Quick Tips for the Home

Tips for Hanging Outdoor String Lights

Adding string lights to your deck or patio is a great way to get more lighting while making your backyard look great. Use these tips to learn how best to add string lights to your backyard.

String lights hanging

It might not seem like it right now, but those warm summer nights are just around the corner. Before you know it, you’re going to be entertaining outside on the deck or patio. And there’s nothing like string lights to create a warm and magical ambiance. 

You don’t need professional design experience to light your outdoor space attractively with string lights. These tips will help you hang outdoor string lights to create a space for entertaining and relaxing that will be the envy of your social circle. 

Choose a Brand that’s Always in Stock

It’s tempting to grab a few strings of outdoor lights in the post-Christmas sales and call it a day. The problem with that is if you need to replace a bulb or decide you want to add a few more strings to your space, you might not be able to buy more lights of the same type. Ditto if you grab a box of no-name string lights to save a few bucks. Buy a reputable brand of cafe or bistro lights that are sold all year round. You can get them at most big-box home stores. Pick up an extra box or two for replacement bulbs, just in case.

Take Glass Bulbs Off the String Before Hanging

If you’re hanging glass string lights, take the delicate bulbs off the string before hanging and set them aside somewhere safe. You don’t want them banging against each other while you’re trying to hang the strings. You also don’t want to shatter an entire string’s worth of lights when you drop the string on the ground. Once your strings are hung and your connectors are secured, you can screw the bulbs back in.

Secure Strings with Coaxial Staples

Coaxial staples are the best tool to secure string lights to wood, like trees, deck railings or the outside of your home. You can buy them by the bag at most home improvement stores. Make sure you get the right size staples for your strings.

Decide Where to Secure the Lights First

Decorating an outdoor space with string lights can be logistically difficult. You’ll need to plan a layout that minimizes the need to install new posts, as well as one that works with your existing number of power sources. As much as possible, plan your string layout to use existing features like trees, deck railings and the exterior walls of your home, garage, gazebo or outbuildings.

Choose a brand of string lights that allows you to connect multiple strings, so you can drape them across open spaces or wrap them around trees and still have enough to reach the outdoor receptacle by the back door. Common big-box store brands allow you to connect as many as five strings of lights, so you can get as far as 60 feet away from a power source with your lights.

Choose to Cross or Not to Cross

In rectangular and square spaces, crossing string lights overhead can look really interesting. But in irregularly shaped spaces, you may want to stick to a design in which strings of lights fan out in a wedge pattern from a single point. Grab some paper and a pencil to experiment with different designs for your space. Think about how the lights will look in the daytime as well as at night.

Secure Connectors with Tape

When you have multiple strings of lights connected — especially more than a couple — the weight of the lights and the drape of the strings can lead to connections coming loose. Secure connectors with electrical tape to keep them from coming unplugged and ruining your careful lighting design. Use electrical tape the same color as the cord to tape connectors together.

Leave a Little Slack

Outdoor lights hung above an open space look best when they’re draped with some slack in the middle of the string that allows it to hang down a bit. Achieve this look by making sure that the hanging points at either end of your string of lights are level with each other. Then leave a little slack in the middle of the string instead of trying to pull it taught.

String lights are a stylish way to spruce up your outdoor entertaining space and add some much-needed illumination for those summer evenings out on the deck. With a little advance planning and the right tools, you can decorate your patio, porch, deck or garden with string lights in no time and have an outdoor space you’ll be proud to show off to family and friends.

DIY tips are for informational purposes only. Learn more.

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