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Monday, May 8, 2017

Baluster Light Fixture Accent Ideas to Creatively Brighten Your Deck or Patio

A couple years ago I hosted a very...eventful… 4th of July party. What started out as a great evening grilling with my buddies on my back deck ended with a hospital visit. Everyone was enjoying themselves until it got dark and one of my buddies tripped on the deck stairs and fractured his wrist. A trip to the emergency room put an end to the festivities pretty quickly. And I felt a little guilty—at the time I didn’t have exterior lighting on my deck, so those stairs were pretty dark.

Exterior lighting is both functional and aesthetic. It’s certainly a safety feature, as I found out the hard way, but having well thought-out exterior lighting can also make the difference when entertaining after dark by adding ambiance and drawing the eye to the features of your deck that you most want to highlight. Not only that, but lighting can also add curb appeal to your house if you’re considering selling, as exterior lighting is the most wanted outdoor feature among homebuyers. Let’s look at ways you can illuminate your deck so that it is both safe and stylish.

Lighting Accent Options for Railing Post Caps

Post caps are a good place to start if you’re thinking about installing exterior lighting. They’re the closest part of the railings to eye level, so they do a great job illuminating your deck as well as the railings—especially if you use LED lighting. Lighting accents on post caps can be installed underneath or inside the post cap, and the wiring can be hidden and protected if the post is hollow. You can install the LED lighting with solid wooden posts and rails as well, it just takes a little extra time to drill holes into the post for the wiring to be snaked through.

There are a number of styles of post cap lighting. Some manufacturers sell a glow ring style of lighting, which sandwiches a glowing “ring” between the components of the post cap. Another type uses a lighting kit that is installed inside your post cap and emits a warm glow under the edges of the cap. Both styles tend to be simple to install, but are even easier if you purchase your lighting from the same company that provided your post caps, because they are likely designed to be used together.

Lighting Ideas for Balusters and Rails

Post caps aren’t the only options for lighting up your patio or deck. Sunken lighting, universal LED lighting, and other exterior options can illuminate stairways, rails, and balusters. To make sure the fruits of your labor last as long as possible, look for lighting products with a strong metal housing and protective finish. Aluminum with a quality powder-coating is a good example.

The lighting accents explained below use wire, which is usually run through the hollow of the rails or fastened under the handrails in the case of solid rails, like wood. Companies selling the lighting and accents also typically sell compatible transformers as well, which usually plug into an exterior GFCI outlet. Here are the three options for lighting up your balusters and rails:

Surface-Mounted LED Lighting

  • Designed to be sunk into a flat surface
  • Ideal for illuminating your railing balusters from below
  • Perfect for adding visibility to a path or walkway, such as stairs, either on the riser or the tread
  • Simple installation—use a Forstner bit and a drill to make a hole, splice together the light’s wires and the wires you’re running to the light, then gently tap the case of the light into the hole with a rubber mallet

Universal LED Lights

  • Designed to be installed in almost any location
  • Well suited for going under handrails and between balusters
  • Ideal option for highlighting glass balusters
  • Easy installation—drill a hole to run your wiring through, plus two smaller holes for the screws to thread into, then splice the wiring and screw in the supplied screws

Post-Mounted LED Lights

  • Simple lighting that affixes to the sides of railing posts
  • Great for illuminating walkways and corner posts
  • Assist with visibility without being too bright
  • Easy installation—drill three holes (one for the wire and two for the screws), screw the mounting on, splice the wires, and attach the light to mount

Creative Ideas for Outdoor Deck Lighting

What will really make your deck and railing stand out are creative uses of lighting and accents. Here are some fun ideas for installing universal, surface, and post lights to accentuate your deck:

  • Under the lip of bar tops
  • Around the base of decorations, wall art, or plants
  • Under your overhang planters on your rails
  • On either side of walkways
  • Encircling a hot tub area
  • Around fixed benches
  • Leading to a gazebo or pergola

When considering different creative options, it’s good to keep in mind that your wires need to be covered. One way to do this is to use protective trim tubing or weatherproof conduit to feed the wire through, or simply use colored, outdoor wire with weather-resistant connections.

Once I installed my lighting, I got a lot of thumbs up from all of my buddies—especially the one who fractured his wrist. There were no accidents this time, and we got to hang out on the deck after dark, taking full advantage of the new lighting. Nobody believed that I had installed it all myself because I got it done so quickly.

The secret to my DIY-ing abilities was Fortress Building Products. The designers at Fortress Railing are determined to make all their products easy-to-use, no matter how much experience you have in doing home (or deck) improvement projects. Plus, they were very happy to answer even my most technical questions about installation. If you’re looking to add exterior lighting to your home, check out Fortress Railing’s FortressAccents for all your lighting needs. If you’d like to update your railings and deck before you illuminate them, Fortress Building Products also sells decking, railings, fencing, and decorative hardware.



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