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  • This backyard deck was illuminated with step lights and downlighting in dark areas.
  • Deck lighting is important both for safety and ambience. This project used stair riser lights and post cap lights.
  • LED lights that slip under a post cap are a simple way of lighting for ambience. Here, TimberTech’s DeckLites product is used with their RadianceRail.
  • This large deck has lighting incorporated into its railing as well as in the tree which grows up through the center.

Lighting shouldn’t be an afterthought for your deck, because your deck is one of the most commonly used areas of your landscape. Decks act as entertaining areas, access pathways, outdoor cooking areas, and can even surround a hot tub or swimming pool, so if you’d like to use any of these amenities in the evening, deck lighting is a must.

Where to Install Lighting

There are number of ways of incorporating lighting into your deck. Start by thinking about where you need lighting for practical reasons, such as near stairs or the grill, then consider adding landscape lighting for ambience near seating areas or planters.

  • Pro Tip: All of the major composite decking manufacturers have a lighting line that goes with their product. TimberTech’s DeckLites work with their decking and RadianceRail railing, while AZEK and Trex both have their own lines. Baron Biedenweg of Archadeck of Fort Wayne in Ft. Wayne, IN recommends choosing the line that goes with the brand of decking you use for a seamless fit.

Deck Lighting Technique

Deck Lighting Technique (PDF)

Louvered deck lights installed near steps or on posts will increase safety and ambiance.

On the house

— One of the primary ways most people light their deck is by lighting the house. Consider using the same light fixtures found elsewhere on your home for design continuity.

Stair risers

— “If stairs are away from the house, stair riser lights are very good idea for safety,” says Baron Biedenweg of Archadeck of Fort Wayne in Ft. Wayne, IN. Stair riser lights cast just the right amount of light to where you can easily traverse your stairs even while carrying appetizers or cocktails out to your friends.

Post caps

— LED lights that slip under a post cap are the most common way of incorporating lighting into your deck. These are easy to install and provide a warm ambience for entertaining. The only drawback is that if you’re sitting on patio chairs, these lights can sometimes be at eye level, which distracts from a sunset view of your landscape.

Post accent lights

— If a post cap light would be at the wrong height, you might consider using accent lighting on the side of your post. “We’ll often surface-mount a post light 18 inches above the deck, rather than 36 inches up,” says Biedenweg. Because this type of accent light casts a soft glow downward, there’s no chance of it shining in your eyes.

Recessed lights on deck

— Recessed lighting mounts flush with the surface of your deck. This can be useful on large decks on which you’d like to entertain.

Under-rail light

— Biedenweg also suggests using lighting under the handrails. This casts a subtle downward glow in between the balusters, and the light fixture itself is hidden underneath the rail.

  • Pro Tip: Keep deck lighting low key - a few louvered lights on the side of a post or face of a step gives gentle lighting for ambience. -- Matt Barton of Copper Creek Landscaping, Inc. in Mead, WA

Cost of Landscape Lighting

Deck lighting can add $500-$2000 or more for a complete system. “A large part of that is the initial cost of buying the transformer,” says Biedenweg. If you already have landscape lighting elsewhere, adding lighting to your deck may be a simple matter of installing additional fixtures and wiring.

Other features to consider adding are a dimmer to adjust light intensity, or a photocell to work with the timer so your lighting comes on when it gets dark and shuts off late at night.

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