Choose a place for your sundial

One can install a sundial anywhere, as long as it receives some light from the sun during a part of the day. The majority of people think that only a wall oriented south (or north in the southern hemisphere) can receive a sundial, but you should not restrict your choice to that. On the contrary, the most original dials (regardless of their decoration) are almost always oriented between the cardinal points, and sometimes they are not vertical. So, should you be planning to buy a sundial in a garden shop or to ask a sundial maker to build it for you, or even to do it yourself, take a moment to think of the best place where to install it.

Parameters to consider

A serious preparation and a good understanding of risks and will garantee the success of your project and the longevity of your sundial. You may consider the following parameters before choosing a place and starting your project:

  • Duration of the daily illumination during the year
  • Visibility from the garden or the street
  • Exposure to bad weather: wind, heavy rain, ice rain...
  • Accessibility for the sundial installation, especially if it is heavy
  • Risk that plants of bushes may obscure the sundial, or that trees may cast shadow on the sundial
  • Risk of deliberate defacement of robbery
  • Risk of injury to people caused by the style (especially with the metal style of a horizontal or equatorial sundial)
Sundial being threaten by vegetation  Sundial defaced by graffitis 

Of course, if you already bought a sundial, you have to install it according to its due orientation, which depends on its type. Do not install a horizontal sundial on a wall as it is sometimes seen!

Now let's review possible places where you may install a sundial. Let your imagination and boldness guide you and discover that it is possible to do much more than a simple vertical due south dial.

In the garden

  • A horizontal sundial (or polar or equatorial) can be placed on a small column at the junction of two paths. The column should not exceed 1.2 meters in height to allow a good visibility of the shadow.
  • A meridian dial can decorate a pillar or a tree facing south (north in southern hemisphere) in a place lit around midday all the year.
  • An armillary sphere, a kind of equatorial dial drawn on arches, can replace a sculpture in the middle of the garden. Its equatorial belt can be nicely decorated.
  • On one (or both) of the pillars of the entry gate. The dial offers the time to the passers-by and reminds them that the landowner is a sundial lover.
  • A staircase, with its stone or concrete handrail, can receive a declining and inclining sundial, a supreme luxury as it is rare and difficult to design (except with the help of Shadows!
  • A gnomonic block with a different sundial on each face of a polyhedron, to express your skills in geometry.
Armillary sphere in Oxford  Horizontal sundial in Villers le Lac (France)

Cadran vertical déclinant de Ray-sur-Saône

On the front of a house

  • A wall facing the south (north) will be adequate for a vertical direct south (north) dial. If the wall is slightly declining, you can still orient the face of the dial directly south (north) using shimps.
  • A wall facing east (exactly or declining between 80° and 100°) or facing west, is an excellent place for a nice direct east, a direct west or a vertical declining sundial. These dials are lit only during the morning or the evening. Their drawing is somewhat Spartan, so they are often richly decorated and have a motto adapted to the rising or setting of the sun.
  • A wall declining between from 20° to 70° towards east or west offers more possibilities. The hour lines in this case are already a nice decoration on their own.
  • A wall facing the pole? A direct north (south) sundial, lit for only a few moments in the day (and almost never during the winter) would be an interesting object with an eccentric decoration and an incisive motto.
  • Above the entrance door of the house, so that visitors can see the dial and its motto which affirms the hospitality of the occupants of the house.

Inside the house!

  • Facing a picture window, under a bow window, in a corridor facing the east and lit at the sunrise anywhere inside the house, where the sun enters and shines directly the dial in the room. In this case, the sundial could be made from a more delicate and precious material than an external dial.
  • On the ceiling, a reflection sundial with a mirror to send the sunlight upwards. In this case, the lines must be reversed, but the originality is guaranteed!
  • A collection of small portable sundials, a diptych sundial in precious wood with its two folding pannels, a pocket shepherd's dial, all displayed on a sideboard or in a glass case.
Diptych sundial in wood  Multiple sundial  Shepherd's dial


  • On the wall of the local school. It is a good opportunity to set up an educational project with the pupils, teachers and parents. Concepts of celestial mechanics, astronomy, calendars and time become relevant topics. Workshops covering topics from the design to the installation can be planed. And why not have an official opening with an inaugural speech by the mayor or the headmaster?
  • A large Analemmatic sundial on the ground of a school or in a parc; children will play around and challenge their curiosity with this curious elliptic setup.
  • At the house of associations, on the city hall, on the church tower, on a square in the middle of a village... Do not hesitate to propose a project to your mayor, he will surely be interested.

Analematic sundial in Bussiere-sur-Ouche (France)  Sundials made by children of a middle school

On the roof of the house!

Why not use the slope of the roof to make a large sundial visible for more than a hundred meters from the house? The style can be installed for the occasion, but you can also use the chimney or an antenna. A polar sundial can be suitable for houses oriented North-South.

At your neighbours' house...

If you talk about sundial around you, you will probably trigger curiosity and questions, and maybe some of your neighbours will ask you to install a sundial for them. Become the expert of your area and inplant the passion of sundials in your friends mind...

In this quest, the Shadows software will be your honnest companion.

Once you will have chosen a place for your sundial, follow the instructions to build your own sundial.

- parameters to consider: vertical sundial in Pin (France, 70), photo FB
- parameters to consider: multiple sundial in Madrid, photo FB
- in the garden: armillary sphere in Oxford, photo FB
- in the garden: horizontal sundial at the Powell observatory, Flagstaff (AZ), photo FB
- on the ront of the house: vertical declining sundial at Ray-sur-Saône (France, 70), photo FB
- inside the house: diptych sundial at the museum of the history of sciences, Oxford, photo FB
- inside the house: mutiple sundial at the Greenwich observatory, photo FB
- inside the house: shepherd's dial, Internet photo
- elsewhere: analemmatic sundial at Bussière-sur-Ouche (France, 21), photo FB
- elsewhere: sundial made by children of a middle school at Banyuls, France