Credit: Keith Negley

Deck lighting today is subtle, comparatively easy to install, and often desired by homeowners if they know what it can add to their project. What it can add, says Matt Breyer, of Breyer Construction, in Reading, Pa., is safety, security, and accessibility.

Breyer points out to clients that “adding lighting can extend the usefulness of the deck.” Accenting steps, landings, and gates with lighting reduces chances of missteps and accidents after dark, as well as unwanted intrusions.

Electrician optional

Some deck builders, such as John Paulin of Tailor Decks, in suburban Atlanta, always suggest lighting. “I design [decks] with Highpoint [Deck & Landscape Lighting],” he says, a system that includes a photocell timer that turns lights on at dusk and off at dawn. Lighting, Paulin says, “is not benches or planters. It’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity.”

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Paulin typically has an electrical subcontractor install systems just before staining. But many contractors install systems that run off existing outlets and a transformer. “It can now be done by the deck crew,” says Dennis Schaefer, a sales and marketing consultant who sold his deck company, Creative Wood, to employees a few years ago. And with LED lights, “you get great light, long energy use, and a really good glow with low voltage. So that removes the need for a licensed electrician in most states on most projects.”

Add Value to the Project

Whether or not homeowners want lighting has to do with how they will use the deck, says Ken Kroog, owner of Deckscapes, in Harriman, N.Y. Security is an issue, but entertainment is usually more important. Some simply want lighting because they admired how it looked in a magazine and want “a really sharp-looking outdoor living space,” says Connecticut deck builder Morris Katz.

Both Kroog and Katz include lighting options in their proposals. Lighting can add 5% to 10% of the total deck cost, Paulin estimates, depending on deck size and system. Kroog will steer clients to copper or brass fixtures but recommends the more subtle look of lighting unobtrusively placed below steps and along rails.

—Jim Cory is editor of REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR.