How to Hang String Lights Outdoors

Whether you’re preparing for a summer garden party or getting ready for the winter festivals it’s time to string up the lights! If you’ve ever shared the Christmas tradition of decorating your home with lights both inside and out or decided to add some extra ambience to your garden, you may be aware of how stringing up lights works already.

However, there are a number of factors that can affect the ease or difficulty of putting your string lights up correctly. Luckily, we’ve put together this extensive guide to help you set them up successfully.

In this guide, we’ll be walking you through a step-by-step process for preparing your materials and setting up your string lights. We’ll also go through some methods to safely mount your lights if you don’t have any conveniently tall trees or walls on your property.

string lights in tree

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What You Will Need to Hang String Lights

  •         High-Quality Outdoor String Lights
  •         Outdoor Extension Cord (unless you already have an exterior outlet that is close enough)
  •         Tape Measure
  •         Pencil
  •         Metal Hooks and Eyes
  •         Drill
  •         Ladder

Additional Requirements for String Lights Hung Over a Large Area

  •         String Light Suspension Kit (Your kit should include cables, turnbuckles, snap hooks, lock clamps, and pad eyes with screws)
  •         Wire Cutters

Further Requirements for Areas Lacking in Trees or Other Support

  •         10-Foot Wood or Metal Poles
  •         Hammer
  •         Nails 
  •         Screws (if you are attaching the lights to your fence)
  •         Weighted Buckets Filled with Concrete
  •         Cable Ties

1 – Find the Perfect Spot and Take Measurements

You need to know exactly where you plan to hang your string lights before doing anything else. Try to find a spot where you can easily set up two or three strings equally spread over the area. You should also consider what you will be connecting your mounts to at the other end, for example, your fence or tall trees.

Once you’ve determined the location that you will hang your outdoor lights up, measure out the area for each separate string and make sure to record the distances.

2 – Purchase Good-Quality Materials Based on Your Measurements

Using the measurements you took in step 1, you can now buy your materials. When buying your materials, you want to make sure you buy good-quality lights that are a little longer than required. If your string turns out to be slightly too short you could be in big trouble! But, if it’s a little long, you can just snip the end off and move on.

outdoor string lights

3 – Determine Where Your Mounting Supports are Needed

Even if you have something to attach your string at both ends, they will still need supports at regular intervals. The first thing you should do is lay out the string light cords and leave a pencil mark at each section that will require a mounting support.

If there are existing supports at reasonable intervals, then great! If there aren’t, don’t worry – we’re going to teach you how to install your own mounting supports later on in this guide!

4 – Install Your Mounting Hardware

You can either mount your string lights directly or use a wire to make it sturdier. We’ll explain the difference below:

Wired

If you plan to use a wire, you will need the string light suspension kit mentioned above. Luckily, those kits also come with instructions, so you should be able to follow those without any trouble.

Wireless

If you mean to hang your string lights directly, you first need to screw a cup hook into the support – this is where that drill may come in handy! Once you’ve installed the cup hook, you can thread the string through it and carry on.

We recommend using the wired method if your area is quite large as it provides more support than the wireless method.

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5 – Hang the Lights

Now that you’ve got everything almost ready, you can test your lights. Make sure to test your lights before hanging them up – connect the first light to your exterior outlet or an outdoor extension cord, if necessary. Check that the lights work perfectly then unplug them – you should never handle lightbulbs that are still connected to an outlet.

Attach the lights to the hooks and supports as you envisioned them to hang over the space. If you bought high-quality lights, they should have clips at the top of the bulb socket already (check this before you buy them). Make sure to clip the lights directly onto the wire, if you used one.

Once you’ve hung all of them, you can connect them back to the outlet and check that they still work. If all goes well, you should now have perfectly mounted string lights!

Tip: we recommend using electrical staples to hold down and protect your extension cord if you’ve used one.

outdoor string light

Alternative Mounting Methods

Using a Fence

You already know to drill a hole and screw a cup hook into any wood surface that you’re using – however, if your fence isn’t tall enough to hold your string lights up, you will need to take an extra step.

Here you’ll need to do is attach 10-foot wooden posts to them and put the cup hook into those instead. Make sure that the wooden posts are secured with a nail, and we’d recommend using a drill and screw since this would provide further stability.

Using a Concrete Patio

Since you can’t easily insert posts into concrete, you will need to get creative when using a patio. If your patio has a roof, then you can attach cup hooks to the ceiling and carry on. However, if it doesn’t, we still have a viable method.

You can prepare weighted buckets that are filled with concrete to hold and secure your posts – we recommend using metal poles for this method. Make sure that your weighted buckets are heavy enough to support the string lights and your post as having one tip over wouldn’t be ideal!

Using Your Lawn

Using the lawn is much easier than other alternative mounting methods. You can knock a 10-foot wooden post into the ground, just make sure that it is well secured by the soil.

If your soil isn’t very strong or you feel that it wouldn’t support a 10-foot post, using the weight bucket of concrete we mentioned earlier could be a viable alternative.

We hope that this guide helps you set up your string lights more efficiently and safely to help brighten up the outside of your home and garden.

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