Adding Deck Lighting

This steps in this project will allow you to build a basic outdoor cooking area.

Low-Voltage Deck Lighting

For path lighting to your deck, buy a low-voltage kit with lights on stakes that stab into the ground. Wires run from the lights to a transformer that plugs into an outlet. Easier yet are solar-powered path lights. A solar panel charges an internal battery, so these lights don't need wires. They don't produce a great deal of light, though.

On-deck lighting requires planning, especially if some (or all) of your fixtures are recessed. Recessed lights require some extra work, but the results can be dramatic.

Add up the wattage of the lights you are installing and purchase a transformer with a built-in timer that will deliver adequate power. For example, eight 18-watt lights and five 20-watt lights add up to 244 watts. A 250-watt transformer will handle the load, but won't allow you to add more lights in the future -- something you're almost sure to do. Buy a transformer with 20 percent more capacity than you initially need.

Prestart Checklist

Time
About eight hours to wire and install lighting on a 12x16-foot deck, depending on the lighting plan

Tools
Tape measure, hammer, cordless drill, jigsaw, screwdriver, wire stripper, diagonal cutters, crimpers

Skills
Measuring, cutting, drilling, fastening, cutting and stripping wire

Prep
Determine light locations

Materials
Low-voltage fixtures and wire, cable staples, GFCI receptacle

Low-Voltage Options

Fixtures of many styles are available for low-voltage systems so you can mount a light in almost any deck location. Run cable for path lighting in a shallow trench. Wire the system, then cover the trench.

Step 1

Mount the low-voltage transformer near an existing receptacle, or install a new ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). Be sure to place both units in locations that will stay dry and won't allow them to be damaged. Install the GFCI receptacle in a box rated for outdoor use.

Step 2

Mount all the fixtures in their proper locations, using your dimensioned plan as a guide. Connect the cable to the fixtures with the snap connectors supplied by the fixture manufacturer.

Step 3

Fasten the cable to the deck framing, running it alongside posts and under rails, or wherever it will be the least visible. Fasten the cable with exterior wire staples. Use rounded staples for round cable, flat staples for flat wire.

Step 4

Wherever the wiring has to cross a framing member, drill a hole in the board and pass the cable through it.

Step 5

At the transformer, strip the ends of the wires about 3/4 inch and connect them to the terminals on the transformer, following the manufacturer's instructions. Plug the transformer into the GFCI receptacle and check all the lights to make sure they're lit.


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