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How to Hang Outdoor String Lights

How to Hang Outdoor String Lights - Proline Range Hoods

Hanging outdoor string lights is a great way to add some extra ambiance and create the perfect atmosphere for your backyard. But, it can be a little tricky if you haven't done it before.

We’ll show you how to hang your outdoor string lights on your outdoor patio and cover everything from choosing the right lighting all the way up to hanging them.

1) Choose your lighting.

When choosing your lighting, consider the following:

Look for removable bulbs because they are easier to deal with. You can set up the lights without the bulbs and then insert them after. They are also better in the long run because you can just replace bulbs if they go out and not the entire string of lights.

This may seem like a pain but it prevents you from breaking any of the lights while hanging them.

Look for shatterproof bulbs for safety reasons. If your bulbs break or get damaged, shatterproof bulbs will contain the shards of glass and keep everyone safe.

Invest in commercial-grade string lights like these ones built for the outdoors. Commercial lights are built to withstand the elements and heavy use.

Commercial-grade string lights often come with the cord and bulbs sold separately.

We like these ones from Amazon and have used them in our backyard.

Buy some replacement bulbs or extra string lights. This will make it easy to replace any bulbs that go out or strings that get worn down or break.

2) Measure the space for your lights from tree to tree or structure to structure.

After you take your measurements, add about five feet to each measurement you’ve made so the lights are not completely taut when you hang them.

They should sit loosely and make a nice round curve over your outdoor space.

3) Make a rough sketch of your patio area.

Use the measurements found in step two to make a rough sketch of your outdoor space.

4) Decide how you will hang your outdoor string lights.

There are six popular ways to hang your outdoor string lights. The easiest methods are probably parallel and V-shaped, pictured below.

Parallel string lights
V shaped string lights
  • 1) Parallel
  • 2) Square
  • 3) V
  • 4) W
  • 5) Horizon point
  • 6) Tent design
Horizon Point String Lights
Maypole String Lights

5) Determine where you will attach your string lights.

You have several options regarding where to hang your outdoor string lights.

  • Trees
  • Porch or deck posts
  • Side of a home
  • Fences
  • Gazebos or pergolas
  • Pavilions

For softer wood like your porch, fences, or deck posts, you may want to use wall anchors to secure the hooks in place. Wall anchors are not mandatory, but if you can anchor your lights into a solid piece of wood like a stud, that will provide fantastic support for a long time.

You don’t need to add additional anchors of any kind for trees.

DIY Poles or Posts

If you're looking to hang outdoor lights but you don't have any trees, fences, or structures to hang them from, you'll need to make your own. There are two ways you can do this.

The first is to place the post in a container, then pour concrete into the container and let it set. Make sure the containers are sturdy and heavy enough to hold the posts without falling over.

Before you let the concrete set, install the cup hooks a few inches below the top of the post. This way you won't have to get on a ladder later to install them.

Then, place the containers where you want them. Ask a friend or two for help to hold the pole centered and vertical while you pour the concrete.

Concrete takes about a month to dry, so monitor it over the next few weeks before hanging your string lights. Do not hang them until the concrete is completely dried and cured.

Here’s a quick video showing you how to make one of these posts yourself. One cool thing about making a DIY post is that after you’ve poured the concrete and let it dry, you can put dirt on the top and add plants for extra decor.

Once the concrete dries, grab a ladder to hang your string lights on the hooks. You can secure them in place with zip ties.

To power the outdoor lights, you may need to use an extension cord.

Pole Size

2x2 and 2x4 wood are too flimsy to support hanging lights, especially for large patios or pavilions. Instead, use a 4x4 or 6x6 piece. The more lights you run, the larger your pole needs to be to provide adequate support.

Pole Depth

This is where the second method comes into play. If you don't use concrete to secure your pole in a container, you can drive it into the ground. For the best results, drive your post between two and three feet into the ground. This is ideal for lights that are hung about 8' to 12' high.

The higher you hang your lights, the further you should install your post. For lights hung 12 or more feet high, drive the post three feet deep.

Pole Height

The most important thing to consider here is that people can walk comfortably without running into your string lights or bulbs. For most string lights, about eight to 10 feet is perfect.

If you have larger bulbs, you may want to hang the lights a little higher.

6) Pre-drill your guide holes in the tree, fence, or other structure to attach your string lights.

Use cable clamps, cup hooks, or other hardware to attach your string lights.

One of the most common ways to attach string lights is to use cup hooks or Q hooks from Amazon.

You can also use coaxial staples, which are available on Amazon.

This hardware behaves like hooks. But both ends are secured to the wall so you won't need zip ties.

How to Hang Outdoor String Lights on a Tree

To hang outdoor string lights on a tree, you have a couple of options. If you are just looking to weave some lights through the branches and the tree trunk, there’s no need to drill any holes into the tree. You can also hang string lights this way on fences, bushes, or your deck railing.

How to Hang Outdoor String Lights - String Lights on a Fence

But if you are hanging several feet of string lights from trees, you will likely need to drill into the tree and install a hook.

7) Hang your string lights.

Now just connect the lights to all the hooks, and that’s it.

If you just have one strand of lights, you're done after you attach the lights with cable clamps or hooks.

But often you'll need to connect strings together. Just secure the male end to the female end of each string.

Check with your manufacturer to make sure that you are not connecting too many strands together. If you connect too many it will put a lot of strain on the string lights. The weight of the lights add to the tension of the string and it may also make the lights sag. A little curve is natural, but you don’t want them to hang too low.

If you are hanging glass bulbs, consider removing them before hanging your string. This way, you don't have to worry about them breaking during installation. It's incredibly helpful to remove the bulbs if you're hanging several strands of lights or if they cross each other.

Use guide wire to support the hanging lights if needed. If you are hanging heavy bulbs or running hanging lights about 100 feet or more, we recommend guide wire. It provides extra support for your hanging lights, reducing the tension of the strings.

Check out this video to learn more.

If you buy lights with hanging grommets, you can thread the guide wire through the grommet before you hang the lights.

If your lights don't have grommets, use zip ties to secure the guide wire to the string lights. You can do this before or after hanging the lights.

What is the best way to hang outdoor string lights?

The best way to hang outdoor string lights depends on where you are hanging them. If you have trees, it's easy to hang lights. Just drill a hole into a tree, install a cup hook, wrap the light around it and secure it with a zip tie. Or you can thread them through the branches and not anchor them. But, make sure you are close enough to a power outlet. You can also hang string lights from porch or deck posts, your home, fences, gazebos, pergolas, or pavilions.

When hanging heavy lights or hundreds of feet of string lights, thread them through a guide wire for extra support. You can also install wall anchors before the hooks for extra support.

How do you hang string lights on a patio without nails?

Most hooks use nails to hang string lights, but there are a few ways you can hang string lights without nails. Try using:

  • Staples

Staples are more secure than tape and are not as visible as nails.

  • Gutter hooks

Gutter hooks hang on your gutter, so you don’t need nails to fasten them to your home.

  • Adhesive hooks

Adhesive hooks stick to the side of your home. But these won't be as sturdy compared to nailing a hook into your wall.

  • Tape

Tape is the least secure of the four options, but it won't damage your home if you're worried about drilling holes into your walls.

You can also hang your outdoor string lights in a few different places that don't require nails.

These include:

  • Trees
  • Deck railing
  • Bushes
  • Roof
  • Fences
  • …and more

What can you use to hold up string lights?

You have several different options to hang your string lights securely.

You can find this hardware at your local Home Depot or Lowes. Some string lights may come with the hardware needed to hang everything.

Thanks for reading our guide on how to hang outdoor string lights. For more home improvement guides and advice, check out the articles below.

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Featured image obtained from LightGuys

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