How to Create a Deck Lighting Scheme

By: Richard Vande Sompel

An indispensable improvement for any deck is lighting. It is an amenity that should not be overlooked or done with a minimal treatment. It has the capacity to add style and convenience to outdoor living with far greater effect than its modest cost might suggest. A wide variety of starter kits and modular components make it an excellent type of do-it-yourself project for a homeowner.

Lighting a deck nowadays does not mean simply putting up a couple of floodlights. The decks of today bring high fashion into their lighting schemes. This trend does not mean excessive expense thanks to affordable, low voltage lighting. What it does mean is sensible, strategic use of numerous different light fixtures. These are mostly simple in style rather than those 1 or 2 glaring floodlights.

A successful lighting scheme is the result of carefully planning and making use of logical and creative guidelines.

Make a point of lighting the yard and not the neighborhood. Stay away from lights that shine onto the property of neighbors. The real challenge is to place any lights so that no one can see the lightbulbs but they can see the results. It is difficult for people to enjoy time spent on even the most aesthetically pleasing deck with one or more lights glaring into their eyes.

Create lighting sources that will illuminate lifestyle. Identify all the lighting needs on and around the deck. Some lighting will be needed for movement and traffic areas. Some will be required for activities such as dining or grilling while other lighting will be needed to create a mood or ambiance. Another important use of lighting would be for decorative purposes such as parties, celebrations and holidays.

Some outdoor lighting fixtures are lovely works of art that deserve to be put on display. However, it is not necessary to rely completely on such expensive forms of illumination entirely. Plain, ordinary fixtues can easily fulfill lighting requirements as long as they are hidden from view creatively.

It is extremely important that all traffic paths and stairs be well lit. In order to light stairs effectively, place a light fixture near enough to illuminate all of the steps. Another alternative approach would be to install in-wall fixtures into the riser of each step. Traffic paths can be effectively illuminated by placing lights high and directing them straight down.

A second method would be to place several lights close to the ground to illuminate areas along the pathway and spill light onto the path.

Activity areas such as a cooking center or game area should have a higher intensity type of lighting. Several lights placed in trees and overhead structures such as arbors or pergolas can be aimed straight down to accomplish this purpose. An exception to this would be a dining area which benefits from low intensity lights or even candlelight to maintain a relaxed mood.

Use imagination to create special lighting effects. Two or 3 lights high in a tree, aimed downward can create interesting shadows from branches and leaves. Light other trees, shrubs or plants along walls or fences from below. Use well lights set into the ground or low floodlights to accomplish this. Make certain to conceal the light sources by placing them behind plants or rocks.

Do not overlight the deck and surrounding landscape. It is not necessary to illuminate the entire outdoor landscape or light every deck feature with its own light. Plan and design light schemes in order that pools of light spill over into other areas close by. Rather than lining a path with lights that shine directly onto it, light the garden areas along one side of the path in such a way that the path is illuminated also.

Avoid underlighting the deck and the backyard landscape. Rather than illuminating the deck only, create variety and security by placing spotlights in a few trees to bathe nearby flower beds in soft light.

As the sun goes down each day, an effective deck lighting scheme will enable any outdoor living space to become a sparkling jewel under the evening sky.

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