and functional look for the work area, shop for wall lanterns made from copper or bronze wire, retro chrome drums, or upcycled materials that reflect to the utility of the space. You might also place task lighting near trash cans, storage shelves, the refrigerator or sink, and near any exits or staircases.

Accent Lighting

To complete your new garage lighting scheme, add a final flourish with accent lights to make you feel at home while you’re working on projects, practicing the drums, or celebrating the warm months with an outdoor barbecue. Accent lights are usually smaller than task lights (but not always) and should be stable enough to endure cold temperatures, so avoid your grandma’s heirloom glass shade in favor of plastic or metal. While you might use your task lights to accent key areas of the garage, complement them with LED strips, light strings, recessed spotlights or small LEDs installed in corners and dark areas. To strike a mood, use colored light bulbs or interesting shades in acrylic or stamped metal. Be creative, choosing accents that might serve dual purposes.

Garages tend to be dark, but that’s a problem easily fixed with the right lighting. Not only do lights make your garage more useful, they also make it a safer place. With new lights inside and out, your garage could soon become a favorite family gathering place and earn a new name like “man cave,” “she shed,” or plain old “party lounge.” Begin plotting out your upgrade by shopping our catalog for fixtures and accents that will transform your garage from dull to dreamy. Once your scheme is in place, you’ll be rushing out to spend the evening hours at your workbench instead of at the living room TV. Just remember to keep your fixtures clean — a dusting every month is in order to keep your light shining brightly.

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