A wooden decking area is often the centrepiece of a garden. It’s the focal point; it’s where we sit; we eat; we play; and we chat, whether that be on a bright July afternoon, a fresh October morning or a warm August evening. If you often find yourself still enjoying your garden even after the sun has set, then you’re right to consider investing in some decking lights. Their soft lighting is a subtle way of adding elegance and poise to your outdoor area, allowing you to enjoy your garden well into the evening.
Not only do decking lights create a relaxing ambience, but they’re also useful – they illuminate your decking area, which is a part of your garden that, in certain conditions, can be hazardous – whether it be the fact that decking is often accessed by steps; or that the boards can become slippery when wet. Having lighting helps you to see where you’re going and so is great for avoiding potential tripping hazards and to help you keep a watchful eye on children and pets.
When it comes to choosing decking lights, you’ll find the majority of styles are solar LED bulbs due to their versatility and convenience. There are options available which are powered by mains electricity or battery power, however, they’re less common as they’re more complex to install and maintain. Solar lights are also the number one choice for a lot of garden enthusiasts as they’re known for being meticulously designed and reinforced to withstand the unpredictable, often turbulent British weather, so that they’re protected against prolonged exposure to rain, ice and heat (although granted too much sun isn’t likely to be a problem in the UK!!) all of which could potentially damage mains powered/battery-powered decking lights, or leave them electrically unsafe.
Only got 5 minutes
Choosing the right type of decking lights
Do you want to invest in decking lights for security and safety, or to make your outdoor area look pretty? It’s a valid question and one you need to be totally clear on before you start shopping.
If you’re investing in lighting for security, solar lights may not be the best option. Even the most powerful solar lights will struggle to produce the brightness that electric lighting is capable of and, if you’re hoping decking lights are going to serve as a deterrent to potential intruders, it’s likely you’ll be disappointed.
If security isn’t your primary reason for investing in decking lights – you simply want to enhance your decking and create a stylish, relaxing ambience in your garden – then solar lighting is likely to be the best option for you. Solar lighting is less expensive than mains-powered; it’s simple to install; low maintenance and comes in various styles, colours and sizes, meaning you’re bound to find the perfect lighting system for your garden.
Solar decking lights
So you’ve decided solar decking lights – the most common type of garden lighting in the UK – is what you’re going for, but you’re puzzled – sunlight in the UK is. shall we say a rarity? Even if you’re lucky enough to have a south-facing garden, you’re still at the mercy of the weather when it comes to whether us Brits actually get a summer or not, but this shouldn’t be an issue when it comes to solar LED decking lights.
So what if our starts in June and ends in July? Lighting units fitted with USB charging ports, or models which have been designed with power-saving technology, are two ways that allow us to still use our solar lighting even on the dullest of days.
If you go for decking lights which have USB charging technology, you’ll have the option to fully charge your lights quickly and easily, just like you would your phone or tablet. Once fully charged, some models of decking lights can run for days, or even weeks, with very little sunlight exposure.
Models which come with the handy feature of power-saving mode allow you to dim the brightness in order to conserve energy, just with the flick of a switch.
Before you buy
Once you’re clear on why you’re buying decking lights, the next step is to do a plan. You’ll need to fight the urge to start searching the web, trying to find the best deal, with the aim of getting the lights bought, fitted and in full working order by the time the weekend’s out! You’re going to be buying a number of bulbs so, rather than guesstimating how many you’re going to need, it’s a good idea to draw a rough plan of your decking area, ideally with measurements, and mark on where the lights will be positioned and how far apart you intend on placing them. By doing this little bit of preparation, you’re avoiding finding yourself in a stressful situation where you’ve either ordered too many lights or not enough.
Finally, if you’re going for solar decking lights, consider how much exposure to the sun your lights are likely to be exposed to on a day-to-day basis. Obviously they’ll all pick up some light, however marginal, but it’s important to be aware of any shady spots or areas blocked from sunlight. If you’re lucky enough to have a south-facing garden, more-or-less any solar lighting system will do, however if there are any parts of your garden that are fully or partially shaded, go for a lighting system with an external solar panel, which can be positioned in any part of your garden – ideally the part that’s exposed to the maximum amount of sunlight. The panel will then conserve the solar energy, which will in turn power your decking lights.
How to install decking lights
If the thought of garden DIY has you feeling a little queasy, rest-assured installing your solar decking lights isn’t going to cause you a problem. They couldn’t be easier to install and manage.
What tools you need to install your decking lights will depend on the type of lights you go for but, as long as you have a screwdriver, electric drill and a jigsaw you should be fully prepared. Have a pencil and tape measure handy too as you’ll want to make sure you space out the lights with an equal distance between each one.
Fitting & installation
Standard solar decking lights, and lights powered by a battery or mains electricity will need to be placed into holes that you’ve cut into the decking boards using your jigsaw, and shouldn’t require any screws. To cut the holes:
● First, consult your plan
● Then mark on each decking board where the lights will be positioned.
● Next, draw around the base of one of the light units.
● Finally cut the hole with your drill and jigsaw*, using your pencil line as a guide.
*To cut the holes, drill a hole in the decking board and use your jigsaw to cut around the light unit outline. Smooth any rough edges with sandpaper and then simply pop the lights into the holes.
Once you’ve finished cutting, that’s you done! All that’s left to do is to let the sunlight, technology and sensors do their thing whilst you sit back, relax and enjoy your beautifully illuminated deck.
Decking light features to look out for
- Reinforced construction – look for solid, stainless-steel lighting units that have been reinforced to ensure the bulb is protected from footfall; extreme weather; and any sudden impact.
- Colour – the most common decking light colour options are blue, white, and warm white. Blue and white tend to be brighter, whilst warm white creates a calmer, more relaxed feel. Multi-coloured decking lights are less common but are also available if you’re looking for a more vibrant, colourful vibe for your outdoor area.
- Brightness settings – multiple brightness settings allow you to control the intensity of the light emitted from your decking lights. You’ll have the option to save energy by choosing the lowest setting or, if it’s bright lighting you’re after, choose a higher setting.
- Warranty – look for lighting units which come with a lengthy warranty/manufacturer’s guarantee to give you peace of mind the lights you choose are going to last.
- Sensors – some lighting styles come fitted with dusk sensors, which will turn on the lights automatically once the sun has set. Alternatively, you can opt to switch them on and off manually but it’s good to have the option of automatic switch-on for when you’re not at home.
- Easy installation – with solar lights there’s no wiring required; it’s just a case of drilling the holes and placing the lights into your decking boards. For mains-powered decking lights, it’s likely you’re going to need to call in an electrician.
Frequently Asked Questions
It’s important that you create a plan of your decking area, complete with measurements, so you’re able to calculate and visualise how many decking lights you’ll need.
As a rough guide, you can expect to use:
Small decking area: 6-12 lights
Mid-size decking area: 12 -18 lights
Large decking area: 18-24 lights
Decking lights are usually fixed – they’re fitted into pre-drilled holes in the decking boards so that they lie flush with the wood. They’re reinforced to ensure they’re protected from footfall, the elements, and any sudden impact from a falling object or any other hazards.