Outdoor Deck Lighting Tips for your Landscape Design

Whether for a late night party with friends and family or a relaxing summer evening with a hot cup of tea, the deck is long known as a place of entertainment and relaxation for all.

Summer bashes and cool fall nights provide the perfect ambience for a perfectly lit deck. Your lighting should be sufficient enough to set the mood without overpowering the glare of the beautiful star-lit night sky.

Your deck lighting is an important component of your outdoor space. Without lighting, the cloudy nights will make your deck off limits to visitors and invisible to all who want to see and experience its function and beauty. If your deck is one that should be showcased, learning how to light it properly will transform it into a treasured space.

Low Voltage Lighting

Low voltage lighting would be your best choice for deck lighting. Not only are these lights kind on your energy bill, but they also provide a safe way to illuminate key areas in your design landscape. Choices like the Tulip Light are perfect to illuminate a path leading up to the deck which is great for late night parties or lighting pathways in the dark. These lights are 9” – 12” in height and will help to guide people from the front of the house to the back deck area by lining all pathways with decorative yet functional lights. Highlight steps and entry areas around the deck as well to prevent safety issues.

Flood Lights

Flood lights are also a good choice for deck lighting. They provide more light than path lighting and can illuminate the high-trafficked areas. You can aim flood lights in any direction upward or downward depending on their purpose. If you are lighting the deck, be careful not to position them so that they shine in people’s faces. This not only is a safety hazard, but it also will annoy your guests and possibly your neighbors. You can also use flood lights to highlight railings if you have stairs connected to your deck.

Specialty Lighting

If you have one feature on your deck you want to highlight like a piece of artwork or an elegant statue, consider a specialty light that will focus brightness on a small area. Use small deck lights that can be attached to railings to enhance brightness without overpowering any other deck lighting.

The Overall Picture

Use your deck lighting as a “spill over” of light into the areas needing it rather than directly shining on the deck’s surface. Your deck lighting should provide safety in the dark while enhancing the features you have without overpowering them with brightness. In contrast, if your deck lacks the proper amount of lighting, you will experience safety hazards as well as uneven highlights and shadows. Experiment with the design and consult a professional if need be. Once you see the beauty of an outdoor deck in the moonlight, you will understand how important deck lighting is to your overall landscape design.

Basics of Outdoor Landscape Lighting: The First Steps

If you spent good money on some killer landscaping for your yard, but the streetlight situation in your neighborhood leaves something to be desired, don’t fret. Outdoor landscape lighting is a wonderful way to brighten up your yard and enhance your property’s visual appeal long after the sun goes down.

However, before you dive in blindly and buy lighting fixtures, learn the ropes of outdoor lighting for your landscaping. The two basic types of landscape lighting are fixtures that rely on electricity and those that depend on the sun.

Low-Voltage Landscape Lighting

When you opt for outdoor landscape lighting that relies on electricity for its power, choose a low-voltage option. Low-voltage landscape lighting is safer than its powerful high-voltage counterparts, and is much simpler to install. You will also enjoy a much lower power bill.

Low-voltage landscape lighting is a fantastic way to light up a hidden garden path or showcase trees and shrubs in your front yard at dusk. The dim lighting is a hauntingly beautiful way to display the best your lawn has to offer, and it provides enough light to create great ambiance for an outdoor party or cookout. You can also use the fixtures to light a sidewalk to “up” the safe navigation factor during the nighttime hours.

A system of low-voltage lighting requires a few inexpensive items for installation: a transformer to supply power for your lights, cords, and the light fixtures themselves. The transformer will protect against electric shock if something severs a wire. Typically, landscapers run the cords below ground for greater aesthetic appeal, and they hide the wires by covering them with rocks or other landscaping elements.

Solar Landscape Lighting Options

If you don’t feel comfortable with electricity in your yard, you still have some options. Solar landscape lighting is an alternative way to give your yard a bit more character at night. In the past, landscapers dismissed solar fixtures as weak landscaping lighting systems that failed to stand the test of time.

But, things have changed. Many solar landscape lighting models have batteries with a much longer life span, and they have the ability to hold more energy from the sun than previous versions. Solar lights work by collecting energy from sunlight through solar panels. At night, that energy charges a special battery that produces bright, powerful light-emitting diodes (LED).

LED is a newer technology that allows solar landscape lighting to burn much brighter at night than other battery-powered models, and many can hold a charge for up to ten hours each night. LED lights are great for use around your driveway and along walking paths. They not only lights up your home beautifully, but they also add vital illumination that will help you park your car safely at night. When placed strategically, LED lights can guide you to your porch without tripping, and enable you to unlock your front door without fumbling for your keys in the dark.

Once you choose your preferred lighting method, stand in front of your home and take careful inventory of your yard’s landscape. Decide where you would like to place your lights and install the fixtures. Once the sun sets, you’ll have a revamped abode that will light up the night.

Proper Planning of Your Landscape Lighting Design

Without a plan, landscape lighting designers are dead in the water. Even skilled landscapers understand the value of a detailed, well-thought out blueprint. Without a plan, mistakes are nearly guaranteed, and whenever time and money is wasted, another set of problems surface.

If you just moved in or you are getting ready to tackle your lighting project, you will be anxious and excited to install those lights and get your yard one step closer to your vision. Unfortunately, haste results in failure and it is not uncommon for homeowners to rush the process because they are too excited to wait and plan it out properly. Just remember that your excitement will turn to dread when a failure to plan turns into an emotional headache.

First Steps

The purpose of a plan is to avoid future mistakes. When you start the process, you will notice how everything fits and any potential inconsistencies will surface during this phase. For example, your vision may include a particular fixture next to a tree, but when you plot the dimensions on paper, you realize they are too close and do not blend well as it relates to the overall yard.

Draw your plan to scale with 1/8”=1” being appropriate for most properties. Use graph paper and add every feature of your yard with tracing paper. If you are technical, try one of the many computer software programs available. The programs make it easier to envision how changes would look in real time. Make sure to include every surface and feature such as walkways, driveways, porches and patios, borders and all gardens.

Measurements

Start by measuring your property line and recording the data into your program or on paper. To make the process easier, measure the distance from your property line to one corner of the house and use this as a reference to measure the remaining sides of the house.

Will you entertain in your yard? Live outdoors a lot? Think about how you will use your outdoor space. Contemplate the idea of terraces and patios, their location and proximity to the sun. Also consider the areas that will need more light at night for safety and entertaining purposes. Some areas will need basic functional lighting to provide illumination for guests and deter thieves from entering your property. Additional light will serve an aesthetic purpose and should be placed where you want the most emphasis.

Lighting

Decide which lights you will use for your design. There are many from which to choose including energy-efficient options as well. Pay attention to the installation of each type and choose based on your willingness and expertise. Think about maintenance and overall costs to run the lights on an ongoing basis. And remember—when designing lighting, less is more. Be aware of the natural tendency to go overboard.

If you stick with a plan, you will avoid most mistakes. A little time before the process will save you months of heartache and regret, and give you the exact design you envision for your landscape.