Your outdoor space should be as unique and versatile as you are. This means that whether under the warmth of the sun or in the cool of night, your deck or patio should be a go-to place in your home to gather with family and friends.
While outdoor areas have traditionally been thought of as spots for afternoon barbecues, new options and technological advances in exterior lighting mean your outdoor fun is no longer relegated to daytime. The options are limited only by your imagination.
Before making lighting choices, carefully consider how you plan to use your space. A deck intended for quiet adult dinner parties and one intended for crowds of teenagers have different lighting needs.
Beyond considering the purpose of your outdoor space, keep in mind safety risks that might be lessened with proper lighting as well as how you lights may affect your neighbors. (You can be sure that your tree neighbors don’t want spotlights shining into their bedroom windows.) Once you know what your purpose is, you can begin exploring the vast array of choices:
- Free hanging lights
- Railing lights
- Stair Lights
- Pathway lighting
Free Hanging Lights
The simplest way to add some illumination to your space is with non-integrated (not hardwired into your home’s power supply) lighting like string lights or candle lanterns. If you have an existing deck or patio that needs some brightening in the evening, outdoor string lights or lanterns are inexpensive and easy to install.
String lights are available at most big box and home improvement stores. They come in a variety of bulb shapes and sizes; you can even get them in colors if a whimsical look appeals to you. String them around the perimeter of a porch roof, along deck railings, or between posts to light up a walkway.
Similarly, lanterns are inexpensive and can be placed virtually anywhere. While neither string lights nor lanterns offer the conveniences of integrated lighting choices, they are an excellent option for pre-existing decks and tight budgets.
Most decks with an elevation over twelve inches have some kind of railing for safety. A railing is an easy place to add lighting. Rope lights or individual lights can be installed under the lip of a railing. Small all-weather sconces that attach to posts are another consideration. Either of these choices casts light downward toward walkways as opposed to up into people’s eyes.
If a deck railing is installed between deck exposed posts, lighted post caps add both functional light and beauty to outdoor evening gatherings. Lighted post caps come in a wide array of designs to fit any aesthetic style.
Solar powered post lights require less of your home’s electricity and don’t require proximity to a power source. However, they may emit less light than wired options. If you are building a new deck or patio space, working with your builder to add wired, or integrated, lighting is probably your best option.
Lighting on deck stairs is a requirement in some municipalities, so be sure to check local building codes before construction begins. However, even if not required, stair lighting just makes sense. Steps are the most common location of falls on decks, so doing everything in your power to ensure safety on your property is critical.
Deck stair lighting comes with many choices. Integrated lights in step kick plates are subtle and functional. If desired, stair lights can be connected to motion sensors. This guarantees the added safety of well-lit stairs whether the rest of your deck lighting is powered or not. No matter what you choose for step lighting, be sure that the lights are aimed downward to illuminate walking paths.
It is likely that your deck or patio is not the only element of your outdoor entertaining space. Providing well-lit paths from a backyard gate to an outdoor kitchen or from a front sidewalk to a pool deck safely guides your guests and creates ambiance.
The most common type of pathway lighting is either solar-powered or electric wired stake lights. These are effective and simple to install. If you want to make a statement, though, look into pavers with lights built in. Whether your walkway is constructed from brick or concrete pavers, it is likely that a coordinating product that illuminates is available. Paver lights are flush with the ground and blend with their surroundings in the daylight hours.
A Note for Beach House Owners
As those who live near the ocean at Hampton Roads know, sea turtles instinctively follow the light of the moon reflecting off the ocean to find their way back to the ocean after being on land. For the safety of these majestic creatures, beachfront homes must be careful when choosing outdoor lighting so as not to confuse the turtles. An experienced and qualified deck builder can help you choose lighting that is both beautiful and eco-friendly.
Light up the night with a few of these many choices of outdoor lighting. Your outdoor space will warm and inviting for all of your future evening gatherings.