How To: Hang Outdoor String Lights

Illuminate your yard, balcony, or patio by following these five simple steps to hanging outdoor string lights.

By Savannah Sher | Updated Jul 20, 2021 6:09 PM

Friends having fun at dinner party in backyard.


Outdoor string lights are both stylish and functional, illuminating your outdoor living space while providing an inviting ambiance for your family and guests to enjoy. No matter the size or layout of your yard or patio, there is a style and configuration of string lights that will work for you.

Get creative with your outdoor string lights and check the installation instructions, which will vary depending on the setup you’re working with. Generally speaking, you can install string lights with a few commonly available tools and a bit of know-how. Read on to learn how to hang outdoor string lights in five simple steps.


How to hang outdoor string lights depends largely on the setup of your yard, patio, or balcony. Instructions will vary depending on the structures surrounding your outdoor living area. Before getting started, measure the space you’d like to span to establish the length of lighting you’ll require. Though it’s possible to hardwire outdoor string lights, that process is likely to require an electrician; this guide covers only plugged-in or solar string lights.

Related: 13 Breathtaking Ideas for Backyard String Lights

Party time in backyard with happy millennial man hanging string lights in trees – Weekend summer night mood with smiling guy arranging the light garland for outdoor dinner party in home garden


STEP 1: Choose the right lights.

The first step in the process is choosing the right set of string lights for your outdoor living area. Before making a purchase, consider the length you need, as well as your preferred bulb type and style. String light bulbs come in a variety of shapes and sizes; some of the most popular options include globe bulbs, Edison bulbs, lantern-style bulbs, and tiny fairy lights.

Another important consideration is how the lights will receive power. Those with easily accessible outdoor power outlets can use LEDs or incandescent lights, while battery-powered lights are a great option if there is no outlet nearby. You might require an outdoor extension cord if the outlet is too far from the mounting location. Consider solar-powered string lights for an energy-efficient option that uses the power of the sun’s rays.

String lights come in a variety of lengths, but be sure to check the ones you like to ensure they have male and female connectors if you need to join more than one set together to span the length you’re covering. Check total wattage as well to determine how many strands you can connect. Also, make sure to test the lights before hanging them to ensure they work and that no bulbs are burnt out.

STEP 2: Choose the mounting locations.

Once you’ve purchased and tested your lights, the next step is establishing where to mount them. In a wooded yard, trees work well as a mounting location, while a fence, wall, pergola, or another tall object also will suffice. If the lights have few mounting points, you might need to add a supporting cable. Although loosely hanging strands look great, a taut string will be sturdier.

If the outdoor space lacks any existing mounting locations, purchase 10-foot-tall wooden or metal poles to place in the desired configuration. Once you’ve chosen your mounting locations, lay the string lights out on the ground in the planned configuration to ensure they will fit.

Related: The Best Solar String Lights for Your Outdoor Space

Photo of a young woman decorating the balcony of her log cabin in the woods.


STEP 3: Install the hooks.

Once you’ve planned the mounting locations, screw in cup hooks to hold the string lights. It might be necessary to predrill holes for the hooks, depending on the mounting location’s material. When mounting the hooks to a brick wall, you’ll have to install anchors before screwing in the hooks themselves.

In simpler configurations, like under a railing, try a staple gun, fastening the lights every few feet. Pull them taut as you go, keeping your general spacing and design in mind.

If the light kit comes with bulbs installed, remove globe- or Edison-style bulbs before connecting the strings. They’ll be lighter and less likely to break.

STEP 4: Mount the string lights on the hooks.

Once the hooks are mounted, it’s time to begin hanging the lights. At this point, you might decide to use a wire-mounting kit to stabilize the string lights if they’ll be spanning a large area or if you live in a particularly windy location. If using a wire-mounting kit, install that before putting up the string lights.

Start at the location closest to the power source—using an outdoor extension cord if necessary—and begin mounting the lights by attaching them to the cup hooks. Use zip ties to secure the strand into place. Now, add the bulbs back into their sockets if you have removed them.

Shot of a man and woman hanging lights in a party patio


STEP 5: Plug in the outdoor string lights and enjoy!

When the lights are securely in place, plug them in and enjoy the ambiance they create. To maintain your string lights and maximize their longevity, be sure to take them down in winter if you live in a cold or snowy climate. Be mindful that many older homes do not feature weather-resistant outdoor outlets, so for optimal safety consider having them replaced with more modern outlets that fit The National Electrical Code guidelines.

By following this method, you’ll make your outdoor living area just bright enough, and more pleasant and inviting on top of providing practical illumination. Take the time to research the best string light options for your home before making a purchase and measure the area ahead of time to ensure you purchase the correct length and wattage. After completing these steps, you’ll be ready to entertain or simply relax in your new-and-improved yard or patio.

Related: 15 Doable Designs for a DIY Patio Table