Proper placement & sizing of lighting over stairs. (COMPLETE GUIDE)

a stairway in a home

Lighting over stairs should be aesthetically pleasing as well as should provide proper illumination. There are mainly three options for lighting a stairway properly: a chandelier, pendant lights, and wall sconces.

There are many other options like led strip lights, flush mount stair lights to illuminate stairs but the brightness they provide is limited compared to a chandelier or a flush mount ceiling light.

Stairs in the foyer look great with hanging light fixtures while stairs going down to the basement require flush mount ceiling light fixtures.

how to illuminate foyer stairs?

Foyer stairs or stairs near hall is the place where everyone looks frequently. These are the main point of attraction when someone comes into a foyer. Hanging a chandelier or pendant light can enhance the lighting as well make the space look visually appealing as well.

A chandelier can be installed either over the stair landing as well as the empty area around the stairwell. Where to install the chandelier depends upon whether or not the stairwell has enough empty room around it or not.

Stairwell should have a minimum of 35 – 40 inches of horizontal empty space in order for a chandelier to be installed there. This much distance will help to prevent accidental touches on the chandelier and making it swing.

If the stairwell has sufficient area then the next step is to know how big of a chandelier should hang there.

How to size chandelier for stairwell

To calculate the chandelier length for stairwell from high ceiling (14 feet and above), simply divide the length of the ceiling from the floor (in inches) by 4. The result will be chandelier length in inches.

ceiling heightchandelier length
14 feet42 inches
15 feet44.4 inches
16 feet48 inches
17 feet50 inches
18 feet54 inches
19 feet56 inches
20 feet60 inches

Stairwell chandeliers should have a minimum width of 20 inches as they are required to fill up the empty area around the stairwell. The length of chandelier depends upon how high the ceiling on the stairwell is.

Chandelier length for stairwell from average height ceilings

For ceilings of average height ( 9 feet – 13 feet ) to find the correct length of chandelier we divide the ceiling height (in inches) by 2 and the result is chandelier length in inches. The reason for doing this is because a high ceiling stairwell can be considered to have two distinct parts.

Below is a helpful table that shows ideal chandelier length according to ceiling height.

ceiling heightchandelier length
9 feet54 inches
10 feet60 inches
11 feet66 inches
12 feet72 inches
13 feet78 inches

The above values are ideal as per design standards however, many designers use custom chandeliers that are tailored specially for a particular space. Such chandeliers can be much longer than the length of normally used chandeliers.

The practice of using custom chandeliers is also good but is not an easy DIY project.

Pro tip: Before purchasing any chandelier stick a thread or rope from the ceiling of the same length as the light fixture would be to get a good idea of how chandelier will look.

Now let’s find out what to do if the stairwell does not have an empty area around the stairs. In such case, light fixtures are hanged over stranding.

How to size chandelier for stair landing

Size of chandelier over stairlanding depends on how big the stair landing itself is as well as how high the ceiling above stair landing is. For the chandelier over stair landing height of the ceiling is measured from the stair landing not from the floor.

A good rule of thumb is to measure the length and width of the stair landing in feet and multiply the values. The result will be the width of the chandelier to be installed.

For eg. If the stair landing is 30 inches wide and 50 inches long the recommended width of the chandelier will be 10 inches as seen in the image below

height for hanging chandelier over stair landing.

According to design standards, the chandeliers should be placed 2 – 3 feet below the ceiling above the stair landing. It is only recommended to hang chandelier over the stair landing if the ceiling above the stair landing is minimum of 9 feet high.

How big should a chandelier be over stair landing?

Chandelier over stair landing should have a length of 24 – 30 inches. Such length is ideal as it will keep enough room between the stair landing and the light fixture itself.

If the ceiling is lower then prefer flush mount light options. They are ideal because chandeliers require some height in hanging which may become difficult when the ceiling is low as chandelier can com in the way while going up or down the stairs.

Pendant lights


Pendant lights are another great option for illuminating foyer stairs. They can be installed either around the stairwell as well as over stair landing. It is a good practice to hang pendant lights around the stairwell if there is enough empty space around stairs.

If there is not enough room for pendant lights to be installed around the stairwell still then pendant lights can illuminate stairs by placing them over stair landing.

Now we shall discuss sizing as well as the height of pendant lights at which they should be installed.

Size of pendant lights around stairwell

Pendant lights should be long around the stairwell. Ideally, 38 – 48 inches in length. The width of pendant light however depends upon how many pendant lights one desires to hang hand around the stairwell.

Across all design standards, a combination of three pendant lights is preferred in a combination.

Pendant lights should have a width of around 13 – 15 inches if they are attached from a single unit.

If one chooses to hang only a single pendant light instead of a combination then it should be a minimum of 8 inches wide.

If more than 3 pendant lights are to be installed, then make sure the total width of the assembled pendant lights is 40 inches or less.

Sizing pendant lights over stair landing

The size of pendant lights over stair landing depends upon the dimensions of stair landing itself. Simply measure the length and width of the stair landing in feet upon multiplying the values, we get the recommended width of pendant lights.

The important thing to note here is that pendant lights have a limited width maximum of 14 – 15 inches (assembled width). If the stair landing demands a bigger and wider light fixture, then instead of pendant lights a chandelier should be used.

How to light stairs without a window?

Without windows, the stairs can look dark during days which is not ideal. To get sufficient brightness in the stairs installing recessed downlights on the ceiling above the stairs is the best option.

How many and what size downlights are required depends upon how much lighting is required.

According to International residential codes R311.7.9, R303.7, R303.8 one stairs should have a minimum illumination of 12 lumens.

But what does it mean? It simply means, if a bulb of 12 lumen brightness is placed at a distance of 1 foot above the stairs, the stairs will get 12 lumens of brightness. But,

in general use, placing a bulb this low it is not possible. We need to place a light source at the ceiling and thus light source should be more bright.

Let’s now see how bright should the light fixture be if it is placed on the ceiling above stairs.

the following relation helps to find out the minimum required brightness of light source on the ceiling above stairs.

Use this relation

X2 × 12 = minimum brightness the light source should have.

(x = distance of the ceiling from the stairs)

Let’s see an example. It’s really simple. First, we need to measure how high the ceiling is above the stairs.

Suppose it is 8 feet then,

Simply putting x = 8 in the above relation we can get the recommended minimum brightness i.e. 8×8×12 = 768 lumens.

We know that light intensity decrease as we move away from the source. So in order to get 12 lumens on every stair from an 8-foot ceiling. The light source should have a brightness of 768 lumens.

light intensity follows an inverse square law with distance. Light Intensity = 1/r2. We need to find the light intensity of our source at 8 feet distance from the stairs.

if for 1 foot the required lumens value is 12 so for 8 feet it is,

82 × 12 = 768 lumens bright in order to provide 12 lumens for every stair)

Where should the light source be placed?

For hall stairs we want the light source to distribute light evenly. It should be placed in the ceiling above the top stairs. The reason for that is while going down from the stairs if, the light sources were to be placed in the middle or lower parts of the ceiling above stairs, the light can cause glares.

Hanging light fixture vs flush mount lights which are better for hall stairs?

Hanging light fixtures no doubt are one the best sources of light to illuminate a stairwell. It is only when the stairs have a low ceiling or do not have enough room to accommodate a hanging light fixture, flush mount lights are used.

Both sources are sufficiently bright. From an illumination point of view, both are excellent while. A 15-watt flush mount light can provide an illumination of around 1200 lumens while a modern LED chandelier uses more wattage but the brightness they provide is far more than a flush mount light.

Ultimately depending upon the dimensions of the stairwell a flush mount light source is better for narrow and tight stairs while for big, spacey hall stairs, a chandelier will provide ample amounts of light as well as add more character to the stairs.

How to illuminate basement stairs.

While illuminating basement stairs there are two important factors to consider.

  • The lighting should be sufficiently bright to illuminate stairs.
  • Lighting should not cause unwanted glares while going up or down the stairs.

It is not recommended to install hanging light fixtures like chandeliers and pendant lights to illuminate basement stairs as they can cause glares. Installing fluorescent or LED tube lights to illuminate basement stairs is also not preferred as they can also cause unwanted glares.

Basement stairs are therefore best illuminated with a big flush mount light fixture. Being flush mount, they do not take much space in the stairway, Also being high on the ceiling, the light from flush mount fixtures gets distributed evenly on the stairs underneath.

In addition to flush mount light fixtures, one can add wall sconces if there are shadows over stairs.

There are also recessed step lights but they are not ideal for countering shadows also they are less bright compared to one big and bright flush mount light.

Where to install lights for illuminating basement stairs properly?

Basement stairs without stair landing

The light source must be placed directly over the ceiling of the first stair going down because if the light source is placed somewhere else glares can be observed. For example, see the graphic illustration below,

Here the light source is placed at the ceiling above the middle stairs, as a result of which when the light is turned on, it distributes in such a way that, light falls directly over one’s eyes if someone tries to go down the stairs.

To prevent this, see another graphic where light is placed at the ceiling right before the stairway begins. Placing lights here can significantly reduce the chances of glares as light is distributed evenly throughout the stairs.

placement of light source above the basement stairs

For an average size basement stairwell with at least 6 feet high ceiling, the ceiling above the first stair going down is the ideal place for installing a light source for illuminating basement stairs. By installing lights there, the glares from that light source are minimized.

Also, some basement stairs are such that even if a bright flush mount light is installed over the first stair, some areas in the lower stairs remain dark. To solve that one can add wall sconces at a height of 2 – 2.5 feet from the stairs.

Basement stairs with stair landing

To illuminate basement stairs with a stair landing the light source should be placed at two places i.e. on the ceiling above the first stair going down and other light source should be placed at the ceiling above stair landing.

The reason for not choosing a chandelier is simply the dimension of stairwell itself. Most basement stairwells are not wide enough that a chandelier can be installed there.

How bright should light be in basement stairs?

Light needs to be placed at the ceiling and as the distance from the light source increases, the brightness also decreases. Therefore, it is important to know how much bright should the light fixture be.

According to international residential codes R311.7.9, R303.7, R303.8 for stairs illumination, basement stairs should have a minimum illumination of 12 lumens per step of stairwell. Note that it is just the minimum value.

in simple terms, if the light source is placed at 1 foot distance from the stairs then it should provide a minimum of 12 lumens but, if light fixture is placed on the ceiling then it should have a higher lumen value.

This is how we find how bright should a light source be.

If the ceiling is 9 feet high then the light source to be placed on ceiling should be (9)2 × 12.
= 9 × 9 × 12
= 972 lumens bright.


Difficult ? just remember this to find the brightness of light over basement stairs,

Measure the height of the ceiling in feet from the first stair going down the basement. Whatever comes the value, square it and multiply it with 12.

How many wall sconces for basement stairs?

In basement stairs, with every step going down, the distance of the ceiling from the stairs keeps changing therefore adding wall sconces can provide extra illumintaion where light reaches less. An LED wall sconce can provide around 500 – 600 lumens of brightness.

Therefore, adding 2 wall sconces at the dark areas around the stairwell can help illuminate basement stairs better.

The important thing to note is that wall sconces are also of many types for example swing arm wall sconces, wallchieres, flush mount wall sconces.

The swing arm wall sconces are such that the light bulb is extended at a distance with the help of a metal rod. This allows the light bulb to move in multiple directions wherever light is required. The other type of wall sconce is flush but requires large space to install on the wall.

The best type of wall sconce for basement stairs is the flush mount wall sconces. They hang flush and splashes light directly over the wall and stairs underneath.

Can track lights be used in basement stairs?

The main problems with using track lights in the basement are the glares and uneven distribution of light. While going up from the basement if someone happens to look up then the track lights can cause glares.

Track lights compared to a flush mount light fixture requires more space to install.

Hence instead of track lights only one big and bright flush mount light fixture is preferred for most basement stairs.

Additional information

Color temperature of lights for basement stairway.

According to lighting experts, day-light color temperature (4000k- 6000k) is ideal for the basement as well as hall stairways. The reason being this color temperature is ideal for doing tasks that require focus and attention.

Climbing upstairs as well as going down requires an accurate perception of individual stairs. The warmer color temperatures, less than 4000 k makes the place cozy and relaxing which may sometimes affect the accurate perception of stairs.

The color temperature of light greater than 6000 k makes the place too vivid and attentive. It may be ideal for commercial spaces but not for residential ones.

Which bulb to choose for illuminating stairway?

While illuminating stairway lights used should be fairly bright which depends on the type of bulb used. Below is a table that compares the different types of light bulbs to how much wattage they consume to provide a particular value of illumination.

lumen output incandescentFLOURESCENTLED
400 lumens40 watt9-10 watt4-5 watt
560 lumens60 watt10-12 watt6-8 watt
1100 lumens75 watt17-20 watt12-14 watt
1500 lumens100 watt26-27 watt15 watt
2500 lumens150 watt40 watt21-23 watt

From the table, it is clear that LED bulbs are the most bright and more energy-efficient compared to incandescent bulbs as well as fluorescent bulbs. Also, another factor to consider while choosing a light bulb is the working time expectancy of the bulbs.

LED bulbs can run for 50000 hours while fluorescent bulbs run for 15000 hours whereas incandescent bulbs can run upto 2000 hours.

Again LED bulbs dominate both CFL and incandescent bulbs in terms of their working time expectancy.

Some other light options for stairway


These lights are ideal to add an accent to every stair. The installation of these lights is also very simple. A strip of LED light is sticked directly with the stair and upon turning on, the LEDs illuminates the stair to some extent.

How bright are LED strip lights?

Instead of measuring the brightness of 1 led in the strip, the combined brightness all LEDs in 1 foot length of the strip is measured. 1 foot or 12 inches strip of LED provides an illumination of around 400 – 450 lumens.

LED strip lights are of many types like flexible, silicone, rigid strip lights, etc. The flexible led strip lights usually have an adhesive at the back thus can be mounted anywhere. The silicone strip lights are bendable. They can be used to provide accent light to round as well as spherical surfaces.

The other type is the rigid strip light which as the name suggests is not bendable.

Since stairs have a straight shape, any type of led strip light can be used to provide lighting to steps. The most widely used, however, is the flexible led strip light.


These lights are great options to illuminate outdoor stairs. A recessed light is installed within the wall near the stair and thus illuminates the step. Every step requires an individual Light unit hence it is preferred only at those places where stairs are less in number.

A single 3 watt recessed stair light can provide illumination of around 300 – 400 lumens over the stairs. If used indoors they can make the steps look too bright hence they are ideal for outdoor use only.

Show 45 Comments


  1. Good day I am so glad I found your blog page, I really found you by accident, while
    I was researching on Bing for something else, Nonetheless I
    am here now and would just like to say thanks for a marvelous post and a all round
    thrilling blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have
    time to read through it all at the minute but I have saved it and also added your RSS feeds, so when I have
    time I will be back to read a great deal more, Please do keep up
    the fantastic job.

  2. Hello I am so thrilled I found your weblog, I really found you by
    accident, while I was researching on Digg for something else, Anyhow I am here now and would
    just like to say thanks a lot for a fantastic post and a all round enjoyable blog (I also love
    the theme/design), I don’t have time to go through it all
    at the moment but I have saved it and also added your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will be
    back to read more, Please do keep up the great job.

    • arsh

      Thank you Henry. Iam very happy that you found our content useful. It is really motivating when we can be helpful for someone.

  3. Hello, I would like to subscribe for this website to obtain latest updates, therefore where can i do it please help.

    • arsh

      Hi Stacey. Iam thrilled that you liked our site. . For the updates we’ll soon add a widget for you to opt in. When it’ll be ready we’ll let you know .

  4. Hey I am so glad I found your website, I really found
    you by error, while I was researching on Aol for something else,
    Anyways I am here now and would just like to say many
    thanks for a tremendous post and a all round entertaining blog
    (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to
    look over it all at the minute but I have saved it and also included your RSS feeds,
    so when I have time I will be back to read much more, Please do keep up the great jo.

  5. You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter
    to be actually something that I think I would never understand.
    It seems too complex and very broad for me. I’m looking forward for
    your next post, I will try to get the hang of it!

  6. Wow, marvelous blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?
    you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is magnificent, let alone
    the content!

  7. Hi, in the process of building and have a turned stairwell. The builder has placed 1 recess light at the ceiling. It is off center, really close to the back wall. It does not illuminate
    both sets of stairs only the top set of stairs. I have tried to find building code for my state Kentucky. What is your opinion and where can I find code? I don’t think the light is in proper placement. Thanks

    • arsh

      Hi Carol. Thankyou for your coment. As you said your stairwell is not illuminated properly, only some part of it receives light. This problem can be solved very easily.
      Here are 2 methods you can consider:

      1. Using a chandelier if there is empty area around stairwell. so if the light source is placed at ceiling the hanging part of it can illuminate the middle parts of your stairwell without any problem.

      2.Replacing the already present recessed light with a big flush mount light fixture so even if it sets off-center it will still be powerful enough to illuminate stairwell.

      the lighting tips for stairs are explained mainly in these codes R303.7, R311.7.9, R303.8. you can simply google them to find them. you don’t need specific regional codes as regional codes matters only when there are marked differences in the daylight received by that area. as long as your area receives enough daylight general codes works just fine.
      As per these codes for your ease this is what is important to know : Each stair should receive an illumination of 12 lumens. Other than this placement of Switch is explained and some other stuff.

      if none of these methods are applicable for your stairwell, then just install a light source directly up where there is no light just make sure that, while going up or down, it sould not cause glares.

      You can ask again if this didn’t helped.

    • arsh

      Don’t worry, the basic idea behind illuminating the stair landing is that each stair should be receiving a minimum illumination of 12 lumens.
      From an aesthetic point of view, a hanging light fixture, works whereas a flush mount light fixture also looks elegant and does the job like a champ.

  8. Hello superb blog! Does running a blog such as this require a large amount of work?
    I have no knowledge of coding however I was hoping to
    start my own blog soon. Anyway, if you have any
    ideas or techniques for new blog owners please share.
    I know this is off subject however I simply wanted to
    ask. Thank you!

    • arsh

      Hi Colette. Thanks for your coment. Blogging something that you enjoy working on is not hard. Likewise blogging on a topic you don’t like would feel hard and you won’t get anything done.
      But blogging only means something if people visit your site. You can blog but you need to learn SEO. Don’t think YouTube is the place to learn SEO. Except for one channel all other channels are misleadings, they will ruin your site. There is only channel that teaches you how to blog. I also found them iam sure you’ll also.
      Good luck!

  9. Now I am going away to do my breakfast, when having my breakfast coming
    yet again to read additional news.

  10. My brother recommended I might like this website. He was totally right.

    This post truly made my day. You can not imagine simply how
    much time I had spent for this information! Thanks!

  11. Hey there, I think your site might be having browser compatibility issues.
    When I look at your website in Safari, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping.
    I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that,
    amazing blog!

    • arsh

      Hi Maple. Thankyou for visiting my site and comenting. I loved that you comented. I would definitely check upon the viewports.

  12. I seriously love your blog.. Very nice colors & theme.
    Did you make this web site yourself? Please reply back as I’m looking to create
    my own personal website and would love to learn where you got
    this from or just what the theme is called. Appreciate

    • arsh

      Hi there! Thanks a lot for your comment. I didn’t wrote the code rather I simply used a theme called sinarta for this website. It’s an excellent theme, it’s superfast, it’s elegant and it offers a lot of customizations. The theme itself is not set already you need to download the demo site from the theme. Then customize that demo site.

  13. I want to to thank you for this excellent read!! I absolutely loved every little bit of it.
    I have got you book-marked to check out new things you

  14. Hello! Do you know if they make any plugins
    to protect against hackers? I’m kinda paranoid about
    losing everything I’ve worked hard on. Any suggestions?

  15. Deb

    Piece of writing writing is also a excitement, if you be acquainted with afterward
    you can write or else it is difficult to write.

  16. I really like reading through a post that will make people think.
    Also, thank you for allowing me to comment!

  17. Greetings from Colorado! I’m bored to tears at work so I decided to
    browse your site on my iphone during lunch break.
    I really like the information you present here and can’t
    wait to take a look when I get home. I’m surprised at how quick your blog loaded on my phone ..
    I’m not even using WIFI, just 3G .. Anyways, amazing site!

  18. It’s great that you are getting thoughts from this article as well as
    from our discussion made at this place.

  19. It’s perfect time to make a few plans for the longer term and it’s time to be happy.
    I’ve learn this submit and if I may I want to suggest you some interesting issues or suggestions.
    Maybe you could write next articles relating to this article.
    I wish to learn more things about it!

  20. Greetings! I’ve been following your weblog for a long time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead
    and give you a shout out from Lubbock Texas!
    Just wanted to say keep up the great job!

  21. Today, I went to the beachfront with my children. I found a sea shell and gave
    it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She put the shell to her ear and screamed.

    There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear.
    She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is totally off topic but I had to tell

  22. Thanks for finally writing about > Proper placement &
    sizing of lighting over stairs. (COMPLETE GUIDE) < Liked it!

  23. whoah this blog is magnificent i like reading your posts. Keep up the
    great work! You know, lots of people are searching round for this info, you can aid them

  24. Guy

    Hello! I know this is kind of off topic but I was
    wondering if you knew where I could locate a captcha plugin for my comment form?
    I’m using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having problems finding one?
    Thanks a lot!

    • arsh

      It’s built in in most of free coment or feedback forms.

  25. Wow that was odd. I just wrote an incredibly long comment but after I
    clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr…
    well I’m not writing all that over again. Regardless, just wanted to say wonderful blog!

    • arsh

      Hmm! That’s interesting. Iam hearing that problem first time from you. I apologise for that. I’ll check that deeply. Regardless thankyou for visiting my site.
      You guys visiting ans comenting on articles is just awesome and an incredible motivation for me to bring more cool content.

  26. I relish, result in I found exactly what I used to be having a look for.
    You have ended my four day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man.
    Have a nice day. Bye

  27. Wow, this article is fastidious, my sister is analyzing such things, thus I am going to tell her.

  28. I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you make
    this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it for you?
    Plz answer back as I’m looking to construct
    my own blog and would like to find out where u got this from.

    many thanks

    • arsh

      hi lela! Thankyou for visiting my site. The theme I use is sinarta theme. It’s excellent for blogging. It also has a template in which everything is already arranged. Theme is highly customisable and is free.
      Give it a try.

  29. It is truly a nice and useful piece of info.
    I’m happy that you just shared this useful info with
    us. Please stay us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

  30. joanne

    Hi there,

    I agree with everyone, this is a great way to explain this tricky information however I am having a hard time understanding why a 13′ ceiling would have a 72″ chandlier while a 20′ ceiling only 60″? Can you please explain this?

    Thank you

    • arsh

      Hi Joanne. Thankyou for writing to me.
      I will try to answer why 13 ft ceiling has 72′ Chandelier.

      When you size a Chandelier near stairs, the height of ceiling is a critical factor to consider. TO simplify we assume that there are two types of ceilings.
      1.There is an average height ceiling and
      2. There is a tall ceiling bigger than average.
      Now this bigger than average for stairs fits best above a height of 13 ft.
      For any ceiling height less than 13 ft or equal to 13 ft the rules for sizing is different and for taller ceiling the same rule cannot be applied hence its rules has to be different.

      I must add that rules are just one of the factors while sizing a Chandelier for stairs. The design of staircase can also determine what size the chandelier should be.

      The most important factor above all however is the taste of owner. If owner is satisfied by a particular size chandelier, then she/he many skip all the rules.

      Just keep in mind that the minimal proportions should be maintained.i.e the size should be such that it does not feel tight or compressed or forcefully placed.

      I hope i cleared to some extent what you wanted to ask.
      If not then please thoroughly read the article I have explained everything in it.

      Have a great day !

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *