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OUTDOORS: Light Up Your Deck

Gone are the days when outdoor lighting consisted of one blaring backdoor porch light to illuminate the

path as you took out the trash. The times they are a-changin’, and today, professional mood lighting is

affordable, easily installed, and adds value to your home. What’s more, the choice is immense.


Deck lighting should be a central part of deck design. Properly planned, lighting allows you to safely

enjoy outdoor living and entertaining late into the night, when the aesthetically-lit deck takes on a

special charm and atmosphere. Lighting can transform the deck experience; it is also essential for

illuminating stairs, walkways, and cooking areas.


Most outdoor lighting is low voltage, running on a 12-volt system rather than the 120-volt household

electrical current. This makes installation safe and easy, and keeps the energy bills low.

But subtlety is the name of the game. Be aware that you must position the lights properly, and the

fixture you choose must be appropriate for the lighting purpose — otherwise, critical areas like stairs

can be shadowed over or, conversely, you and your guests may be blinded by glare. In addition,

electrical wires must be properly secured or embedded in the deck design, so that children or elderly

parents do not trip on them.


Solar-powered lighting can be a good solution for some areas of the deck if you live in a part of the

country that enjoys high levels of sunshine, as this type of lighting must charge up with energy from the

sun during the daytime. The good part about solar lighting is that it’s environment-friendly, low cost,

and doesn’t require any wiring; the downside is that once the solar battery goes flat, the light switches



Whether you are building a new deck, or refurbishing an existing one, talk to your contractor about a

lighting plan. If you are thinking of upgrading the deck lighting yourself, you should get professional

advice before you start — creating a lighting plan for a deck that is both stylish and safe is not as easy

as it may seem. Different parts of the deck call for different lighting solutions, and although today’s 12-

volt systems can be installed by any homeowner, the enormous choice of fixtures and lighting options

means that experience, and a certain amount of expertise, are necessary to achieve the right look for

your property while still maintaining safety.

Deck lighting styles fall into three main categories, and a good deck lighting plan will use a combination

of these three types to illuminate critical areas of the deck, create mood and atmosphere and, most

importantly, make potentially hazardous areas safe. All three categories are low voltage and energy



Post Lighting — These fixtures are installed on the deck’s posts and railings. They use downlighting, (that

is, the beam of light shines downwards), to cast as much light as possible over critical areas, like stairs

and steps.


Accent Lighting — Uses downlighting to create mood and lighting interest by illuminating the main areas

of the deck. Accent lights come in a huge variety of shapes and styles (for example, bowing buttercups,

exotic mushrooms, or antique lanterns), and can be affixed to posts and railings, or the side of your

house. Let your imagination run wild!


Recessed Lighting — This type of lighting is installed in the floor of the deck. You can walk on recessed

lights without damaging them. They come in circular or brick shapes, and are usually small and low

voltage, or solar powered. Use recessed lights to delineate the perimeter of the deck and the edge of

the steps and stairway.