Deck illumination falls into two categories: functional and decorative. Both functional and decorative lighting can either be permanently installed or set up temporarily for special occasions. Electricity is the most common source for permanent light, but gas is novel, and for some situations it is effective. Among the alternatives for temporary or special-occasion lighting are torches, kerosene lanterns, and gas mantle lights. These require special safety precautions. Following are some guides to deck lighting.
Functional deck lighting is used for general illumination; concentrated lighting is used for specific activities and for
safe lighting steps and other underfoot hazards.
General illumination. Keep two factors in mind when planning your functional deck lighting: first outdoor lighting requires far less illumination than indoor lighting: and second, all lamps should be located where they will not shine straight into people's eyes.
You can use any of several methods to keep lights from shining into eyes. One is to conceal lamps behind wall valances, overhead rafters, or roof eaves. Another method is to bounce light from low-level sources off the house wall, screens, or other large vertical surfaces next to the deck.
Concentrated lighting. Areas used for night time activities-game courts, outdoor workbenches, and barbecues-should have brighter lighting than general area illumination. For versatile activity lighting, you can buy portable, telescoping stands (at most photographic supply stores) for mounting floodlights. They provide easily adjustable lighting and can be stored when not in use. If you decide on portable lighting, be sure to include plenty of convenience outlets in your wiring plan.
Safety lights. For safety lights along pathways or stairs, only low levels of illumination are needed. Be sure that the lighting itself creates no hazards. It should throw no deceptive shadows, nor should it glare or be an obstacle to trip over. Low mushroom-type lights or recessed lamps and backlighting from beneath steps or deck edges are typical solutions. It's difficult to position high lights so that they won't glare or make people walk in their own shadows.
Permanent dramatic illumination of deck area plantings or trees, and temporary festive lighting for special occasions are the most common functions of decorative lighting. Electric lighting is best for permanent use; a variety of sources can offer occasional lighting.
Landscape illumination. The nighttime character of a deck can be dramatically enhanced by selective illumination of an adjacent garden, tree branches overhead, or plants on the deck. Positioning of outdoor floodlights will create the desired effect. To come up with the best arrangement for your deck, experiment.
Color lighting. Bizarre and surprising results can come from haphazard use of color lighting. For example, green light is best for accenting foliage but turns facial complexions to gruesome hues and makes most food appear unappetizing; yellow light gives warmth to brown house siding but makes green landscaping look dead. Without expert knowledge, the safest approach is to limit colorful illumination to deck fountains or water sprays and amber lighting to decorative ponds with still water.
Festive lighting. Holidays, parties, and celebrations often call for temporary festive lighting on a deck. If you plan to wire your deck for electricity, anticipate these lighting needs by installing a generous number of convenience outlets around the deck perimeters. And consider placing at least one or two outlets in overhead locations, such as tree branches, roof rafters, and eaves.
Outdoor fixtures come in hundreds of shapes, sizes, and prices, but electric bulbs are limited to a few basic types.
To meet your deck's particular lighting needs, consult Crazy Bee Deck expert specializing in outdoor illumination equipment.