The UK mainland has approximately 11065 miles of coastline, the furthest place from the coast being the village of Coton in the Elms in Derbyshire – at just 70 miles.
If you are living within 10 miles of the coast on the mainland, or on one of the 6288 other islands making up the British Isles, you need to consider the effect that the sea will have on any outdoor lighting you may be fitting.
Having been born and raised in an English east-coast town, the challenges presented by the elements are all too apparent as one sees the results caused by the corrosive effects of the saline-laden wind on buildings and structures alike.
An area for particular consideration here is the challenge faced when choosing outdoor lighting in coastal areas.
We have seen light fittings corroded away by the salt atmosphere within just 12 months of installation while others are still in good condition after 30 years – once the seagull droppings have been washed off!
If your property or project is in a coastal area (typically within 10 miles of the sea), it is important to make informed choices when it comes to selecting what product or product type is best for you.
The great deal of choice can be overwhelming, however there are some basic considerations that you should consider. Firstly, important base-line requirements for coastal areas are that the fittings should be:
Water resistant, with a rating of IP44 or greater
UV Light resistant
Rust or corrosion resistant
Possibly vandal resistant – depending on location and application
If you are not familiar with IP Ratings, this is a measure of the Ingress Protection of the fitting. A more detailed explanation can be found here.
A particular challenge in coastal areas is results of airborne salt. Sea spray, particularly in rough conditions, gets whipped up and can be carried far inland by the wind. This saline-rich, damp air has an intensely corrosive effect due to the high levels of chloride, which is one of the most harmful aggressors of metals. Therefore, common cast iron, lightly coated steel and aluminium light fittings are quickly ruined and can even become dangerous when attacked by it.
What are my options?
The good news is that there are many options; it’s just about choosing the right one for you. In this blog, we cover off the various material types – both metal and non-metal – and some of their key features, benefits and disadvantages to be aware of.
Stainless steel is often loosely quoted and widely used to imply corrosion resistance in light fittings. If corrosion-resistance is important to you, be sure to check what grade of stainless steel is being used, as not all grades are up to the job. 316 Grade stainless steel is better at resisting corrosion from salt than 304 Grade, and fittings made from this are the better choice for coastal areas if you can afford them. You will find many stainless products in mainstream hardware stores such as B&Q and Wickes, however, be sure to check that they are made from 316 Grade Stainless (it will usually be clearly labelled on the product as a selling point). If this is not explicitly stated, the fittings are probably not 316 Grade and will suffer from corrosion and pitting in coastal areas.
Brass is a great material and has been used for centuries in seagoing vessels and harsh coastal environments. It is corrosion resistant and very durable, however be aware that it will patinate over time and turn a much darker colour compared to the shiny new fitting – unless you are a diligent polisher! Some great examples of brass products can be found at Astro Lighting, with some attractive designs and great options to choose from. Just make sure you read the care instructions and note they will generally only come with a 10-year warranty.
Copper is also a good option. It is not as durable as brass or 316 stainless steel and will also tarnish over time, similar to brass, however there are some stunning solid copper products out there. Just be warned, you will need deep pockets; take, for example, the Norlys Chelsea range.
This is often used in outdoor lighting and is attractive due to its lower cost and initial appearance; however, unless it has been properly treated, it will corrode quickly in salty air, and you will likely be disappointed. That said, there is one recommendable range of aluminium fittings which is an exception to this, manufactured by Noral from 99.9% pure aluminium. Thanks to their 7-step surface treatment and powder coating process, they come with a 20-year warranty. Unsurprisingly, this quality is reflected in the price bracket, but if you can afford them, you will not be disappointed.
Moving on from Metals, to Composite and Plastic-based products, you enter an arena of more affordable yet timeless products, with some stunning guarantees.
A newer composition of materials, EPMM is becoming more popular due to its UV-stable and corrosion-resistant properties. It is made up of ground marble powder, latex and bonded together with ATP adhesive. This is the material that the popular stylish Elstead lighting use for their Bedford range of Coastal lighting.
Resin is an all-time favourite, and similar to EPMM, it is also corrosion-resistant and UV stable. What’s more, resin light fittings made will typically have an impressive lifetime guarantee against corrosion and are very strong and durable. Fumagalli are one of a very few companies who make their range of light fittings using Resin, for example the timeless designs of their Classic and Modern ranges. True to form, Fumagalli fittings are widely known for their strength and robustness even in harsh conditions, backed up by impact-resistant properties and a lifetime guarantee against corrosion.
Polymers and Polycarbonate
Light fittings are also available in a variety of plastic polymers, polycarbonate, and similar products under the generic ‘plastic’ umbrella. These will generally be at the cheapest end of the spectrum, and while being reasonably durable, they often lack the quality of fittings from the more resilient materials listed above. They do, however, fill the gap where price is the sole or all-important consideration.
The list wouldn’t be complete without reference to wooden fittings. Although not widely used, there are ranges on the market incorporating the above materials into wooden fittings. Done well, these can produce attractive results, clearly reflected in the price you have to pay.
LED Light source.
While not the subject of this blog, with the drive towards energy efficiency, be sure to select fittings that use LED light sources. Choose products that you can readily obtain replacement LEDs for, rather than ones that must be discarded if the LED fails.
So finally, a word of advice before you go rushing out to buy your lights for that new patio, renovation, building project or outdoor recreation area: Carefully consider the ongoing maintenance of the fittings you choose, and the light source incorporated into the fittings.