Master Class: All About Decorative Outdoor Lighting


On Wednesday, May 1, Dering Hall was joined by Paul Verbecky, General Manager at Hammerton, who presented a special Dering Hall Master Class for designers. In this informative session about decorative outdoor lighting, Paul discusses basic tips, best practices, and practical advice on installing decorative outdoor fixtures for style, performance, and longevity.

About Paul Verbecky
Paul Verbecky is General Manager of the custom products division of Hammerton Lighting. During his 10-year tenure, Paul has been intimately involved in the design, quotation and manufacturing of hundreds of custom products. He has also been instrumental in developing industry-leading materials and fabrication methods, including Hammerton’s adoption of AAMA-certified finish processes for outdoor lighting. Paul has a degree in Construction Management and is currently working toward his LEED accreditation.

The Masterclass, which can be viewed above, covered the following topics:

Common misconceptions with outdoor lighting

Paul describes common misconceptions regarding outdoor lighting such as:

“Just weld the seams, protect the electrical, and  use a good quality paint”

“The best materials make the best products”

“Any powder coat works just fine”

“Doesn’t matter if my outdoor fixtures fail because they carry a lifetime warranty”

In reality, you need to be very careful with the type of materials and powder coats you are using with your fixtures. Of course you need a good quality paint, but what constitutes “good quality” when it comes to outdoor fixtures? And what are the “best materials” for outdoor fixtures, really? It may surprise you to learn that not all powder coats are created equally. The powder coat industry has evolved remarkably over the past several years, but only a few types of powder are really appropriate for most outdoor lighting applications. And no powder will stand up to harsh climate conditions without pretreatment.

Location: where will you be installing the fixtures?

Consider both the prevailing climate conditions and the degree of exposure that fixtures will be subjected to in their installation site. When determining the right materials and finishes for your outdoor lighting project, consider the following:

  • Damp vs. wet location - Make sure you are aware of the differences between damp and wet locations. Damp location means the fixture is covered by the roof line, so it’s not likely rain will fall directly on top of the fixture. Wet location means the fixture will definitely be directly affected by rain, snow, and other elements.

  • UV exposure - Will the fixtures be directly exposed to sunlight? If so, you need to ensure your fixtures can withstand UV rays so they don’t deteriorate quickly.

  • Presence of corrosive elements - Will fixtures be exposed to salty air (coastal/tropical), pollution (urban), volcanic ash (Hawaii), humidity, or frost? Don’t overlook the presence of pollution in urban areas, or volcanic ash in places like Hawaii. They both can do serious damage to outdoor fixtures in very little time. Probably the biggest issue that’s overlooked in this department, though, is humidity or frost. When water molecules are carried in the air, they can get into seams and cracks that finish paints or powders can miss.

Powder Coat Finishes

Powder coating is a dry powder application made primarily of resin and pigment. Powder coats are vastly superior to wet coat paints for the following reasons: More complete coverage & faster cure times

  • Harder and  more durable – won’t scratch or chip

  • Great aesthetics – lots of color and gloss options

  • Tighter quality control – easier to apply uniformly

  • Environmentally compliant – no solvents, minimal waste

Paul suggests that you look for AAMA certified powders, as all powders are not created equally. Look for AAMA 2604 or AAMA 2605 when choosing a powder coat. Here is a breakdown of the performance standards for these finishes:

  • AAMA 2603: [GOOD] - Standard durable polyester binder, best for interior applications

  • AAMA 2604: [BETTER] - Super durable or modified polyester resins provide good resistance to wear, lots of color options

  • AAMA 2605: [BEST] - High performance exterior specification, limited color options

Second Line of Defense: Pretreatment

Surface pretreatment is a requirement for outdoor applications. Pretreatment provides an added measure of protection against corrosion by passivating the metal, sealing microscopic voids where moisture accumulates, and improves adhesion of the finish powder. This is a multi-step process that involves either sandblasting or rinsing and immersing or spraying metal surfaces with various chemical solutions (e.g. chromate, zinc, phosphate rinses, etc). Pretreatment is a mandatory requirement for AAMA 2604 & AAMA 2605 certification.

Third Line of Defense: Design & Materials

Even with the best powders and pretreatment processes, you can still get rust or chalky powder. Paul recommends that you stick with corrosion-resistant metals such as aluminum, brass, copper or bronze. Remember: overlapping layers of metal and sharp corners can cause corrosion prone areas – all structural components should be separately pretreated and finished before the fixture is assembled.

The Aluminum Advantage in Outdoor Lighting Applications

Aluminum is a remarkably versatile material for outdoor lighting applications – and it’s plentiful. Aluminum comprises 8% of the Earth’s crust and is the Earth’s third most prevalent element after oxygen and silicon. It’s relatively cheap and widely available in a myriad of formats.

Similar to steel, it’s easily machined and formed, it offers endless shape options and is remarkably strong and durable – a high strength-to-weight ratio means that you can use less material to achieve the same structural strength in comparison to other materials.

Of course unlike steel, aluminum is naturally corrosion resistant – which is an outdoor requirement. Finally, aluminum is sustainable – it’s 100% recyclable, with minimal energy used in the recycling process. In fact, 75% of all aluminum produced is still in use! And the embodied energy used in manufacturing aluminum is leveraged over a very long service life.

Don’t Rely on the Manufacturer Warranty

Manufacturers will typically honor their warranty by replacing a damaged fixture, but won’t pay for the majority of the expense. This means that you will have to take on the headache associated with getting your replacement, including: uninstalling the damaged fixture(s), packing and return shipment of damaged fixture, installing the new fixture(s), and all electrical rewiring. Imagine this hassle on a big outdoor job – avoid this at all costs!

Dering Hall would like to extend a huge thank you to Paul Verbecky and Hammerton for participating in this informative and engaging Masterclass. For more information on Hammerton, please be sure to check out the following:
Hammerton Outdoor Finish Process

Erin Gilbert