how to extreme

Install Deck Lighting & Accessories

Construction How-To, Decks, Decks, Lighting February 3, 2009 Sonia


By Monte Burch

 

Add comfort and beauty to your deck with lighting, fans and electric outlets.

 

 

 

A deck is one of the popular features on the homeowner project list. Adding lighting to your deck not only creates ambience, but adds to the décor and its usefulness. Deck lighting also provides more safety and security to your home. Installing electrical outlets adds to the ease of use of the deck. If the deck is covered with a canopy or sunroof, adding an outdoor fan increases comfort during the hot months. The deck and cover shown added all three, and installation is a fairly easy, do-it-yourself job. The lights shown are both low-voltage 12-volt and solar powered.

Left: Recessed step lighting, such as that from Highpoint can be used to provide lighting for steps and stairs. Right: Railing lights can also provide more light for railings over steps or as a decor for the deck.

Left: Recessed step lighting, such as that from Highpoint can be used to provide lighting for steps and stairs. Right: Railing lights can also provide more light for railings over steps or as a decor for the deck.

Left: Hanging lights, such as these from Highpoint, add to the ambience and are an excellent choice for deck canopies. Right: Solar lights, such as these post lights from Malibu, can provide illumination without the need for electricity.

Left: Hanging lights, such as these from Highpoint, add to the ambience and are an excellent choice for deck canopies. Right: Solar lights, such as these post lights from Malibu, can provide illumination without the need for electricity.

 

See the Light

A wide variety of deck lights are available, including insert lights for steps, railing lights, post top lights, overhead deck lights and ground-based stake lights that can be used next to a low deck. Step lights make it much safer to negotiate steps at night, while railing lights can add to nighttime usefulness and visibility. Simple deck lights can be placed just about anywhere to add a downward light where needed. On the deck shown, the down lights are added to the sunroof posts on the underside of the sunroof. Post-top lights can also add to the ambience.

Left: Solar lights can also be set on a table for party illumination. Right: Malibu deck lights placed on the upper framework of the sunroof provides a soft down light on the deck below.

Left: Solar lights can also be set on a table for party illumination. Right: Malibu deck lights placed on the upper framework of the sunroof provides a soft down light on the deck below.

Left: Ground-stake held lights, such as these from Malibu, can be used around low decks. Right: A hanging lantern light can be fastened to a deck with a block of wood with a groove cut in it the diameter of the fixture tube.

Left: Ground-stake held lights, such as these from Malibu, can be used around low decks. Right: A hanging lantern light can be fastened to a deck with a block of wood with a groove cut in it the diameter of the fixture tube.

The most common deck lighting is the low-voltage type that utilizes a transformer to convert a 120-volt electrical supply into 12 volts, which is safe for exterior conditions. The transformers feature either a timer or a photocell to turn on the lights when night falls, and turn them off when daylight comes. The photocell is the easiest to use. The timer must be adjusted as the seasons and daylight times change. Photocell timers are, however, more expensive. Low-voltage lights may feature LED or incandescent bulbs.

Left: First step is to locate and install the transformer. Right: If the transformer is a photocell design, make sure the transformer is installed where daylight can reach the photo cell.

Left: First step is to locate and install the transformer. Right: If the transformer is a photocell design, make sure the transformer is installed where daylight can reach the photo cell.

Left: The transformer must be installed near and plugged into a GFCI outlet in a weatherproof box. Right: Some transformers are timer activated.

Left: The transformer must be installed near and plugged into a GFCI outlet in a weatherproof box. Right: Some transformers are timer activated.

“We’ve found the incandescent bulbs to be more popular,” says John Davis, owner of Highpoint Deck Lighting. Highpoint not only sells, but also installs deck lighting. “In fact, we had to completely remove all the LED lights we had installed on a huge new deck, and replace them with incandescent bulbs,” adds Davis. “The LED lights are bluer and lack the golden glow of incandescent bulbs.”

Left: In some cases you may have to install a weatherproof outlet box and GFCI outlet. Right: Recessed step lights are installed in holes bored in the step risers. Bore the holes using a 3" hole saw or forstner bit.

Left: In some cases you may have to install a weatherproof outlet box and GFCI outlet. Right: Recessed step lights are installed in holes bored in the step risers. Bore the holes using a 3" hole saw or forstner bit.

Left: If going through a double header, bore the large hole then a small hole in the inside header. Right: Install the light in the hole, run the secondary wire along the back of the risers, and attach the fixture wires to the secondary wires.

Left: If going through a double header, bore the large hole then a small hole in the inside header. Right: Install the light in the hole, run the secondary wire along the back of the risers, and attach the fixture wires to the secondary wires.

Deck lights may be constructed of plastic or metal. However, high-quality products, such as those from Highpoint Deck Lighting, are made of thick gauge, non-rusting, corrosion-resistant, solid brass, copper, stainless steel or powder-coated aluminum. They are then finished with a premium earthscape acid-washed treatment or a durable powder-coated finish and have a limited lifetime warranty.

Then install the cover.

Then install the cover.

Left: A hanging light for a deck canopy is fastened to a support block, with wires run through the block. Right: The block is then fastened to the sunroof framing and the fixture wires are attached to the secondary wires.

Left: A hanging light for a deck canopy is fastened to a support block, with wires run through the block. Right: The block is then fastened to the sunroof framing and the fixture wires are attached to the secondary wires.

Highpoint offers several styles, each with a soft-warm glass and subtle decorative overlays. The fixtures create just the right amount of gentle light to safely and comfortably illuminate your deck. They are engineered with slide-on face plates for easier, quicker installation and tool-free access to the light bulb, making maintenance quick and easy. When shopping for deck lights, the better quality lights from manufacturers like Highpoint and Malibu use real glass for their diffusers rather than plastic. Plastic deteriorates over time from the heat of the bulb.

Left: Make a 1-1/4 hole 1-1/2" deep in the post , or 1" deep in the railing to receive the fixture. Right: Chisel the waste material out of the hole.

Left: Make a 1-1/4 hole 1-1/2" deep in the post , or 1" deep in the railing to receive the fixture. Right: Chisel the waste material out of the hole.

Left: Bore a 1/2" hole through the remainder of the post or railing. Right: Feed secondary wire through the back into the hole.

Left: Bore a 1/2" hole through the remainder of the post or railing. Right: Feed secondary wire through the back into the hole.

 

Plugging In

The first step is to make a rough sketch of your deck and determine the types and locations of desired lights. The fixtures should run in sequence with the total wattage of the run not exceeding the transformer’s circuit capabilities. Total wattage is determined by multiplying the number of lights by the wattage of the bulbs. Do not exceed the transformer’s allowable circuit wattage.

Left: Strip the fixture wires, as well as the secondary wires and attach the wires with wire nuts. Make sure the wire nuts are tight and no bare wiring is exposed. Right: Tuck the wiring into the hole and install the back plate.

Left: Strip the fixture wires, as well as the secondary wires and attach the wires with wire nuts. Make sure the wire nuts are tight and no bare wiring is exposed. Right: Tuck the wiring into the hole and install the back plate.

Wiring can be concealed in a number of ways.

Wiring can be concealed in a number of ways.

Then slide on the front cover plate.

Then slide on the front cover plate.

 

 

 

 

Also, determine the location of the transformer. Timer transformers can be installed almost anywhere, but close to the first light is best. Photocell transformers must be installed with exposure to direct sunlight. Transformers must also be located with access to a 120-volt outlet. The outlet must be GFCI protected, and in an outdoor, weatherproof outlet box or cover. The power pack or transformer must be located at least one foot off the ground and at least 10 feet from any pool or spa. If you need to install an outlet, this is also a good time to install additional outlets for use with grill rotisseries and as an electrical supply for other outdoor uses.

Upper Left: For any exposed connections, use only silicone-filled wire nuts. Upper Right: Some low-voltage lighting connections are made with snap-on connectors, fitting over the secondary wires. Below: All low-voltage wires must be properly anchored in place.

Upper Left: For any exposed connections, use only silicone-filled wire nuts. Upper Right: Some low-voltage lighting connections are made with snap-on connectors, fitting over the secondary wires. Below: All low-voltage wires must be properly anchored in place.

Using the installation instructions provided by the manufacturer, install the transformer. Then install the secondary or low-voltage wire as per the instructions. The secondary wire must be UV resistant and UL listed 12-2 or thicker low-voltage wire. Do not exceed 100 foot per run or 250 watts per run/circuit. Use 10-2 or 8-2 wire for runs exceeding 100 feet or for those with over 250 watts. Make sure the main secondary wire is long enough to reach the first fixture. Never bury wire more than 6 inches below grade or install a transformer or light fixture within 10 feet of any source of water. Make sure all secondary wires are secured in place with insulated cable tacks.

Upper Left: An outdoor ceiling fan can make a deck canopy or sunroof much more comfortable in the hot summer months. Upper Right: A light fixture box is attached to a support piece. The Support piece is then attached to the underside of the canopy or sunroof framing. Below: An electrical wire is run from a switch to the fixture box, and the fan assembled, attached and wired in place.

Upper Left: An outdoor ceiling fan can make a deck canopy or sunroof much more comfortable in the hot summer months. Upper Right: A light fixture box is attached to a support piece. The Support piece is then attached to the underside of the canopy or sunroof framing. Below: An electrical wire is run from a switch to the fixture box, and the fan assembled, attached and wired in place.

The different types of fixtures require different mounting and installation methods. Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions for each type. With the fixtures installed, run the secondary wire and attach the fixtures to the secondary wire. Some fixtures utilize a clamp-on connection; others require special silicone wire-nuts made for connecting fixture and secondary wires in exposed areas.

Once you have installed and connected all fixtures, attach the secondary wire to the transformer, plug in the transformer to the outlet and turn on the circuit. If using a timer activated transformer, set the timer according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When evening falls, make plans to enjoy your deck in a totally new way.