Thursday, September 29, 2011

Deck Lighting and Other Tips

Ok, it's time to finish off the blog with a few more details that I think will be useful to others trying to build affordable modern homes. First, I want to show the completed rooftop deck. As you may recall, our biggest cost overrun came from our decision to extend the roof-top deck out onto the cantilever where the views are best. Well, here is the final result.

[Photo by Mel Curtis]

The powder-coated aluminum railings were the most expensive component; cedar decking itself is rather cheap. However, it does require maintenance; we actually had our first re-coat of stain applied just a few months after moving in. Now a night-time shot:

I'm super excited by how the lighting turned out, and it's not a well-known product: they're called Dek Dots, made by Dekor. They're very small, low-voltage, LED lights that are installed flush to the surface, resulting in a super-minimal profile that can be walked on! You barely see them when they're not lit (try to find them in the first pic above). We actually stumbled onto this option; the original plans called for standard recessed outdoor lights, but it became clear on-site that cutting into the roofing membrane to install them would be a bad idea. These lights run on landscaping wire, so could be installed directly on the decking. All told, we spent about $350 on 20 of them! Highly recommended, and I wish we had used them for all our outdoor lighting.

Ok, now for two random tips that don't merit their own post, but that I wish I had know earlier.
1. Recessed lighting trim can be expensive! Our Juno 5" cans call for their 215W-WH trim, which runs about $20 each online. BUT, it turns out Juno has a super-secret "economy" line of trims, called VuLite, that you won't find for sale online or in normal stores; they're generally only sold through electrical supply stores that work with builders/contractors. These run about $7 a trim, and look almost identical to the 215W-WH; they feel a little plasticky, but you certainly won't notice once they're 3 feet above your head! So walk into a local electrical supply store and ask for VuLite trims; they'll give you a surprised look, and you'll save lots of money!
2. Our plans called for recessed lights in the ceilings of our closets. This is a bad idea, in part because your clothing isn't that well lit from above, but also because the electrical code calls for lensed trims in closets (just like in showers). These trims are quite expensive, around $50, not including the cost of the can itself! Instead, go for a fluorescent bar mounted just above the closet door; it lights very evenly, is energy efficient, and a 2' fixture costs about $20.


  1. place looks amazing! we'll have to come see it sometime soon. we were all kinda sick this last week, so I didn't try to stop by this time. we will sometime, though!

  2. Your place looks beautiful! Saw it in Pacific Northwest this weekend. We are doing a remodel down the hill and are looking for outdoor recessed lighting for our soffits. I am intrigued by those dek dots. We have a relatively high overhang, around 14' at the peak down to 10'. Do you think they are bright enough to work from that height? They sure look great on your deck.

  3. Thanks, David! Yes, I think the Dek Dots should work for that; they are LEDs so they have a pretty defined cone of light (i.e., they are spot lights). That is good for high soffits.

    On the other hand, normal recessed lights also work for soffits; we have 3 under our front cantilever. I would use recessed lights if you want just a few (since their output can be higher), and the dek dots if you want a lot of lights.

  4. Thanks for the advice Aseem! I am looking for a nice even glow on the terrace below the soffits. I'm open to either a few or a lot, whatever gives me the warmest, even glow. Now I'm thinking that maybe just some normal recessed lights might be the way to go, as I want a more diffuse light. Thanks again!

  5. Wow this looks great! Thanks for the tip. Barely noticeable at day and what a great lighting at night!

  6. Looks like a great VIP lounge at a party.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.