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Step Lights Buyer's Guide

Buyer's Guide: Step Lights

Step lights brighten up landscaping projects and cast light on potential trip hazards on your property. Step lights commonly use shields, grills, inset lamp housings or hoods to protect pedestrians from glare and to hide the light from overhead view.

Plan Ahead

FNational Specialty MiniDisc Scoop Step Light

Each step should have direct light, unobstructed by shadows from above. Plan to install one step light for every two or three steps. Dedicate one light to a single step if your steps are extra long and need illumination in multiple points.

You’ll most likely need a wall to attach your step lights to, but you can also attach them to a deck rail, pillar or bollard. Deck rail lights are commonly used to illuminate steps or the surface of a deck and provide more decorative flare than simple recessed step lights.

Most step lights need to be connected through the back of the light, so be prepared to drill a hole through the mounting surface. You will also need waterproof wire connectors to securely install the light outdoors.

Also consider voltage. Many step lights are 12 volts, so they will require a transformer to connect to your home’s standard electrical system. Add up the wattage of your step lights and compare this to the capacity of your transformer so that it does not get overloaded. Plan to keep your step lights within 100 feet of the transformer so the furthest lights do not dim.

Types of Step Lights

Both recessed and surface mount lights are available for purchase. Surface mounted step lights are easily installed to a surface using screws. Recessed step lights are set into a hole in the mounting surface. You will want to factor in both aesthetics and the amount of labor involved to install when deciding which type of lights to purchase.


Step lights come in a variety of finishes, ranging from copper to white. Choose whichever finish fits the other hardware in your landscaping. If you are purchasing step lights for outdoor use, make sure that the lights are waterproof. Even if you live in an area that does not get much rain, it is likely that the lights will come into contact with water from sprinklers and the occasional storm. Different materials hold up best in different types of weather, be that sweltering heat or frequent snow storms. Make sure you take the time to research what is best for your climate.


Step lights are available with a number of small but powerful light bulb options. LED light bulbs are growing in popularity for their long life, energy efficiency and low temperatures, but step lights are also available in incandescent, xenon, fluorescent and halogen.


  • Choose your lighting placement.
  • Turn off the electricity
  • Drill any holes necessary for recessed lighting
  • Install the lights according to the included manual
  • Wire the deck lights (ensure you have a transformer if the lights are low voltage)
  • Connect the Deck lights to the transformer or power outlet
  • Secure the wiring
  • Turn the electricity back on
  • Admire and Enjoy!
  • Shop All Step Lights
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