Bright Ideas for a Well-Lit Deck
Make your deck safer and more enjoyable with good lighting.
Synopsis: Nobody wants the fun on their deck or patio to stop when the sun goes down, but keeping the party going and keeping everybody safe requires good deck lighting. Author and code official Glenn Mathewson describes how a good deck-lighting strategy involves three types of lighting: essential, targeted, and ambient. Essential lighting is required by code at doors and stairs. Targeted lighting is for specific tasks like grilling or eating. Ambient lighting creates an inviting space and brightens dark areas. The article gives examples of all three types of fixtures and describes the most effective places to install them. Relevant lighting requirements for pools and hot tubs are also discussed. Most deck-lighting projects involve both line-voltage and low-voltage fixtures. Mathewson offers guidance on how to choose between the two types and the specific locations where you should choose one type over the other. Illustrations of lighting concepts on a sample deck reinforce the main points of the article.
Aside from a sturdy structure and strong railings, good lighting is an outdoor deck’s most important safety feature. Decks might have multiple levels, or they might be wet and slippery from nearby hot tubs and wet bars. In addition, decks can be crowded with guests unfamiliar with the layout.
Proper deck lighting is about more than just safety, however. The right lights in the right spots can make a deck better looking and more enjoyable. Although deck lighting can feel overwhelming with so many fixtures, brightness levels, and installation methods to choose from, the end result is worth it. After all, who wants the fun times on their deck to stop when the sun goes down?
There are two spots on a deck where building codes require lighting. For security, the International Residential Code (IRC) requires a light…