How to Hang String Lights

Below we share how to hang string lights for a variety of areas including bedrooms, walls, patios, decks and pergolas.
Backyard patio with string lightsString lights aren’t just for Christmas anymore. Fairy lights are becoming a staple in college dorm rooms and bedrooms. Strings of bulbs are a good way to add a vintage touch to backyards, apartments, and even cafes are adopting them. Even strings of hanging lanterns are a whimsical touch to any backyard reception.

Of course, just throwing string lights up probably won’t give you the look you want. Here, we’re going to break down the best way to hang your string lights wherever you might want them.

There’s a good tip before we get into any specific installation is to check your string lights before hanging them up. While everything is likely to be fine, it’s better to find any potential problem with the lights before you go through the trouble of hanging them up. [toc]

How to Hang Outdoor String Lights

Backyard with string lightsFirst, let’s take a look at hanging string lights outdoors. Whether you’re preparing a temporary reception or creating the look of your dreams, you’ll need to know how to hang them. However, not every backyard is the same. So, it’s important to consider how to hang string lights in a variety of places and conditions.

Before getting into it, it’s important to note that you’ll want to buy commercial grade string lights instead of standard grade string lights. This will make sure that the lights you install are going to last through the challenges of outdoor installation. The last thing you want is to install string lights in your backyard only to seem them wear out after the first storm. [toc]

Here are the tools and supplies needed:

  • Commercial grade outdoor string lights
  • Outdoor rated extension cord
  • Metal hooks
  • Drill (To pre-drill holes to insert hooks)
  • Drill bit smaller than the hook
  • Ladder
  • Pencil or painters tape
  • Tape Measure
  • String light poles (Use these if you don’t have walls, trees or railings to attach the lights)

How to Hang String Lights in Backyard Without Trees

Backyard deck with string light polesSee these outdoor string light poles at Amazon

At face value, this can seem like a tricky problem. After all, how do you hang string lights without a natural place to hang them on? Luckily, there are a few ways to tackle the problem.

The most common answer to this problem is to use poles. These can be set up wherever they’re needed and they can provide a place to loop and attach string lights. We’ll take a deeper look at how to make and install your own poles later.

Another answer is to hang string lights on your fence rather than across your yard. This is a great way to surround your yard in a soft glow. They can be attached a few different ways. Simply wrapping the lights around the fence works but it tends to look rather messy. Instead, it’s worth it to invest in coaxial staples. They’re easy to attach and they hold on well to wood which means they’re perfect various outdoor uses.

Other similar answers are to use the string lights where you’re most likely to spend time at such as on your patio or deck. We’re going to take a look at how to pull off these ideas in a moment.

How to Hang Patio String Lights

Concrete patio with string lights and landscapingThere are a few different ways that you can install string lights on your patio depending on the design of your patio. To break this up a bit, we’re going to focus on uncovered patios first.

Even with an uncovered patio, there are still a variety of design features that can change how you hang string lights. One feature that is typically constant is that the patio is attached to the house. To attach string lights to the side of your house, coaxial staples are your best choice.

Then, there is the concern of the other side to attach the lights too. This is the part that can vary from patio to patio. To start with an opposing view to the last thing we considered, you can attach the lights to tall trees if you have them. Once again, coaxial staples work best for this connection. The same principle can be used if you have a fence near your patio.

The most likely situation, though, is that an uncovered patio faces the same challenges as a backyard without tall trees. In these cases, it only makes sense that the same solution is the answer. Installing poles around the edges of the patio for light attachment.

How to Hang String Lights on Covered Patio

Contemporary covered patio with outdoor lightingA covered patio makes hanging string lights a bit easier. This is because these types of patios already have somewhere to hang lights from.

The first thing to consider is what style will work for your patio. A zigzag pattern might be great for some patios but the design could interfere with structural elements such as ceiling fans. In those cases, string lights framing the edges of the ceiling can offer a beautiful alternative. Another choice is to run the lights in straight lines across the ceiling. These can be carefully placed to avoid any other design facets on the ceiling.

No matter what pattern you use, the first step is to measure the space. Try to start your length of string lights as close to an outlet as possible. Then, you’ll want to consider how you’re going to anchor your lights. One option is to use the same coaxial staples as before. If you’re looking to avoid the use of nails, however, you can try adhesive hooks. If you use adhesive hooks, it’s crucial to make sure they’re made for outdoor use. The last thing you want is for your hooks to slide off the wall at the first sign of foul weather.

If your commercial grade lights tend to heat up, you can use trimmed down zip ties connected between the hook and wire to add a little extra distance.

How to Hang String Lights on Deck Railing

Contemporary deck with string lights and treeIf you have a deck, the railing of that deck offers a convenient place to hang string lights. Not only that, the lights can give your deck a comfortable glow on dark summer nights. Like fences, though, simply wrapping the lights probably isn’t going to give you a polished look. The installation process is simple and you even have a couple of choices in how you work with the design.

The simplest way to hang them is to have them run with the railing of the deck. This probably won’t be the best choice for string lights with large bulbs since the design is pressed flush against the deck. If you have smaller bulbs (i.e. around the size of a string of Christmas lights) or rope lights, this could be the design for you! All you really need is a set of the coaxial staples that we discussed earlier to hold the lights in place.

An alternative option is to install furring strips by nailing them to the deck railing and allowing them to extend upward well above the deck. These work as poles to support higher lighting.

How to Hang String Lights on Pergola

Pergola with string lightsA pergola is a step between an uncovered and covered patio. These are the structures that cover usually a portion of the patio and have slats rather than full coverage. These slats could be side-by-side or create a grid-like pattern. Some homes do incorporate a cloth or canvas optional canopy to add extra protection from the sun during the day. They can either attach to the house or they can be free standing.

Outdoor kitchen with wood pergola and string lightsAs with other structures we’ve looked at and will look at in this guide, you have plenty of options in the exact design. The most popular options are to run the lights either with or perpendicular to the slats. This is often chosen over choices such as zigzag patterns as it creates a cleaner look and avoids a clashing between the pergola design and the string lights.

Backyard deck with pergola and outdoor string lightsSome homeowners may also choose to wrap string lights up the supports of their pergola. This is particularly favored when string lights aren’t permanent such as when Christmas lights are hung up. It’s also a good way to disguise cords running up the pergola to power the lights.

Just like hanging string lights on a patio, coaxial staples are incredibly helpful here. They can be used both for pillars supporting the pergola and lights hung off the main body of the pergola as well.

How to Hang Outdoor String Lights on Stucco

Luxury home with backyard string lights attached to wallsHaving a stucco finish on your house can be absolutely beautiful. This means that you don’t want to mar or damage it when hanging your string lights from it. There are a few different ways to accomplish this depending on how permanently you want the lights installed.

Believe it or not, a glue gun can be your best friend when you’re temporarily hanging lightweight string lights to your home. This is a handy trick around the holidays that holds up better than you might think. All it really calls for is to add hot glue to the cord and hold it in place for about 30 seconds to dry. Instead of doing it in a long strip, it’s best to add a spot of glue around every 18 inches.

For a more permanent solution, pull out mounting clips and a caulk gun. On each clip, add caulk in portions about the size of a quarter. Once again, you’ll want to hold it in place for a bit to allow it to set.

Poles to Hang String Lights

Backyard with hanging string lights and poles above outdoor diningWe mentioned earlier that poles can be helpful in hanging string lights. So, let’s look at how to install them. To start, you’ll want place concrete forms into the ground at the corners of your patio. Then, place a PVC pipe with a 1” diameter in the center and fill the rest with concrete.

Take a ¾” conduit and cut it to the height you want the pole to be with the depth of the PVC pipe added to it. Screw a matching cap to the conduit and drill a hole an inch below it. Take a screw nut and place it in the hole with a nut on the other side to hold it in place. This hook is where you’ll hang the string lights.

Swimming pool with string lights on polesNow you can take the time to prime and paint the conduit if you want. Generally, most people try to match the color to the color of the wire on the string lights. Finally, place the conduit into the PVC pipe and fill it with concrete.

How to Hang String Lights Indoors

Bedroom fort bed with hanging string lightsAs we discussed earlier, string lights have a place inside as well as outside. Just like outdoor string lights, there are a variety of ways to hang string lights indoors. Further, there are ways to hang your string lights that will make a room look straight out of a Pinterest recommendation. Just like we broke down outdoor string lights, we’re going to look at how to hang indoor string lights here.

How to Hang String Lights from the Ceiling

Hanging lights from the ceiling can offer whimsical ambient lighting to a room. However, nails are a quick way to mar your ceiling in the long term. So, we’re going to take a look at how to hang string lights on the ceiling without nails.

Bedroom with hanging string lights and custom built-in bed storageInstead of nails, use easy to remove adhesive strips. It’s also a good idea to start as close to an outlet as possible and use an extension cord if needed. Either way, you can pin the cord leading up to the ceiling to the wall.

To start, you’re going to want to measure your room and how far apart you want the lights to sag. If you only measure from one side of the wall to the other, you’re going to end up with only enough lights to run them flush across the ceiling.

A great standard look to go with is to attach your lights to the ceiling every 2 feet. However, if you want to keep the string lights flush against the ceiling, there are a few ways to do it. A simple but attractive choice is to create a zig-zag pattern across the ceiling. In other words, loop your lights around the first hook and then pull it across to the other side of the ceiling to another hook positioned slightly forward. Continue this pattern until the ceiling is covered wall to wall.

How to Hang String Lights on Wall

Teen girls bedroom with hanging lights on wall above bedNow that you know how to hang string lights on your ceiling, let’s take a look at how to hang them on your wall. Once again, it’s best to use adhesive hooks rather than nails. In a pinch, thumb tacks can be used for wall hanging. This way, you can avoid nails and the damage they can do to your walls. In using thumb tacks, look for flat headed ones. These won’t protrude from the wall very much and come in all different colors. This means that you can mask them by choosing the same or similar color as your wall. Since a lot of string lights used are connected by intertwined wires, it’s easy to slip a pin between wires. It’s crucial that you don’t put a pin through a wire, however.

If you’re hanging your lights across a window in the design you create, wire suckers are also useful. These attach to the window via a suction cup and have a groove to attach the wire in. This can help make sure your lights don’t sag around or on windows in your wall.

It’s also great if you can start close to an outlet. If you can’t, though, don’t worry because an extension cord can do the trick. Just like on the ceiling, you can clip the cord to the wall to avoid it distracting from your design.

How to Hang String Lights in Bedroom

Black and white bedroom with matching bed cover and hanging lightsNow that we’ve discussed how to hang string lights both from your walls and ceiling, let’s take a look at some of the best ideas for bedroom string lights.

One of the most whimsical ways to use string lights or fairy lights with a bed’s canopy. They can be simply looped around the bed frame. Since most people position their bed near an outlet so they can charge their phone, it’s easy to plug them in. You’ll want to make sure you use lightweight lights so it doesn’t weigh your canopy down.

You could also hang lights for display from the bottom bunk of a bed by slipping your lights through the slats of the top bunk. This is a great idea for kids’ rooms and dorms.

String lights strategically placed around a wall can also be a great choice too. Stringing them up around a desk or cork board can put a visual emphasis on those areas. Not to mention, it can be an excellent way to offer gentle lighting to work by as it gets dark. This can be particularly useful when you’re living with a roommate.

Having a dark accent wall with vertical hanging string lights can add drama and visual interest to your romantic bedroom design. Another idea that is becoming commonplace in dorm rooms is to pair fairy lights with photos. Between the bulbs themselves, clip on clothespins to hang pictures from. Not only is this a cute way to hang mementos, but it also doesn’t damage them the way just pinning them to a wall does.


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