Need a little more light in your backyard, balcony, or patio? String lights are a fantastic alternative to traditional floodlights and stake lamps. They stay out of the way, shining high above your head or to the side to create a stunning living space that looks like it came straight out of a landscaping magazine.
These lights pack a big punch, serving as the latest must-have outdoor design trend. String lights can turn any drab outdoor living space into a beautiful fairytale-like domain perfect for personal date nights and large-scale gatherings alike.
The best part? They're a cost-effective way to add a touch of elegance to your backyard. You don't need a massive makeover budget. All you need is a bit of DIY spirit. Read on to learn how to hang outdoor string lights and get inspiration on how you can use them to turn your space from drab to fab!
Preparing Yourself to Hang String Lights: Tools & Equipment
Before you do anything, you need to gather your equipment and do some minor prep work. Choosing the right patio lights is just half the battle. While installation is relatively straightforward, it requires careful planning and the right tools.
Some essentials include:
Those are the basics, and they will serve you well regardless of what type of lights you install. But of course, that's not all you'll need. The hanging equipment you use will largely depend on the lights you choose.
Finish Nails or Clips
If you have smaller patio lights, all you'll likely need is small finish nails or clips. Outdoor string lights come in a variety of sizes and shapes. You can find everything from twinkling fairy lights to collections with massive Edison-style bulbs.
Generally, LED rope lights and similar designs are the most lightweight. But even lights with the usual globe bulbs don't require extensive hardware. The smallest models have G30 bulbs that are around 30 millimeters across. Not only are they lightweight, but they're also super-easy to move around or move during the winter season.
In those cases, finishing nails are a suitable option. With a few hammer taps, you can angle the nail and drape the lights over. You can even add a few zip ties for extra security.
How Do You Hang String Lights Without Nails?
No worries if you're hesitant about leaving nail holes and other marks on your home. You can use sticky-backed hooks.
There is no shortage of outdoor hooks that utilize adhesives. High-quality adhesive materials can withstand a wide range of temperatures and harsh weather conditions. Yet, they don't leave any marks should you need to remove them.
If you choose to go nail-free, make sure to use adhesive-backed hooks that can hold the weight of your lights.
How Do You Hang Christmas String Lights?
Most people think of Christmas lights as holiday-specific decorative items. However, there's no shame in using them as deck string lights year-round! They provide plenty of illumination and ambiance.
Plus, you can often hang them without any complex hardware. In addition to adhesive-backed hooks, you can use light clips.
These plastic hooks are affordable and even easier to install! Depending on the style, you can clip them onto gutters, trim, and even the edge of roof shingles.
For most decorative hanging string lights, it's best to use screw eyes. These fasteners are readily available and come in a wide range of sizes.
The design is simple: Screw eyes feature one side with exterior threading, much like a traditional screw. However, the other end has a looped hoop perfect for holding onto string lights.
You may also come across open screw hooks or cup hooks. Those work well, too!
How Do You Hang Heavy String Lights?
The great thing about screw eyes is that you can easily find one that works for your unique needs. Have string lights that are considerably heavier than your average Christmas lights? If so, go for a thicker screw eye!
Pay attention to the diameter of the shank. The thicker it is, the more weight it can hold. One with a half-inch diameter can handle 2,500 pounds of straight pull. While the capacity is different with hanging lights, that's more than enough weight for most applications.
Guide Wire and Clips
Want to know how to string lights across backyard expanses? The trick is to use an additional guide wire!
These wires are nothing more than metal cords that run the length of your string lights. Many gauges are available, and it's not hard to find one that works for your lighting design. Once you find it, you cut the wire to length, attach it to your screw eyes, and hang your lights directly on it.
You might need additional accessories like turnbuckles for tension, clamps to secure ends, and clips to hang the light. But this setup will provide ultimate security.
Do You Need a Guide Wire to Hang String Lights?
Outdoor string lights can be as short as 10 feet or as long as 400! Shorter runs won't need a support wire. But if you're going 100 feet or more, extra support is a must.
The point of a guide is to remove tension. It can prolong the life of your string lights and ensure that the original cord doesn't tear. You may even want to install a guide wire on runs less than 100 feet. It doesn't hurt to be careful.
What Can You Hang String Lights From?
How do you hang string lights? After choosing your lights and gathering all the necessary supplies, the next step is to figure out how to arrange the lights and where you want to hang them.
This part will require some planning, so whip out a sketchbook and go outside! Take a look around your space and visualize where you want your lights to go. Sketch out a top-down view, and arrange the lights accordingly.
As you do, look for potential hanging points. You can hang your lights from many things, including natural structures and accessories you can add. Here are a handful of patio string light ideas to spark your imagination!
Large Tree Branches
Why not use what Mother Nature already gifted you? If you have large trees, they're the perfect hanging spot. Hanging string lights from trees offers an organic look, and you don't have to worry about any complex setups.
Just find a sturdy branch and drape your lights over it, and you're good to go. Consider using the tree as a natural support structure and model your outdoor space around it. Maybe try putting a cozy hammock or table underneath it for a whimsical evening under the stars!
How do you hang string lights without trees? Start with your fence!
Fence posts are fantastic support structures that are versatile enough to hang most lights. Unlike the side of your house or your roof eaves, it's not a huge deal if you stick a few nails or screw eyes into your fence post!
You can use the posts as an anchor point to weave across your yard with taller fences. Alternatively, you can tack some finishing nails into the individual posts to hang the lights across the wall. Either way, it's a beautiful look!
Arbors & Trellises
Arbors and trellises are beautiful landscaping items that many homeowners already have in their backyards. Maybe you use an arbor as an entrance to your garden or have some trellises to support vining plants.
Whatever the case may be, use them to your advantage! Most structures have a design meant for natural support, so you may be able to hang your lights without any hardware. But even if you do, the wood construction makes it easy to secure your lights.
If all else fails, you can use outdoor furniture as hanging points. This design choice is best for temporary setups.
The best course of action here is to use Christmas light clips or adhesive-backed hooks. Use patio chairs and tables for the most visual impact and stability.
Pergolas and Gazebos
Is there anything more romantic and inviting than a backyard structure covered in lights? Use your existing pergola or gazebo to create a masterpiece of light!
Learning how to hang string lights on gazebo and pergola structures is easy, and there are countless ways to approach the job. You can hang lights up on the posts or walls before draping them on the ceiling. Feel free to experiment with hanging styles and see what works best for your structure. Get creative!
How do you hang string lights on the ceiling? Once again, screw eyes and finishing nails will do the trick here. Because the space is comparatively small, you don't have to use massive hardware. Smaller pieces do the trick and are subtle enough to blend in.
Outdoor Stair Railings
There are many ways to take advantage of stair rails! Wrap the lights around the structure itself or use screw eyes to drape your lights just below the railing.
Use the design of your railing as inspiration. For example, you can hang the lights on the outside to remove some of the light intensity and create a softer glow. Alternatively, you can create a fairytale look with icicle Christmas lights covering entire sections.
The choice is yours.
Pole in the Ground
Finally, there's the old-fashioned pole in the ground! This choice is ideal if you want maximum flexibility.
Using existing structures is convenient. But, they limit you in how you design your lightscape. String light poles open things up, allowing you to take advantage of designs like the V pattern, the Horizon Point, the Tent Point, and more.
There are many ways to install poles. Here's where you can flex your DIY skills! Some people like to install permanent wooden poles. Others prefer temporary options with sturdy umbrella bases! Another more permanent solution includes metal poles and concrete. Try using 10 foot length of EMT Conduit, dig a whole deep enough to account for your frost line, and fill with concrete. This creates a sturdy base to string your lights up
Whatever route you choose, visualize the look you want and plan before doing anything. Placement is critical, so put plenty of thought into where you want to put your poles.
Tips on Hanging String Lights
Ultimately, how you decide to string lights outdoors is up to your own creativity and your backyard. What works for your neighbor isn't necessarily the right choice for you.
Take time to plan your lighting setup. Visit the space during the day, take ample measurements, and create a sketch to visualize what you want. Lighting plays a big part in the design, and how you hang string lights will make or break your space!
Don't forget to consider how you plan to use the lights. Will you take them down during harsh weather, or will you keep them up all yearlong? Those seemingly minor details will dictate the types of fasteners you use and even the model of lights you buy.
String lights can enhance your backyard, but it's important to put plenty of thought into the design and placement to ensure they pack the visual punch you want! Check out the True Value store locator to find a location near you and pick up all the supplies you need for your string lights project!