How to Hang Outdoor String Lights

Outdoor String Lights

Image by Marie LaFauci / Getty Images

Overview
  • Working Time: 2 - 4 hrs
  • Yield: 25 feet of lights
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $50 to $75

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.

Freestanding Posts

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.

Tip

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.

Safety Considerations

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, 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.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Cordless drill
  • Drill bits and drivers
  • Extension ladder
  • Bubble level
  • Garden hoe
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Shovel

Materials

  • 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

Instructions

Create Freestanding Posts for Overhead Lights

  1. Mix Concrete

    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.

  2. Place Post

    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.

  3. Pour Concrete

    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.

    Tip

    Depending on the temperature and on the amount of concrete, the quick-set concrete should set within 20 to 40 minutes.

  4. 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.

  5. Add Wire Rope to Eye Bolt

    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.

  6. 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.

  7. Add String Lights

    Attach the string lights to the wire rope with zip-ties added every 18 to 24 inches.

  8. Plug in String Lights

    You'll need an outdoor GFCI outlet nearby so you can plug in the lights. Plug the string lights into the extension cord. Run the cord to the GFCI outlet and plug it in.

Overhead String Light Anchor Point Ideas

  • House gable
  • Exterior-facing house rafters
  • Fascia board
  • Siding
  • Trees
  • Decking
  • Patio cover
  • Pergola