Late summer and early fall are wonderful times to relax and enjoy family time out on the deck. Adding illumination is a great way to have such outings continue well into the evening hours. It’s also a wonderful way to add intrinsic value and safety to a home at the same time.

Creating a deck illumination design is much like designing a standard yard lighting system. First, determine how your customer uses his or her deck. Ask: How will the deck be accessed?

Is it screened in? Where can the transformer be mounted? Can cable be installed underneath the deck? Then, sketch out a plan.

Staircases and Steps. Your go-to step light or hardscape light bar can be very effective for lighting up stair treads. Many manufacturers now produce surface-mount louver step lights that don’t require a backbox. They’re easy to install and only require a hole for the cable. Select a style with good glare shielding.

Railings. You can effectively illuminate railings with straight light bars or LED tape/strip lights. Put them on the inside of a railing for an even perimeter of illumination. They can also be placed on staircase handrails along with, or instead of, step lights.

Post and Post Caps. Small post lights come in many different styles. Fixtures with a white coating on the inside or a reflector will provide better light projection. Be careful about elevation changes. Post top lights can provide both a decorative look and an area light effect. Many manufacturers build these fixtures in both line and low voltage. Solar options are also available.

Control. Now consider how best to control the deck lights. Controlling different zones with switches and dimmers will allow your customer to dial in the preferred mood. If you use a dimmer, I suggest higher-wattage lamps that can be tuned to the customer’s desired level of light output.

Lastly, along with lights come pesky flying insects such as mosquitoes. Several manufacturers now have 12-volt combination lighting-and-mosquito-control fixtures with dual cables that can be either ground- or deck-mounted. Each fixture should provide over 100 square feet of repellent barrier.

I’ve also seen architects specify dual tiki torches and lights for deck applications. Just don’t use them in screened-in areas.

Have fun with your deck projects and strive to create the best deck lighting project in the neighborhood.

Kevin Smith is the national technical support and trainer at Brilliance LED LLC, Carefree, Arizona, and can be reached at