How to create the perfect deck lighting plan
Whether you’re dining al fresco, hosting a get-together with friends, or sharing a quiet moment with someone special, there’s nothing quite like a warm summer night on the deck. To keep the fun going well into the night, the right lighting is essential. Today, composite decking manufacturers such as Fiberon offer a wide range of lighting products -- everything from safety lighting to ambient lighting to accessories and more. Here are some tips to help you select the ideal components for your personal outdoor paradise.
Deck lighting 101: Begin with the basics
- Unlike the lighting in your home, most deck and landscaping lighting is low voltage. Low-voltage systems use a transformer to convert standard 120-volt household current into 12-volt current. While an electrician can install a transformer, most homeowners opt for models that simply plug into weather-safe outdoor outlets. Transformers are available to support different wattage-levels of output (36 watts versus 60 watts, for example).
- For safety’s sake, as well as to ensure the amount of power is sufficient for your lighting plan, it is important that you select an appropriately-sized transformer. Some simple calculations are all it takes to make that determination. (Fiberon includes this easy-to-use chart with its lighting installation instructions.)
- Ideally, you should add lighting during your deck and/or railing installation. If you’re not really sure what kind of lighting you will need or want, ask your builder to pre-wire your deck and railing. Then, once you’ve made your decisions, installation will be faster and easier.
- While it is possible to retrofit deck and rail lighting, it’s not an easy thing to do. An installer must be able to access the area beneath the deck as well as run wires up through the rail posts. For many deck designs, that access isn’t readily available post-construction.
- Durability is another important consideration with outdoor lighting. Look for rust-free aluminum with a powder-coated finish (or an equally durable material that is rust- and fade-resistant) that can withstand the elements. LED bulbs are energy efficient; use them wherever possible.
- Most pros recommend using the lighting products specifically designed for your decking and railing. Fiberon offers lighting in colors and styles that complement its Symmetry, Horizon, and Good Life railing products as well as all Fiberon composite decking lines.
- There are three main categories of lighting to consider: safety; ambient; and task. Here is some need-to-know information for each kind.
Safety lighting is essential for any outdoor space
Before your guests can enjoy your deck, they need to reach it – safely. One of the simplest, most cost-effective options for walkway lighting is solar-powered lights. They are available almost anywhere -- from big box home improvement stores to designer lighting showrooms -- and come in a variety of colors, styles, and finishes. Simply place the lights where you want them (no wiring necessary) and let Mother Nature do the rest. Adding or moving the lights is easy, too. The one drawback: regular sunlight is needed to ensure the lights will shine brightly at night. If your property is shaded for most or all of the day, that might impact the effectiveness of the lights.
Once your guests have reached your deck, ensure they can safely navigate their way up and around the space. To ensure safe footing on stairs and other areas of your deck, Fiberon offers riser lights and accent lights.
Riser lights are installed flush against (you guessed it) stair risers to ensure safe passage up and down. Fiberon riser lights are available in four popular colors (white, black, dark walnut, and bronze) to complement Fiberon decking. Designed to fit a 1-1/2 inch x 4 inch rectangular cutout, these lights feature a translucent acrylic lens that measures 1-1/8 inches x 3 inches and uses a single-watt LED bulb.
Accent lights are multitaskers. They install flush with deck boards to highlight different levels of a deck or your deck’s edges (a smart idea if the space doesn’t include railing). They may also be used in place of rectangular riser lights. Each Fiberon accent light measures one inch in diameter and uses less than one-half watt of electricity. They are available in white, black, dark walnut, and bronze.
Ambient lighting creates the perfect mood
For general deck illumination, many homeowners rely on lighting mounted on the back of their homes. This is rarely the optimal solution. Often the lights fail to provide illumination where it is needed most, or are too harsh or bright (a wall-mounted floodlight, for example, is hardly conducive to quiet moments). For ambient lighting, Fiberon has two outstanding solutions: post cap lights and post sleeve lights.
Post cap lights
Post cap lights fit on rail post sleeves and feature a ring, or collar, of light built into the cap. A translucent acrylic lens shines a soft light that consumes only one watt of electricity, making it incredibly efficient and inexpensive to run. Fiberon post caps work with Horizon Railing and are available in white, black, walnut, and bronze. Add them to every rail post or mix with unlit caps as desired.
Post sleeve lights
Post sleeve lights are mounted directly on the rail posts. These “eyeball-shaped” lights are 3-1/2 inches in diameter and shine directly down the post, casting a warm, pleasing glow onto the deck surface. Use post sleeve lights to highlight specific areas (a conversation nook, for example), provide additional lighting, or as a substitute for post cap lights. (In some instances, post cap lights can be at eye level when guests are seated, making it difficult for see beyond the railing.) Designed to complement Horizon Railing, Fiberon post sleeve lights are available in white, black, walnut, and bronze, and consume a single watt of electricity each.
Task and other lighting
You may want to consider lighting near the grill or bar area, if applicable. For a covered space, consider using strings of lights or adding a light/fan combination (this may be a project for an electrician unless you’re an experienced DIYer). If your grill sits on an open deck, check out the many auxiliary lighting options available wherever grills are sold.
Candles are always nice on a dining table. For safety’s sake, NEVER leave candles unattended. Use a lantern or similar candle holder to prevent accidents and provide protection against evening breezes. You may wish to opt for the popular (and realistic-looking) battery-operated candles as a safer alternative to burning candles. You can find beautiful options at any home goods store or online retailer.
Lighting accessories ensure not a watt is wasted
With great lighting options come smart accessories. That’s why Fiberon offers a photoelectric timer and DC remote dimmer to enable complete lighting control, day and night.
The photoelectric timer features a light-sensing photocell that will automatically turn deck lighting on and off. You can program the lights to run from dusk to dawn or to run from one to eight hours per day.
The DC remote dimmer works in a similar fashion to indoor dimmers. The device plugs into the transformer and comes with a convenient on/off/dimmer fob. When you purchase Fiberon lighting products, you will need the dimmer if your lights are not connected to the photoelectric timer, or are not connected to a transformer with a switch-operated outlet.
Deck lighting increases safety, extends "use-ability"
Whether you are planning a new deck or revamping an existing one, give careful consideration to lighting design. It really does extend the “use-ability” of your outdoor space, as well as provide added safety. What’s more, many communities and home owners associations (HOAs) now require lighting for areas such as staircases. As with any home improvement project, familiarize yourself with local building codes and HOA requirements, if applicable, before beginning your project.
And of course, if you need a little inspiration to get the design wheels turning, check out our Product Gallery for fabulous decking and lighting ideas.