Nothing beats outdoor string lights for their ability to quickly improve the ambiance in an outdoor space. In the evening, their soft glow overhead can visually transform an ordinary patio into a party-ready spot for hosting friends or cheer up a dim walkway with an inviting luminescence.
Outdoor string lights are a cinch to put up if you have the perfectly positioned trees or fence. If you don’t have trees, a fence or another tall outdoor object, it doesn’t take much — just a little more time and a few additional supplies to set up any outdoor space. Here’s how to hang string lights over your deck, patio, balcony, garden or anywhere else you’d like a little extra glow.
Tools and Materials
Commercial-grade string lights
Outdoor extension cord (if you don’t have an exterior outlet where you need one)
Pencil or painters tape
Metal hooks and eyes
Before You Start
1. Choose where to hang your outdoor lights. Pick a spot outside where you’d like to hang your string lights and identify a power source. If you don’t have an exterior outlet where you need one, be sure to have an outdoor extension cord handy.
2. Measure for length and roughly choose your light configuration. Before purchasing string lights, run a tape measure along the distance you’d like to hang lights, including any zigzags or crisscrosses for the configuration. This can be a fairly rough estimate, such as three times across a 25-foot-wide patio; just get a sense of the length of lights you need.
3. Purchase the cords and lights, and gather all materials. Skip the cheap string lights and invest in commercial-grade patio lights marked for outdoor use, which are more durable and waterproof, and can be used permanently outdoors or year after year.
How to Hang String Lights
1. Identify where mounting support is needed. Lay out your string light cords along the ground in the configuration you’ve chosen. Mark an X with a pencil or place a piece of painters tape where you need support to hold them up.
Trees, fences, porches, pergola roofs or the eaves of your house are perfect existing supports if they’re in the right place. If they are, mark where you’ll need to install mounting hooks.
2. Install mounting hardware or use a string light suspension kit — or both. There are two ways to mount string lights: on their own or attached to a sturdy wire as part of a light suspension kit. Mounting to a wire isn’t necessary, but it can help maintain tension if you’re hanging string lights over a larger expanse, and it can provide more support if your backyard is breezy.
3. Hang patio lights. Once you’ve installed your cup hooks or strung up your wire, you’re ready to put up the lights. Plug the lights directly into an exterior outlet or into an outdoor extension cord and position the first bulb next to the mounting hardware. Once you’ve checked this spacing, unplug the lights to hang the rest of the string. Work your way across the yard to hang the string lights between mounts, following the pattern you envisioned.
Most commercial-grade patio lights come with clips attached to the top of the bulb socket or the wire above the bulb. If you used a mounting wire, clip the lights onto the wire.
Once all lights are up, once again plug the string lights into the exterior outlet or extension cord plugged into an outlet. You can use electrical staples to keep the extension cord tight against the wall of a house or down a post.