Lighting can extend the use and pleasure of an outdoor deck, increase safety and security and make the space more attractive and inviting. As the sun sets, you can still stay outside and enjoy your deck and company with a well-designed lighting plan that minimizes glare and energy use.
What to Illuminate
Deck lighting can be practical and used for safety purposes, shine on an outdoor dining area, used at different levels–on steps, along railings–and to highlight landscaping, architectural features or a pool, spa or fountain. It can also create a certain mood or atmosphere for special occasions.
Step and deck path lights have a distinct function: to safely illuminate traffic throughout the deck and yard. They also help to enhance the view from indoors at night.
Call an Electrician or DIY?
Unless you have worked with lighting before, it's best to work with an electrician. Most outdoor lighting is low voltage, using 12 volts of electricity. A transformer will be needed to power down the 120-volt current indoors to 12 volts outdoors. But before buying one, you will need to figure out how many outdoor lights will be attached, plus their wattage. A suitable transformer will be able to handle your current wattage needs along with an estimated 25 to 50 more so it isn't operating at full capacity and it will be able to handle more wattage if you add more landscaping lights in the future.
Many modern fixtures use LED bulbs, which are energy and cost efficient. Solar lighting has improved but is usually not strong or reliable enough to provide adequate illumination.
Types of Fixtures
The most popular types of deck lighting and areas to illuminate include:
- Steps: The best fixtures include surface mounts, flush mounts, path lights, and weatherproof LED strip lights.
- Well, Spot or Uplights: These can illuminate paths, create drama by highlighting plant forms, etc.
- Downlights: Designed to be anchored to walls, eaves, patio roofs, or trees.
- Balusters: Illuminated balusters for railings (balustrades) designed to replace existing balusters or be installed during new deck construction.
- Post caps and rail lights: Decorative lighting fixtures that can be attached to posts or rails.
Mounted and installed lighting are ideal options, but other light source possibilities can either bolster established light or create a more subtle approach, such as string lights, candles, lanterns, or solar powered lights.
While most landscape lighting is contemporary and works with a variety of architectural styles, specialty fixtures are available for certain types, like colonial, craftsman, Mediterranean, and mid-century modern. When it comes to lighting, resist the urge to go for an eclectic look, unless it reflects the character of your home's interior and exterior.
We've found a diverse selection of deck lighting designs and solutions to hopefully spark ideas for your own project.
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Herzen Stimme designed a wood deck, leaving a space carved out to insert an inflatable whirlpool hot tub. The result gives off relaxing spa vibes. However, the atmosphere is only heightened by the use of various string lights draped across the walls, as well as various handheld lanterns illuminating all the way around the hot tub.Continue to 2 of 15 below.
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Melanie Rekola of Lady Landscape created a stunning outdoor space, with her deck and seating areas effortlessly flowing into the pool space. Built into the stone walls of the pool are downlights that add just enough illumination to add some brightness that isn't too harsh, while also ensuring no one has to stumble around in the dark.Continue to 3 of 15 below.
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Hang Them High
This cozy deck space from Kristina Roy has the perfect amount of seating and style. However, turn your eyes upward and you'll see multiple rows of Edison bulbs casting an ideal glow for when the sun goes down. A few extended wood rods add some height to keep the lights of the way.Continue to 4 of 15 below.
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While lampshades and covers can indeed change a space indoors, they also have their perks outside. Take this stunning setup from Camilia Home—while hanging bulbs hold their own type of elegance, the wicker shades take things to another level. And the good news is, shades like this can be switched out if you decide to change the decor.Continue to 5 of 15 below.
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Pair Lighting With Shades
Don't underestimate the power of well-placed lighting. This outdoor space from Ann living has plenty of light with glowing torches surrounding the decking border. However, the real illumination is thanks to the multiple rows of string lights placed directly under the sail shade. The sail shade keeps the sun from beaming down too much during the day, and at night it serves as a backdrop for the small lights to radiate off of—creating a well-lit space for everyone to enjoy.Continue to 6 of 15 below.
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Adding Security and Safety
Brophy Interiors knows how to subtly bring in lighting that is both decorative and functional. The lighting built into the steps is both stunning yet helpful when navigating your way to the upper deck. The lights built into the overhang shine down just enough lights over the dining area—and the plant boxes stationed out front can still be admired during the evening hours, given the strategically placed uplights for each plant.Continue to 7 of 15 below.
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Lady Landscape once again was creative with outdoor lighting by using a landscape light hidden behind a decorative plant. The privacy fence serves as a perfect backdrop for the light to cast an incandescent glow without drawing too much attention.Continue to 8 of 15 below.
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Small deck? No problem! This balcony from S.U.S.A.P proves that mini string lights and a few candles can truly brighten things up.Continue to 9 of 15 below.
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Turn Up The Heat
The combination of downlights and bulbs underneath this shade structure from Lady Landscape keeps the deck area basked in a light glow. Yet when additional light (and warmth) are needed, a firepit can work as a solution to both situations.Continue to 10 of 15 below.
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Dinner By Candlelight
Outdoor dining by candlelight can create an intimate atmosphere—but having candles on the table can get in the way. Creating a hanging statement piece that supports a collection of candles can create that illuminating effect while keeping the table clear.Continue to 11 of 15 below.
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Work With Multiple Options
This deck from Ann Living doesn't rely on one light source—plenty of options are at play here. Solar lights surround the border while various candles are placed around the area. Different styles of string lights get plenty of use as well—mini lights draped across the furniture give a soft glow while larger bulbs above provide more overhead lighting when needed.Continue to 12 of 15 below.
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Cage Wall Lights
If you're working with a smaller deck, you may not need a ton of additional lighting. Cue a set of wall lights, like this deck from Emily Henderson. The mounted cage wall lights are stylish and blend into the general scenery yet provide just the right amount of ambiance when needed.Continue to 13 of 15 below.
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Well Balanced Lighting
This deck from Herzen Stimme has plenty of ambiances—a covered firepit, candles, and hanging lanterns are placed in different corners. Framing the door with string lights adds an extra dose of whimsy to and space.Continue to 14 of 15 below.
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Keep it Cozy
Sometimes, a designer can build upon a good design that's already in place. This upper deck by Emily Henderson Design started off much smaller and uncovered, so the team went to work to extend the space and add coverage. The intimate space needed solid lighting, so they went with a few semi-flush light fixtures that Emily says "lend an interior vibe that's welcome in an outdoor room like this."Continue to 15 of 15 below.
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Making Use of Pillar Candles
Candles can feel like a bit of a liability when you're using them for lighting—but Herzen Stimme proves that with some creativity, you can still make it work. Various sizes of candles are displayed in glass cups, small decorative cages, and candleholders that create a safe yet gorgeous display. Additionally, handheld lanterns and other variations of porch lights help bolster the lighting across the entire deck.