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Picture of LED Deck Lighting- in color!
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We put up these color changing LED lights on this deck just in time for a big party thrown every year!  They added a nice atmosphere to the party and everyone loved them. 

This whole project only took about 1 1/2 days to complete.  The first day to install the wiring and flexible LED lights, and the second to connect the controllers and go over the strips with clear silicon for extra protection.  If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask!  Enjoy :-)





 
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Step 1: Draw Schematics

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Don't be intimidated by the planning needed to do this project!  I promise you, it will be well worth the effort!  Each deck is slightly different, so there is a lot to consider before you get to work:
 
Draw a rough sketch of your deck including measurements.  Decide where you want to put the lighting, making particular note of:
~electrical source (where you can get the power from)- this doesn't have to be outside- you can have the LED controllers/power supply in an attic or basement out of the weather and hidden and just run the low voltage wires out to the strips.
~Where you can run the low voltage wire so that it is not noticeable (for example under an overhang/lip of the deck).
~Where and how you want to control the lights from (wall switch, remote, DMX, or timer).
~ How bright you think you want the strips (this can help size the wire, controllers and power supplies). 

After making the rough sketch, you must:
1. Decide how many feet of flexible LED strip you need.  Also, decide which sections you want connected together and which ones you want to be able to control separately (for color or brightness).
2. The best way to run the wiring.  In most cases you should plan on running a maximum of 2 rolls end-to-end per 22-4 supply wire- if you stick to this recommendation, you will be able to have long runs (up to 50') of the wire without having to worry about voltage drop.

Some final things to consider:
~ The more home runs (low voltage wire from the strips back to the controller), the better- as this will provide less voltage drop (power loss) and more options as far as control (if you ever want to add or change anything).
~ If you have a large area you can have several home run locations and either run a larger wire back to the controller or put an amplifier and power supply there to boost the power and signal.
~ If you are looking to run the strips at reduced brightness (dim level- an example would be for under stair treads or outlining your house, you can run several (4-6) rolls together on one controller and power supply.  However, you must then keep the lights at this dim level (for example 35% of brightness) or your power supply will be overloaded and could blink or stop working.
~ Group the wires from each independent section together (each section which you would like to have individual control of), so that they can be connected to separate controllers/amps.
~ For large installations, make note of how many feet of flex strip are on each wire so you can correctly size the amplifier needed. 

Step 2: Materials

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You will be able to find most of these materials at your local hardware store- or you may already have them!

~~22-4 cable (low voltage wire) we recommend a stranded control cable or security wire you can use larger 18-4 AWG but you may find it is harder to solder to the strips as the wires are much bigger

~~LED flexible strip- we used 12v waterproof RGB flexible LED strips for underneath the stair tread of the platforms, and regular water resistant 12V RGB flexible LED strips for underneath the railings and gazebo top.  (We figured that the stair treads could be exposed to more water, from splashing rain or a snowy winter.  However, the lights under the railings were not likely to get wet very often).

~~Wire cutters/strippers

~~Soldering gun and rosin core solder

~~Pliers and splice connectors (especially if you don't like to solder)

~~Drill with long 1/4" drill bit to go through deck posts

~~Caulking gun and 100% silicone (Quality silicone like the type you would use for windows, doors, and gutters)

~~You can also use 1/2" plastic or coated wire staples to hold up the strip if you do not want to use the self adhesive/silicone

~~some wire nuts, an extension cord, electrical tape and zip ties may come in handy as well

Step 3: Lay out flexible LED strips and wires

Picture of Lay out flexible LED strips and wires
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Lay out the flexible LED strips on top of the railings, cutting the 16' rolls to the necessary lengths. 

Cut the flexible LED strip on the nearest cut line which is approximately every 4 inches, so that it fits between the posts.  You may want to leave approximately 1-2 inches of space at either end.  This will give you extra space for the wire and room to work when soldering/installing them.

Step 4: Drill through Posts

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Drill through any posts that you want to run the wire through, making sure that the hole is right below the bottom of the deck railing.  If one post is higher than the other, you will have to drill diagonally.

Step 5: Connect wire through Posts

You will use the low voltage wire to connect the LED strips on either side of the post.  Push a section of wire, long enough to solder onto both ends of the strips, through the hole you drilled.  If the post is hollow, you can leave extra wire as it will make it easier to solder and you can just push the extra into the post.  If the post is hollow, you may need to use a stiff wire like a coat hanger to help guide the wire through (or put the wire through, tape the wire on, and pull it back through the hole). 

Solder the low voltage wire onto the ends of the LED strips.  Make sure to go over all of your solder connections with silicon right away. 

Step 6: Connect around corners

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Now, you will be connecting the flexible LED strip pieces around joints/bends in the deck railing.  This is much easier to do on top of the railings or at a work bench.  If you do not want to solder, you can pre-measure the sections and order the strips made to length.

If the end that you are working with already has 3-6" of wire on the end, you do not need to do anything to that end.  If it doesn't, simply peel off about 3/8" of the waterproof coating and solder the four wires onto the solder pads as seen in the picture below.  Cover these soldered areas with silicon after you have finished. 

If you have any more questions about the soldering, you can see extremely detailed instructions of the solder process here.

At this point, you should have all the runs of flexible LED strip connected together.  Now all you have to do is connect them to the power supply!

Step 7: Run wiring

Run the low voltage supply wire from the end of the strips back to the controller (it's best to take the shortest route possible- however, a few extra feet is not a big deal).  To connect all of the LED strips to the control cable, solder wire and any remaining jumpers onto the ends of the strips.  Then, you can use wire nuts or butt connectors to attach it to the low voltage supply wire. 

Double check everything to make sure you have power wires run to all the strips and sections- you don't want to forget any!

Step 8: Attach Strips to Railing

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Peel off the backing of the flexible LED strip and stick it to the underside of the clean, dry railing.  Make sure to keep it as straight and even as possible- do not worry if you have an area where it is not sticking as well (you will put silicone on everything to hold it in place as well). 

Step 9: Connect wires to amp/controller and power supply

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Connect all of the wires from each zone you want to control to the same amplifier or controller (depending on length of run and size of controller/amp).

For controller/power supply sizing see this chart.  Make sure to check the info section of the controller/power supply which you want to use, because each will have a maximum rated length of flexible LED strip which it can control. 
~~For a controller or amplifier, use the calculation 1A/16' of 12V RGB Flexible LED Strip.  So...32' would need a 2A/Ch controller or amplifier.  
~~For power supply sizing, figure 3A/16' roll of RGB flex strip if you are going to use the white/ full brightness setting.  If you are going to be using mostly solid colors or fades figure 1.5A/16' roll.  However, it is always better to oversize the power supply so it does not have to work as hard!

If you have longer runs, you can use several power supplies and amplifiers either along the way or all at the base location.  Feel free to ask us questions or need help figuring this out for your specific deck!

For Example's sake:
If the total of all strips in one zone is less than 64' (less than 4 16' rolls of flexible LED strip) and you choose the RGB RF Remote with Audio  controller for that zone, you can just hook the strips into the output of the controllers Black = (+) | Red = (R) | Green = (G) | Blue or White = (B) and then connect the power supply to the power input of the controller and you are good to go.

However, if the layout was the same but you wanted to use a 24key IR Remote you would need to use a Mini Amp between the controller and the strips to boost the signal/power, as the 24x IR Remote is only rated at 2A/ch so it could only control up to 2 of our 16' strips  without an amplifier.

Step 10: Testing/Troubleshooting

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It is always a good idea to go over each connection and make sure that none of the wires or contacts  are shorted out.  In addition, make sure that no unconnected ends are touching anything or each other.

If the lights come on for a while, but then start slowly flashing, your power supply is probably overloaded (and the lights are flashing because it keeps resetting)- you either need a bigger power supply or to dim the lights down.

If everything comes on but not all of the colors work, you probably have a short between 2 of the colored wires.  If one of the colors doesn't come on at all, one of the wires is probably loose.

If you have a section which doesn't work, check to make sure all of the connections are secure.

Step 11: FInish up / Silicone Strips to Railing

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After everything is working properly, you need to apply silicone over all the connections.  Also, run a bead of clear silicone along either side of the water resistant flexible LED strips to help seal them and hold them onto the railing in all weather conditions.  If you are worried about the strips coming off, you can place electrical staples over the strips.


Step 12: Have a Party!

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Now the fun part: 

Invite some friends over, and have a party to test out the lights!! :-)
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rafacardosoc2 months ago

Can anyone suggest a power adapter that i could use in the deck outlet directly? one that would be waterproof? I need to power about 70in of lights - 60 led/meter

mike.coglio4 months ago
Is it possible to put the controller and power supply in a waterproof container outside? I am worried that the remote control will not work through my brick house.
allan957626 months ago

You should absolutely leverage your landscape lights if you have them. Its way easier and cheaper than to use the standard 120V transformer. Your landscape transformer outputs 12V AC. You need 12V DC for the LED. I recommend you get one of these to get the conversion done. It is a very small device so makes it easier to hide. You can get it from Amazon. "72W Outdoor Waterproof Low Voltage Landscape LED Power Supply Converter/Rectifier, Input 12V AC to Output 12V DC"

DustySeven72 years ago
would it not be a better connection to use heat shrink before the silicone?
Hi, how well has this held up? My Dad is skeptical about the silicon to adhere the strips to the wood, are they still stuck to this date?
botguy243 years ago
Its real life TRON!!!! SO cool!
Hmmm... it's great job. Very nice for night party :)
kelseymh5 years ago
This is a beautifully constructed project, and an outstanding Instructable.  Thank you very much!

And as an aside for others reading these comments --- this is how a commercial member of I'bles can contribute!  They've got links to their own products for sourcing the raw materials, but nowhere did they stick in a shill, like, "We can do this for you for the incredibly low price of ...."  Most excellent.
usLEDsupply (author)  kelseymh5 years ago
Thanks for the comment!  We are so glad it came across that way :-)  
We love your deck! We are wanting to do something simular, but don't know much about these lights. We have 184' of railing not including gates and steps. We would like to go all the way around using one controller and one transformer. Can we do this or do we need to buy more? Any suggestions or tips on how to do this?
agreed 

thumbs up!
Im thinking i want to do a similar project on my deck i built last year. i will roughly have 2 runs for the under my railing one about 22' long and the other about 19'. on top of that i would like to have another setup for under the stair treads (2 sets of stairs, 3 strips per set of stairs both are roughly 4 feet wide)

i would like to have longer runs able to be set to one color and the stairs set to another. Could you please point me into the right direction for all the components i will be needing.
usLEDsupply (author)  crazylikeacharger4 years ago
You will need just over 4 16' rolls of RGB strip (we would recommend using at least IP-65 rated strips and ideally IP-68 rated strips, which are completely waterproof) and a 150 watt power supply (which could power all the strips). The easiest way to do two zones is simply to get two different models of RGB controller. For example you can use the 20key RF controller for the railings and the 8key RF controller for under the stairs.  Other components include wire, silicon, etc.  Feel free to ask us any more questions and we will do our best to help!
ichisato4 years ago
Great final product and GREAT instructable. Thanks! Beautiful deck btw. :)
sutek5 years ago
Excellent 'ible'. I have been playing around with using led's and strips at my home and particularly in the pool. To clarify i tried a strip lights around the inside top of the pool under the lip. This gave a nice warm glow but were unsuitable for the wet. I am wondering if these strips would be suitable as even though they wouldn't be under water permanently, they will be submersed at times.
usLEDsupply (author)  sutek5 years ago
Thanks :-)  There are different waterproof ratings for flexible LED strips...some are not waterproof at all, some are water resistant (like the ones we used for this deck), and some are completely waterproof (and these are the type you would want to use around the pool).  We'd recommend these 12V Waterproof RGB Flexible LED strips ...or any other 'waterproof' LED strip, as long as the waterproof rating is IP-68.  This rating means that they can be completely submerged in water.  When connecting more than one strip you can also easily make the connections waterproof by using 3M Scotchlok Waterproof Butt Connectors. 
gnubalance5 years ago
 Looking at that video, it would appear that the whole deck is bathed in that beautiful LED light by simply installing these strips under the railings and on the gazebo.  Do you also have LED floods or any such add-ons to achieve the bathed lighting effect?  It certainly seems to cover a large area.
usLEDsupply (author)  gnubalance5 years ago
no there are no floods lights or other lights just the strips under the railing.
they are wide angle 120 deg leds so they do make a nice even glow over the whole deck:-)
mythros5 years ago
nice, but would be cooler if it was made to change color with music.
usLEDsupply (author)  mythros5 years ago
A simple way to do that would be to use an audio controller w/ a built in microphone (which is only about $35) or if you want to program a full light show which goes to the music you could use a DMX decoder.

I'm new to this, but when I first saw a led light show that goes with the music on one e-mail, I started dreaming about it, does the LEd strips already has different colors on it? where can I purchase it? thanks...

usLEDsupply (author)  rossleung5 years ago
You can buy LED strips in single color (i.e. they don't change- red, blue, green, white) or in RGB (This means that they are color changing.  RGB stands for red-green-blue- each LED chip is actually 3 LEDs in 1, and by changing the intensity of each of these individual colors, you can make all the colors of the rainbow).  You would need these: RGB Flexible LED strip and RGB RF remote controller with audio (if you want to control the lights to go to the music).  They are very easy to install, if you have any questions we would be glad to help. :-)
rmd.65 years ago
Hello, congratulation this is a realy howsome job.
I would like to do a deck lighting, but only with white light.
Can you give me some tips on the kind of material I should use? (I'm new on this kind of things)

Thank you
usLEDsupply (author)  rmd.65 years ago
Thanks~~if you do not want to use color changing LED lights, you could use the the same concept using warm white LED strips.  The installation process would be the same, except that you would not need RGB controllers.  However, you could put them on a dimmer (so that you could adjust the lights to any brightness).
Thank you for the quick answer, very kind of you
coppeis5 years ago
must make now
JermsG5 years ago
Nice instructable.

I have a couple of points about the sentence:
"...even being covered in snow in northern climates where under the railings are raillery going to get wet"
 - I think by "raillery" you mean "rarely"?
 - You can always tell a northern-hemisphere author, when they think that it snows more in the north than in the south. Depends how far south you go, dude!
smokie19695 years ago
WOW! this is awesome! I want to build a deck when my new house is completed later this year....now I have even more ideas to add to it.

What would you suggest if integrating this during the decks construction to make it easier? maybe using a router to rebate all the lights? or put them un der the deck somewhere as well?

Also how much did this cost you?
Thanks again!
usLEDsupply (author)  smokie19695 years ago
The strips are thin enough that you don't need to router the boards (unless you want to).  You can router a notch in the top of the post before you put the railings on so that you could feed the strips through and not have to make connections at each post.  The led strip is about $5/linear foot.  It would also be easier to run the control cable/wire before you build the deck+ you can plan out where you need it to go. 
sumatra5 years ago
What is the music on the video?  I like it!

thanks.

I love the project and really enjoyed reading the guide.  Keep up the good work =).
simsavant5 years ago
bet no one said this yet ...nice property ...self landscaping?
 
Toulouse5 years ago
 those LED christmas lights are extremely economical right after christmas (i got them for like $3.00 a strand) and they are of pretty good quality, could be used in a project like this i imagine. they lit my dorm room for a while until the fire marshal said otherwise :(
Traditionally, xmas lights are a horrible fire hazard.  Manufactured by the cheapest method in the worst factories.  Not so true anymore, and the marshal likely didn't realise they were LED's as opposed the the usual incandescent fire hazards.
How did you have them wired?  The LEDs themselves are unlikely to be a hazard.  The daisy chain of multi-outlet extension cords, each one with three or four things plugged into it, and all plugged into a big block multi-outlet -- that's the fire hazard.
fire marshal would prolly claim water was a fire hazzard too -_-

LEDs are cold -_-
oortcloud5 years ago
All that soldering and then you use crimp connectors... tsk tsk ;)
Totally understand, though.
jeff-o5 years ago
Wow, that's a fantastic looking backyard!  I only wish I lived in a more temperate climate - if I tried something like this it would be destroyed by winter every year.  :(
xboxteen015 years ago
Outstanding project and results.
XOIIO5 years ago
That is amazing! Really cool!
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