Thursday, June 24, 2021

Three Rules of Outdoor Lighting for The Deck & Beyond

You have probably heard about the rules for successful indoor lighting: using a mix of ambient, task, and accent lighting. But do you know about the rules of outdoor lighting for a deck and beyond? Lighting in the great outdoors has three similar categories: basic, safety/security, and atmosphere. As you think about what needs illuminating in your outdoor environment, keep these categories in mind and you’ll end up with a well-lit space. 

From outdoor lighting for a deck to landscape lighting, here are some ideas to get you started.

Lighted garden pathway with bollard lights.

Rule #1 Start with Basic Outdoor Lighting

Start with the spaces that need basic lighting like your dining area or outdoor kitchen. These areas need ambient lighting that sheds lots of light around a large space. 

Flood Lights

Flood lights are champs at illuminating large areas with a high level of brightness and a large range of coverage. They are generally attached to the house and can easily be turned on and off with a switch. 


Spotlights are the smaller but equally as powerful sister of flood lights. They shed light over large to medium spaces and can be used for lighting up areas where you need plenty of light but might not be right next to the house. 

Spotlights can also be used to highlight areas of the landscape you want to draw attention to like a formidable tree or yard sculpture. 

Outdoor Chandeliers & Lamps

Bring all the comforts of the indoors outside with large-scale lighting over the dining area. Exterior-grade chandeliers or pendant lights over the picnic table takes the whole space up a notch. 

Outdoor lamps have the same effect. Built to withstand the elements, these lamps shed some light on a smaller scale and create a cozy atmosphere while increasing the total illumination.

Step lighting on a deck provides a safer environment in the dark.

Rule #2 Don’t Forget Outdoor Lighting for Safety & Security

Next consider areas that might pose a risk in the dark, like steps, edges, or corners. These need some lighting to keep you and your guests safe as you move around your outdoor space. This kind of lighting is direct light exactly where you need it. It won’t disturb the neighbors (like flood lights might) and can be left on all the time. 

In fact, it’s a good idea to keep some of this type of lighting on every night for security purposes. The more lighting you have in your outdoor space, the more you’ll deter intruders and critters. 


In simple terms, up lights are medium-sized lights that direct light upward. Downlights point the light down. Both are used to increase more direct light where it’s needed most. They are used to great effect against a house or fence where they boost overall security. Get creative with your up and downlights to make mood lighting as well. 

Use spotlights or in-floor/in-ground recessed lighting to point light up. Employ landscape lights with hoods or side-mount deck lights to point light down.

Step Lights & More

The most important outdoor lighting for a deck is lighting steps and other areas that may pose a risk in the dark. There are lots of ways to decrease that risk. Deck lighting can be mounted to the sides of railing or posts. Add post cap lights on top of your deck posts or fence posts. 

Light up steps and stairs with lights on the stair risers. These come with louvers so you can direct light downward and keep it out of the eyes. 

A pergola lit with string lights.

Rule #3 You’re Not Done Until You Have Atmosphere Lighting

Atmosphere or mood lighting not only adds light to your overall scheme, but it does it with flair. This is the lighting that adds style and personality to your outdoor space. Whether you add light to the landscape, light a tiki torch, or string up a few Edison bulbs, you create that festive feeling that will make you want to stay in the backyard all summer long.

Bollard & Landscape Lights

Bollard lights are short posts with lights on top. They don’t have a shield or cover and shine light in all directions. They are great for lighting up a path or edging a flower bed. They add plenty of panache and serve to make your area more navigable.

Landscape lights are a broad category. They include anything you can use to enhance your landscape from spotlights to deck lights. It may not be necessary to light up your landscape (nobody’s going to be tiptoeing through your tulips), but they add considerable style and depth to your outdoor space. Those flower beds should add to the ambiance both day and night.

String & Rope Lights

String lights feature bare bulbs on an electrical wire. They are the superhero of outdoor lighting for a deck. You can hang them in any arrangement for either atmosphere or functional light. They are easy to get and are one of the most affordable ways to add some mood. 

The larger Edison bulb types are pricier but offer more light. You can keep it simple and pick up a few extra strands of holiday lights to get the same effect. Consider using colored lights too.

Tape lights are the high-tech sister of string lights. They are LED lights embedded in a flat plastic “tape”. They are easy to conceal and even easier to install. The best part about tape lights is the control you have over them. Get smart tape lights with wifi that you can control from an app on your phone. You can change the color, dim the lights, cycle through different lights, turn them on and off . . . the list goes on.

Decorative Lighting

Add some decorative lighting at eye level to spruce up your outdoor space. Lanterns or candles on the table, tiki torches around the patio, lighted orbs, delicate patterned tin lanterns or even paper lanterns all add mood. 

Did you ever consider that a firepit is technically lighting? Let it figure into your plan too. Small gas firepits come in many shapes, sizes, and styles. There’s one for every outdoor design. 

With so many outdoor lighting ideas for a deck, it’s only a matter of making a plan and getting started. Turn your backyard into a haven you won’t want to leave, especially after the sun goes down.

Shop Now for Outdoor Lighting