How to Plan and Hang Patio Lights

How to Hang Patio Lights


Patio Lights Planning Tips

First, Measure Your Space

The first step to a flawless patio light design is making sure you know the dimensions of your space. We recommend drawing a rough sketch of the area where you plan to hang your lights and writing the measurements on your drawing for quick reference later. This sketch will come in handy when you pick your hanging pattern, which we will discuss further in the next section. Part of what makes patio lights so appealing is the natural curve created by the strings. To make sure you have enough length to account for the swag in your light strings, add 2 - 6 feet of length to your measurements and purchase strings that coincide with those final numbers.

Decide How You Will Hang Your Patio Lights

Take inspiration from the pros when designing your backyard patio lights! Event spaces, restaurant patios and public squares are all areas where patio lights are likely to be found in a variety of patterns and designs. Take a look at our list of the most popular patio light patterns and pick the one that best suites your taste and space!

The V Pattern - A versatile option for any space. The V pattern is fairly easy to achieve and does not require equal string lengths on both sides to look good. Keep in mind that the pinnacle point of the V, where each side connects bears the weight of the entire light string and should be anchored sufficiently to support the additional pressure.

Zig Zag or "W"- Zig Zag patterns are a fun choice when you want to add full coverage illumination across your space but desire a more interesting light design. This can be achieved with one long light string or through the use of multiple strings connected end to end.

X Pattern Patio Lights- X marks the spot! This design works especially well in wide spaces or areas that are square shaped. If you have multiple light strings, hang several X's in a row to create a diamond pattern. The result is a light display that appears intricate but is actually incredibly easy to achieve!

Square or Grid- Hang patio lights in straight lines across the length and width of your space to create a grid, or keep it simple by outlining just the perimeter of your space in a square shape.

The Horizon Point- Similar to the V in that the light strings all anchor to one central point and fan out, however, this design requires more hanging locations opposite of the central horizon point. This technique for hanging patio lights is typically used in professional installations for events and restaurant patio seating. However, with some planning the horizon point can be easily achieved in residential outdoor spaces as well!

Tent or Maypole Design- The tent or maypole design features multiple light strings anchored in a spoke and wheel arrangement from one central point. This point, typically either a pole or beam needs to be sturdy enough to support the weight of multiple light strings and may require professional installation.

Scalloped Edge Design- Scalloped patio light design is a popular choice for wedding lighting and garden parties and can be achieved with a variety of lighting styles. Create scallops by making a swag in your light strings every 2-3 bulbs. Scallop lights along a fence, wall or other flat surface.

How to hang patio lights and patio light pattern ideas.

Where to Hang Patio Lights

Outdoor living area with patio lights and icicle string lights. Beautiful outdoor dinner party ideas!
Patio Lights Hanging Across An Outdoor Dining Area

Now that you've picked your hanging pattern, it's time to revisit our sketch and measurements from earlier! Take some time to plan out where your patio lights will hang, how many anchor points you will need and how you will attach your lights to those points. Some popular hanging locations for patio lights include...

  • Across the backyard or deck
  • Attached to Trees
  • Hanging against deck railings
  • Outlining a gazebo roof or other structure.

If your yard does not have many readily available options for hanging patio lights, you may need to create your own. Attach poles to deck railings or 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


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 - which 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!

Pick Your Patio Bulbs and Light Strings

Patio Light Bulbs and Styles

Patio bulbs are available in several shapes and sizes 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) bulbs. S11 bulbs are a close cousin to globe lights with a slightly larger bulb size and balloon shaped curves ideal for hanging upside down. If you prefer edison-style light bulbs, choose elongated S14 party bulbs to achieve a vintage lighting look. 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.

Patio Light Bulb Finishes

Patio Light Bulbs

Patio Light Strings

Patio Light Sets

Like What You've Discovered So Far?

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Now, let's learn how to hang patio lights!

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. As mentioned previously, 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
  • Staple gun

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 Note: In some situations, the light strings may need to be threaded through the guy wire prior to being hung.
  4. Start by hanging your first patio light string with the male plug end closest to your outlet.
  5. Use staples 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 does not 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 Deck Lights
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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!