How to Plan and Hang Patio Lights

By Kelli Harvey | Updated Apr 23, 2020
How to Hang Patio Lights - Popular Outdoor Lighting Ideas

How to Hang Patio Lights

The installation process can vary depending on where and how you decide to hang your patio lights, however we have provided a list of the basic steps, supplies you might need and methods to use below. You may want to consider the use of a guy wire or galvanized steel cable to hang your patio light strings. Using a guy wire can prolong the life of your light strings by removing the tension that is created on the string as your patio lights hang over time.

Supplies You Might Need

  • Hooks- these could be screw-in hooks or another variety.
  • Zip ties
  • Carabiners
  • Extension cords
  • Guy Wire Kit

Hanging Patio String Lights Basic Steps

  1. Draw a rough sketch with measurements
  2. Assemble your poles if applicable
  3. If using guy wire, hang this first. In some situations, the light strings may need to be threaded through the guy wire prior to being hung.
  4. Hang your first patio light string with the male plug closest to your outlet.
  5. Use zip ties or hooks between each bulb as needed on deck railings or other structures. If applicable, attach the strings to your guy wire as you go.
  6. If working with multiple light strings, finish hanging your first run and then connect the male end of the second string to the female end of the first and continue going in this way until all strings are in place! If your light string doesn't have end to end connectors, run an extension cord to your second light string and continue hanging your patio lights. If hanging incandescent patio lights, keep maximum wattage in mind and switch to a different outlet if necessary to avoid power disruptions!
  7. Plug your patio lights in and enjoy the ambiance!
Patio Lights Hanging Across a Backyard Deck
Patio Lights Hanging Across a Backyard Deck

Where To Hang Patio Lights

If your yard does not have many readily available options for hanging patio lights, you may need to create your own. You can affix poles to deck railings or use the railings themselves to hang your lights. For larger backyard installations you may need to attach wires to trees and sink poles into the ground. In smaller patio settings with no existing surfaces to hang lights, you can cement poles into painted buckets or decorative planters using the DIY method below.

DIY Patio Light Pole

What you will need

  • 1 Large Terra Cotta Clay Pot
  • 1 Small Terra Cotta Clay Pot ( to fit inside the larger version)
  • Quick Dry Cement
  • Thick Wooden Post or Pole
  • Screw-In Hook
  • Gardening Soil
  • Flowers/Plants or Decorative Stones

Directions

Attach a hook to one end of your pole, this will provide an anchor for the light strings to attach to. Mix the cement into your smaller clay pot and while it is still wet place your pole or wooden post in the cement. Hold the pole still or find something to keep it centered while it dries. Drying shouldn't take too long if you're using quick dry cement. Once dry, place the smaller pot inside the larger pot and fill to the top with soil. Plant flowers or place stones around the base of the pole on top of the soil. Now you have a functional pole for hanging your patio lights that also serves as a decorative planter!

Backyard Patio & Party Lights

Patio Lights Planning Tips

Pick Your Patio Bulbs

Patio bulbs are available in several shapes, sizes & colors to complement any size space or decorative style.

  • Globe patio lights are a classic choice and range from small G30 (30mm) bulbs to large, G50 (50mm) & G125 (125mm) bulbs.
  • Edison Style S bulbs are a close cousin to globe lights with a slightly larger, elongated bulb.
  • A Bulbs are similar in size and shape to traditional household lamps and generally have the same socket size (E26) too.
  • LED Patio Lights use less energy and allow for more sets to be connected end to end, making them a great option for larger spaces and long term lighting.

In addition to the traditional patio light styles above, C7 and C9 lights, previously only thought of during Christmas, are becoming a popular option in backyard and patio lighting.

Pick Your Patio Light Strings

Matching your bulbs to your patio light strings in both size and style is an important part of creating a cohesive outdoor lighting design. Patio light strings are available in several wire colors & socket styles. Although each of these options will work well in most spaces, there are certain environments and situations where one style may surpass another.

Socket Styles

In Line- Socket sits even with wire, perfect for any bulb, works well in small spaces.

Suspended- Suspended sockets drop the bulbs 4" from the string, works well in taller spaces.

Copper & Silver Shades- Work well with retro inspired designs and provide an antique lighting element when paired with vintage edison style bulbs.

Light String Color Options

Black- Works well in industrial spaces and blends against dark surfaces such as a wrought iron fence or dark wood.

Green- Perfect in areas with lush natural greenery and set among trees or across grassy fields.

White- Popularly used for wedding lights, illuminating garden parties and in outdoor living spaces featuring pastel colored fabrics and decor.

How to Hang Patio Lights FAQ

What size pole / post should I use?

2x2 or 2x4 wood is not recommended. A 4x4 post securely placed in the ground is typically sufficient for most backyard patio light applications. If your lighting display is more complex and you have many string light runs being supported from a single post, a 6x6 post can be used. It is larger, provides even more stability, and gives you more surface area to attach your strings, if needed.

How far should I sink the post?

If using concrete, most display applications that are 8' to 10' off ground benefit from posts sunk about 24" to 36". This is approximately 1/4 to 1/3 of the post's height being sunk underground and secured with concrete. For taller applications in the 10' to 15' height range we recommend sinking the post 1/3 of the way in the ground.

How far apart should poles be spaced?

Pole spacing is based on personal preference and the needs unique to the space you are trying to decorate. For example, more complex patio string light patterns may require the use of additional poles.

When should a guy wire be used?

We recommend the use of guy or guide wire on longer light runs and projects where large, heavy patio bulbs are being used. When you stretch light wires between two points, there is constant lateral tension. It's kind of like a perpetual tug of war on your light strings, which isn't ideal. By using guy wire between two anchor points instead of the light string, you're removing the tug of war completely which means the lights you worked so hard to install are less likely to fall or sag over time.

How high should lights be hung off the ground?

Patio light display scenarios can vary widely and it's not uncommon to see lights hung at very different heights even from one end to another. Generally, though, it's good to have lights 8-10' off the ground at a minimum just so there's walking clearance. If you are using larger bulbs, you may want to consider raising the height of your display further, based on personal preference.

What hardware should be used to attach lights to a post?

Hanging hardware like cable clamps are typically sufficient for most applications. Use the appropriate screw or bolt for your hanging surface and ensure the cable clamp is secure. Additional clamps can be used to secure the ends if needed.

How can lights be attached to a tree?

Because trees have varying bark types, traditional cable clamps can work but may require longer screws to ensure the clamp is secured to the tree. Alternative hardware includes things like C hooks (sometimes called bicycle hooks) that can be inserted into a tree and then the string light can be attached to the C hook hardware.

Do you have a helpful patio lights installation tip or idea that you'd like to share, or questions about hanging patio lights? Let us know in the comments below!

Patio Lights Hanging Across a Backyard Space!
Patio Lights Hanging Across a Backyard Space!
Patio Light Sets
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