Overhead string lights can transform your yard from an unassuming and poorly lit space to one with the perfect amount of warm glow. Turn on these string lights and you'll have instant ambiance for chatting over drinks for hours into the night. Overhead string lights, too, expand your home on warm evenings so kids can play and mingle outdoors with friends even after the sun has set.
Before You Begin
You can attach your overhead string lights to existing anchor points such as the house or to freestanding posts built for the purpose of hanging lights. Or you may choose a combination of the two, such as starting the lights at a house gable and ending at a freestanding post.
Existing Anchor Points
If possible, it's best to attach your overhead string lights to existing anchor points, such as the house, deck, or trees. Not only does this eliminate the job of making posts, but existing anchor points tend to be solid, permanent, and better integrated into your yard's footprint.
Keep in mind that the string lights will drape down, so you'll need to find anchor points that are at least a foot or two above your head.
When you don't have solid anchor points already, you can make your own freestanding anchor posts.
Setting an 8- or 10-foot two-by-two in a concrete-filled broad-base container produces an anchor post sufficient to hold one end of a 25-foot run of overhead lights. This can be paired with another anchor post or with a solid existing anchor point.
Purchase globe-style outdoor string lights. Sometimes called cafe or bistro lights, these lights are weather-resistant and heavy enough to hang properly for the desired look.
Be careful when working on the ladder. For house fascia, siding, and gables, you'll need an extension ladder. Have an assistant hold the ladder steady as you work. On extension ladders or step ladders, never reach beyond a comfortable arm's length.
For freestanding anchor posts, the container must have a broad base to prevent tipping. The bottom should not be rounded.
Do not hang overhead string lights by their cords alone. Instead, use wire rope and eye bolts to support the cords.
Equipment / Tools
- Cordless drill
- Drill bits and drivers
- Extension ladder
- Step ladder
- Bubble level
- Garden hoe
- Outdoor globe-style string lights
- Exterior-grade extension cord
- 6 bags ready-mix concrete
- 2 10-gallon plastic planter containers
- 2 8- or 10-foot pressure-treated two-by-twos
- 2 3/8-inch eye bolts, with nuts and washers
- 1 1/8-inch gauge by 30-foot wire rope
- 2 wire rope thimbles (1/8-inch)
- 2 wire rope clamps
- 1 packet plastic zip ties
Create Freestanding Posts for Overhead Lights
For a 10-gallon container, mix two to three 60-pound bags of quick-set concrete in a wheelbarrow. Have an assistant add water from a garden hose as you mix the concrete with the hoe.
Place the two-by-two post vertically in the container. Check the post for plumb with the bubble level. Have the assistant hold the post in place.
Working rapidly, scoop out the concrete with the shovel. Have the assistant keep checking for plumb as you add concrete.
Within a few minutes, the concrete will begin to harden. Wash out the wheelbarrow while you wait for the concrete to set.
Depending on the temperature and on the amount of concrete, the quick-set concrete should set within 20 to 40 minutes.
Add Eye Bolt
Six inches below the top of the post, drill a 1/2-inch diameter hole. Slip the eye bolt through, then tighten the nut and washer on the other side. For tall posts, this will require the use of a step ladder.
Add Wire Rope to Eye Bolt
From the step ladder, open the end of the thimble and force it over the eye bolt. Loop 4 inches of wire rope through the eye bolt. Fold the wire rope over the thimble. Add the clamp, using a wrench to tighten the clamp over the wire rope.
Install Second Anchor
If attaching the other end to a freestanding post, build the post as you did the first one. Pull the wire rope through the eye bolt on the second post tight enough so that it is at least 7 feet high.
Add String Lights
Attach the string lights to the wire rope with zip-ties added every 18 to 24 inches.
Plug in String Lights