Deck Lighting

Install deck lights to banish the darkness and create a safe, strikingly stylish structure that functions beautifully from dusk to dawn.


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Thoughtfully chosen and properly placed deck lights provide bright spots in the landscape while performing a number of tasks that make outdoor living truly great. Recessed into stair treads and risers, crowning posts, defining access points, and positioned on rails, deck lights guide folks safely up steps, signal elevation changes, define perimeters, illuminate entertaining areas, and wash neighboring plantings in soft light. Happily, deck lights are affordable, readily available, and easily installed, but their selection requires thoughtful planning. Here's what you need to know to when buying and installing deck lights.

Make a Lighting Plan

Sold as sets or as individual components, there's a deck light for every section of a deck. The lights fall into two categories: low-voltage and solar power.

Low-voltage (12-v) lights equipped with LED or incandescent bulbs are powered by a transformer plugged into an electric outlet. You will need to router channels in stair posts and rails' undersides to accommodate the lights' connecting wires. Do a little online research to get a feel for which lights fit your budget and devise a lighting plan. Light sizes vary so make sure you measure your deck's post caps, rails, steps, and risers and keep the measurements handy when planning and shopping. Draw a scale sketch of your deck complete with steps, rails, and posts; mark the location of the electrical outlet you will use and where you want to place lights. Draw a line between the lights to determine how the wires will run. Add up the wattage of the marked lights to make sure you choose a transformer with enough power to operate the lighting system.  

Solar lights are equipped with batteries and cells powered by the sun. Needing no electricity or wiring, they are eco-friendly options that can oftentimes be installed with just heavy-duty adhesive or screws. Since they radiate light rather than brightly shine, they make good accent lights, but, like low-voltage versions, are offered as stair, post cap, and rail fixtures.

Shine a Style-Apt Light

Take time to peruse the wide array of deck light styles and select the one that best reflects your decorating preferences and your home's architectural style. Referencing classic, transitional, and modern designs, deck lights are available in a range of materials and finishes, including white and black plastic, aluminum, copper, black iron, bronze, stainless and brushed steel, painted, and wood. If you like an understated look, choose lights with matte or weathered patinas, flat-to-low profiles, and streamlined silhouettes. Partial to high-impact lights? Opt for sculptural post-cap lanterns, ball-shape rail lights, or fixtures with colorful or stained glass globes.

Deck lights go a long way when it comes to creating cozy alfresco quarters, but you'll need to layer in other light sources to optimize a deck's after-dark usage. Install spotlights along your roof line and point them at grilling stations, buffet serving areas, and adjacent patios. Plug in outdoor standing and table lamps to illuminate seating and work areas. Utilize roofs or pergolas to support flush-mount ceiling fixtures, pendant lights, crystal-draped chandeliers, or colorful paper lanterns. Wrap white light strings or rope lights around deck railings to generate scintillating shimmer. Make your deck's base part of the light show. Highlight its form with rail-set down lights, ground-level spotlights, and twinkling stair lights recessed across its face.

Pay attention to details, put a thoughtful plan into play, and you'll soon be enjoying a deck that shines a bright (and properly positioned) light at every level.


Tips for Outdoor Living Spaces
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