Decking lighting ideas – illuminating ways to transform your backyard

Discover decking lighting ideas to help illuminate and inspire your outdoor space with help from the experts

a deck with a sofa and lighting turned on
(Image credit: Rik Pennington / Catherine Clancy Garden Design)

Decking lighting ideas can range from the simple addition of candles, lanterns and festoon lights to more permanent fittings like spotlights and downlights. Whatever option you like the sound of, they're bound to create a magical ambience for your backyard deck come dusk, enhancing the whole space and providing a clear path for you and your guests. 

While your yard might be naturally beautiful in the daytime, it can be a bit lost at night without the help of lights. Great lighting can completely elevate the look and feel of all decking ideas, adding an enchanting glow to your timber, composite or PVC decking. If you're planning on some alfresco entertaining this summer, you'll want your deck to dazzle long into the evening. Plus, illuminating your garden will enhance your security, lighting up those shadowy corners and hidden dark areas.

Keep reading to be inspired by our top decking lighting ideas with expert tips and tricks and turn your outdoor space into a night-time paradise.

Decking lighting ideas to illuminate your deck at night 

Picking the best deck lighting for your space depends on your budget and style. From sparkly festoons that subtly illuminate with minimal effort to modern wall lights, inbuilt spotlights, downlights and firepits that will keep the space toasty as well as adequately lit, we've rounded up some of the top deck lighting designs below to get you inspired.

1. Use lighting to create an atmosphere

a balcony deck with up and down lighters

(Image credit: Moda Furnishings)

Beyond providing much-needed light to a dark outside space, deck lighting helps up the atmosphere, adds warmth and creates a sense of belonging. Here mini wall spot lights that blend into the background have been added to bring light in from above, just like you'd find inside a living room, helping blur the boundaries between indoor and outdoor spaces. Who's says you can't create a living room as a backyard idea?

'Lighting is absolutely essential for setting the scene and creating a cozy ambience outdoors. Whether it’s warm hanging lights or a glowing table lamp, the use of soft lighting is crucial for creating a warming atmosphere,' says Jonny Brierley, CEO at Moda Furnishings

'Alongside softer-use upholstery and accessories such as warming throws and cushions, people are now bringing the inside out to create the most comfortable atmosphere for family and friends,' he adds. 'When it comes to styling your decking area, it’s best to consider the overall look you want to achieve and how you’re planning to use your space.' 

2. Mount downlighting for a modern look

lighting added to a garden divider by Hunter Green

(Image credit: Hunter Green)

You need lights in the deck area in order to provide ambience and also to give the illumination needed for eating or sitting outside once the sun goes down. Lights can be built into the decking or you can use outdoor downlights on posts around the decking area to illuminate at a higher level. Most exterior wall lights are downlights or 'downspots'; and that's probably because they're chic, practical and help contribute to a very contemporary modern garden aesthetic.

'We illuminate decks in several ways, depending on what suits the space and design best,' says Jeff Salcito, Owner/Principal Designer of Huntergreen, a garden design and build company located in Brooklyn, NY. Often we illuminate the deck with downspots mounted on the surrounding fence. If there is no fence, 'deck lights' (small flush-mounted downlights) are mounted into the posts of the railings.' 

'You can use small step lights to illuminate the risers on steps. You can also make stairs, railings or the deck itself look as if it's floating with undermounted strip lights. They are invisible to the eye but cast light under the platform and give it an ambient effect.'

3. String festoon lights for a festival feel

Small deck with low coffee table and festoon lights

(Image credit: Nedgis)

Festoon lights are still going strong in the garden lighting style stakes. When discussing current garden trends, James Smith, Design Director at Bowles & Wyer says, 'We're seeing requests for festoon lights and mood lighting elements to make gardens a space for socializing after-hours.' And what's not to love? They offer an instant sociable vibe and will help create a magical glow, strung overhead or along fences.

This modern garden lighting idea is the perfect addition to both small and large back yards, evoking a laid-back, party feel.

Sheva Knopfler, Co-founder and Creative Director of adds; 'string lights are one of the most aesthetically pleasing ways to light your patio after dark. They aren't harsh like hardwired patio lights, and they can evenly distribute light depending on how you arrange them. String lights are an easy way to make an outdoor space feel intimate and keep the party going after the sun sets.'

'I also recommend using solar lanterns for an effortless glow. Simply set them in the sun during the day, and you'll have some extra lighting at night!' she says. 'If you need a simple lighting solution for your patio, pathway or steps, I recommend using our solar brick lights. These are high-quality, weather-proof and solar powered for convenience. Customize your lighting experience by choosing warm or cool lights, square or rectangular shapes and different sizes. This is an easy way to maintain safety around steps and pathways, especially for small children and elderly guests.'

4. Frame your deck with spotlights

a backyard deck illuminated at night by lighting

(Image credit: Travis Rhoads. Design: Seed Studio Landscape Design)

Creating a comfortable and warm atmosphere, spotlights also play a functional role for deck ideas with pools, framing access paths or highlighting bushes, flowers or house façades. Just because you want your paths to safely navigate you and your guests, doesn’t mean you can’t guide them in an aesthetically pleasing way. 

'When placing fixtures along a walkway or path, consider risks like being kicked or struck by a mower, and be sure they are angled down to avoid glare. A variety of down-lighting techniques can be used when lighting a path,' say the experts at Drost Landscape. 'In-grade lighting is often installed at the base of a stone wall or other hardscape feature. These fixtures are often installed flush with the surface.'

5. Add romance with lanterns

lanterns and festoon lights on a small deck

(Image credit: IKEA)

Besides adding the odd candle here or there,  lanterns are probably the easiest, quickest and most affordable way to light up your decking area from dusk till dawn. Plus, they allow for more control when it comes to the amount of light given off.

Whether the lanterns you choose use solar-powered bulbs, battery-operated bulbs, or good old fashioned candles, lanterns a provide a portable option for your deck and can be placed wherever your deck needs light the most. They're a great choice for small garden deck ideas, as they're so versatile. Add as few or as many lanterns as you’d like depending on how much light you want your deck to have. Plus, they're pretty romantic, too...

6. Keep warm with a firepit

a firepit on a raised deck

(Image credit: Paloform)

Deck ideas with firepits not only add light to your yard, but they'll keep you toasty, too. Firepits come in a wealth of different styles, from circular and square designs to more offbeat options. Choose between gas, bio-ethanol, or just back to basics with logs and firelighters for added warmth and light in your garden.

'Firepits are available in several styles, defined by shape and by function. There are circular and square shapes, meant to be placed at the centre of a radial furniture arrangement and linear designs for longer spaces,' says Khai Foo, Director at modern firepit brand Paloform. 'Further, fire bowls can serve more as modern campfires, where models with larger top surfaces can be used as outdoor coffee or even dining tables. Taller styles can be used as space dividers right up to upright outdoor fireplace surrounds.'

7. Avoid going overboard with lighting

Decking lighting ideas

(Image credit: Future)

The overall size of your outdoor space will affect the number of lights you can install and where you can put them, but even with a large plot you'll probably need fewer lights than you think. Carefully planning and learning how to position landscape lighting in the right places will help prevent you going overboard and overspending on electricity!

'Consider how much light you want. Don't over light the deck so it looks like an airplane landing strip,' advises Jeff Salcito, Owner and Principal Designer of Huntergreen. 'You need to also consider what color your lighting is. I prefer a 2700K warm light which feels like an interior lamp light. Anything above 3000K can feel cold and sterile.'

'What's more, I advise people to use experienced outdoor contractors. To cut costs many people doing gut renos have their interior contractors 'throw in' a deck or fence or lighting but you have to know some basic outdoor construction principals or you'll be paying another professional to redo the work the right way,' Jeff adds.

How do you illuminate a deck?

a deck with built in seating

(Image credit: Charlotte Rowe and Light IQ)

There are several ways to illuminate a deck, from spotlights and downlights to candles and lanterns. Look around your backyard and seek out the features that already exist, from decks and patio ideas to ponds and walkways - then think about highlighting them to help draw the overall design of the garden together. 

Before you commit to bigger lighting ideas like spot and down lights, test the positioning of lights in different places by using a long extension cord and a light and taking it around the deck or garden at night and experimenting with different positions, angles and brightness levels.

'Top quality Western Red Cedar decking was used on this roof terrace. The decking is integrated with seating areas and planting to divide up the space, and a slatted trellis in the same timber is used on the sides of the terrace to provide privacy. It is important to consider the direction of the interior decking when laying outdoor decking,' says garden designer Charlotte Rowe

Unless you have worked with lighting before, it's best to work with an electrician. 

What are the best lights for decking?

festoon lights

(Image credit: Cox & Cox)

The best lights for decking really come down to personal aesthetics; what you like the look of and whether you want something wired in or just a lantern or candle you can place outside easily and cheaply.

The most popular types of deck lighting include:

Uplights and spotlights: These can illuminate garden path ideas, pools and patios. This technique is great for featuring objects, or creating a contrast of shadow and light for varying depths.

Downlights and downspots: Designed to be anchored to walls or even trees. Down-lighting creates a directly illuminated area at the base of the structure the fixture is attached to.

Steps: You can use small step lights to illuminate the risers on steps. Undermounted strip lights will give the appearance of floating steps. The best fixtures include surface mounts, flush mounts, path lights, and weatherproof LED strip lights.

Post caps and railing lights: Decorative lighting fixtures that can be attached to posts or rails.

Moonlighting: Creating a glow similar to moonlight, moonlighting is created by placing light fixtures high inside the foliage of a tree, angled down.

Rachel Christie

As the Houses Editor on Livingetc, Rachel has been obsessed with property ever since she was a kid. With a diploma in interior design and more than a decade working on interior magazines under her belt, she feels very at home sourcing the best contemporary houses the world has to offer for Livingetc. It's not just the day job either, she admits she's spent a scary amount of her own time researching schemes for her own renovations - scrolling Instagram, stalking Rightmove and Modern House, flicking through magazines and snooping in other peoples' windows - so she really does live and breathe houses on a daily, if not hourly, basis. Before Livingetc, Rachel had a stint finding homes for Ikea Family magazine where she was lucky enough to gallivant around the world on shoots meeting and interviewing interesting people, all with a very keen eye for blending high-end design with everyday items from Ikea. It inspired her to not be afraid of mixing new and old, expensive and affordable, vintage and modern and so Rachel's current Victorian terrace in north London is very much an updated, contemporary take on a period property; think open-plan modern kitchen with concrete floors, feature fireplaces and her grandmother’s paintings on the walls. Rachel is currently crushing on reeded glass, large gingham prints, squishy curved furniture; like Buchanan Studio’s Studio chair, and vintage wall sconces; she especially adores Retrouvius for sourcing antique finds and feels inspired by Lonika Chande, Beata Heuman and Matilda Goad and already can’t wait to start planning her next home, wherever that might be.