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How to Hang Outdoor String Lights Anywhere in a Backyard

6 simplified DIY tutorials for how to hang outdoor string lights without trees around a fire pit, around a pool, on a fence, on a porch, from siding, around a patio, or anywhere in the backyard.

The Ultimate Guide to Hanging String Lights Anywhere in a Backyard

Ultimate Guide: How to Hang Outdoor String Lights

I have no idea why it takes so much brain power to hang outdoor string lights (power… har har… electricity humor… I’ll see myself out).

But if you’re new to this would-be simple backyard lighting DIY, it can be rather complicated.

It’s so hard to know all of the technical details when it comes to running a working circuit, rigging posts, brackets, and cables correctly, setting up convenient extension cords and timers while still making it look pretty.

Over the years though, Robert and I have done every single outdoor string light hanging scenario in our backyard that you can imagine, so I’m breaking down all of the steps for each one no matter what your situation is in your backyard.

backyard string lights around a pool and pergola
Cabana Sources HERE

The Best Backyard String Lights

There are all kinds of different string lights out there, and it’s hard to know which ones will work best for you.

In our experience, the best lights to use outdoors are shatterproof, soft white LED string lights.

string lights hanging from a hook on the side of a brick house

Why Shatterproof?

You definitely don’t want glass bulbs shattering underfoot, especially where they can cause injuries. If you live in an area with windy conditions, this is especially important.

Why Soft White?

Soft white or warm white lights create that beautiful cozy glow to make a backyard feel inviting because they have a yellow/orange hue. (I prefer soft white at around 2700 K.)

Choosing daylight or cool white light bulbs isn’t ideal because they create the feeling of a cold, stark environment resulting in less-desirable conditions for relaxation.

It’s best to use LED bulbs rather than incandescent bulbs since they use less energy and are less likely to overheat.

When to Use a Cable Kit?

For any situations where lights need to span long distances of 8 feet or longer, it’s best to use a string light cable kit to prevent the strands from sagging.

outdoor string lights around a fire pit in a backyard

Where to Use Outdoor String Lights

Note: Hang lights away from any water source to prevent code violations or safety hazards.

Some of the best places to hang outdoor string lights for added ambience in a backyard are:

lights hanging from a house through trees

What to Hang Lights From

You can hang lights from all kinds of objects in the backyard, and unless you have trees placed JUST in the perfect spot every time, you’ll most likely need some of these objects to rely on for support.

  • Porch/pergola/gazebo ceiling
  • Fence
  • Retaining wall
  • House/shed/building
  • Deck railing
  • Vinyl siding wall
  • Trees
  • String light poles (DIY tutorials below to make your own)
plug in outdoor lights with an outlet, outdoor extension cord, and outdoor timer

What to Do Before Hanging String Lights

Plan Around Your Outlet Access

Check your backyard to see where your outlets are placed. Plan to hang lights with the starting end of your string lights near an outlet. (We placed our outlet access point directly behind our outdoor kitchen so it’s tucked out of the way but still convenient to access as needed.)

Measure Your Route

Plan where you want your lights to hang and measure the route with a tape measure to know how many strands you need to buy.

How to Hang Outdoor String Lights Around a Fire Pit

lights hanging around a fire pit with string light poles in the ground

Supplies

a backyard fire pit with string lights hanging from poles in the ground
Fire Pit Sources HERE

Steps to Hang Outdoor String Lights Without Trees Around a Fire Pit

Step 1 Lay Out Conduit to Paint on Drop Cloth

Choose a warm, sunny day to paint your conduit pipes (though this is entirely optional if you don’t mind the metal showing on the poles).

conduit poles on a drop cloth ready to be painted

Step 2 – Prime Conduit

To make sure the spray paint sticks to the conduit, apply a thin, even coat of automotive primer. I’ve found over the years that it has the best adhesion on metal, especially in the elements in outdoor spaces.

black automotive primer to paint on conduit poles
painting conduit pipe to make DIY string light poles

Step 3 – Paint Conduit

Once dry from the primer coat, give the conduit pipes 1-2 thin coats of black spray paint.

spray painting conduit black to make DIY string light poles

Step 4 – Dig Holes for DIY String Light Poles

As the paint is drying on the conduit, decide where you want to place your string light poles around the fire pit, mark, and begin digging 2 feet below the surface with a post hole digger.

using a post hole digger to dig holes for string light poles around a fire pit
a post hole digger in a hole 2 feet deep

Step 5 – Cut PVC Pipe

Using a PVC cutter, segment the 10′ PVC pipe into 2′ length each to end up with five 2′ long PVC pipes.

a post hole digger and 2' long PVC pipe

Step 6 – Place PVC Pipe

Drop the 2′ length of PVC pipe into the newly dug hole. Use a level to make sure the PVC pipe is straight. Pack tight with dirt.

checking to make sure PVC pipe is level in 2 foot deep hole
DIY string light pole in the ground with PVC pipe to anchor it
DIY string light poles around a fire pit made of conduit and PVC pipe

Step 7 – Attach Squeeze Connectors

To give each pole a place to anchor the string lights, attach a squeeze connector to the top using 3M shelving tape to keep it secure.

attaching squeeze connectors to light poles using mounting tape

Step 8 – Hang Cable

Using the materials from the light hanging kit, make a loop in the cable and attach it to the squeeze connector. Pull the cable tight between poles as you repeat placement on the other string light poles.

a light mounting kit with a cable, zip ties, and hardware
making a cable loop to rig lights from a bracket
attaching a cable system to DIY string light poles for stability

Step 9 – Begin Hanging Lights

Plan where you need to plug in your first strand of lights to a nearby power outlet and start hanging the first strand from the nearest conduit pole.

Attach the lights to the cable wire using the provided small zip ties in the string light kit.

shatterproof LED string lights in a box
string lights attached to poles with squeeze connectors screwed to cable

Snip any excess zip tie ends.

cutting zip tie ends off of string lights attached to cable

Step 10 – Wrap Plugs with Electrical Tape

To keep the plugs from pulling apart as the strands are placed tightly with tension on them, wrap the ends in black electrical tape.

wrapping two string light strand plugs with black electrical tape

Step 11 – Run Extension Cord and Set Timer

Repeat the process until you have added lights all around your fire pit. Run the outdoor extension cord from the end of the string light strand down the pole and to the power outlet.

Set the timer as you would like or use the remote control manually if you don’t want to your string lights to turn on automatically every night at dusk.

attaching string lights to cable around a fire pit

Magic! Isn’t it so beautiful?!

It’s amazing how much they add to a fire pit!

hanging string lights around a fire pit with poles at night
fire pit at night time with string lights in a backyard

How to Hang Outdoor String Lights on Fence Without Damage

I originally got this tubing idea from this string light tutorial from Maison de Pax, but I adapted it a little by adding hooks to the top of the poles and stringing cables for longer distances.

Follow her tutorial, if you want a less permanent, faster solution that spans shorter distances between light poles without the use of a cable system.

outdoor dining tables and outdoor kitchen with string lights overhead

Supplies

*If you’re planning to hang string lights near a pool, do NOT hang them directly over a pool. It is against code and a safety hazard. Instead, choose to hang string lights around the perimeter of a pool far enough away to avoid the risk of any electrical wires from falling into the water.

Steps to Hang String Lights on a Fence

square aluminum tubing on a drop cloth to be painted

Step 1 – Prime Tubing

Apply a thin, even coat of automotive primer to the 1″ aluminum square tubing.

can of white spray primer
spray painting square tubing and conduit

Step 2 – Paint Tubing

Once dry from the primer coat, apply 1-2 thin, even coats of spray paint.

white enamel spray paint

Step 3 – Attach Tubing to Fence

Decide where you want to place your string lights to your fence, and attach the square tubing to fence posts using zip ties.

white square tubing attached with zip ties on a fence
placing white square tubing attached with zip ties to hang string lights on a fence

Step 4 – Snip Zip Tie Ends

For a clean look, use the wire cutting pliers to snip the excess ends of the zip ties.

white square tubing attached with zip ties and snipping ends to hang string lights on a fence

Step 5 – Screw Hooks to Top of Tubings

Using a 5/32 drill bit, drill a pilot hole through one side of the square tubing end. Screw in the hook until secure.

square tubing with screw hooks on the end

Step 6 – Determine End Points and Attach Brackets

Walk around your property and decide where you want your string lights to attach to eaves, soffits, or sides of any nearby buildings, if any.

Use the brackets from the string light hanging kit and attach them to those points with a drill.

string light kit with cable, hardware, and brackets
screwing bracket to a shed
hanging string lights from a building using a cable system

Step 7 – Hang Cables

Using the cables from the string light kit, attach them to the brackets on buildings and hooks on tubings using the kit’s recommended hardware. Pull cables tight between end points so string lights don’t sag in the next step.

hanging lights from a pergola using cables

Step 8 – Hang String Lights

Plan where you need to plug in your string lights to a nearby power outlet and start hanging the first strand from the nearest bracket or tubing hook. Zip tie each string light bulb to the cable using the small ties from the kit. Use the wire cutting pliers to snip excess ends.

snipping zip tie ends to attach string lights to cable

Step 9 – Wrap Plug Ends with Tape

To prevent string light strand ends from pulling apart, wrap the plugs with black electrical tape. Repeat Steps 8 and 9 until you reach the end of your last cable with string lights.

wrapping light plugs with black electrical tape
end of string light strand hanging from DIY string light pole

Step 10 – Run the Extension Cord and Set the Timer

Run the outdoor extension cord from the end of the string light strand down the pole and to the power outlet.

Set the timer as you would like or use the remote control manually if you don’t want to your string lights to turn on automatically every night at dusk.

outdoor outlet, outdoor timer, and extension cord
string lights hanging around a pool with pergola and outdoor dining tables

You can see this post for more backyard lighting ideas like solar pendant lights and lanterns that we used all around our pool deck!

string lights around a pool at night with pergola

How to Hang String Lights from Trees

We used a similar method from above relying on part of our fence at the back of our yard for our DIY beer garden two years ago to hang string lights from trees.

Supplies

Steps to Hang String Lights from Trees

Step 1 – Attach a Hook as a Starting Point

Use a drill and 5/32 drill bit to start a pilot hole in the trunk of a tree. Screw in a hook until secure.

Step 2 – Weave and Wrap Strands Through Branches

As you run your string lights, weave strands through limbs and wrap cords around branches. You can add more screw hooks into branches and tree trunks for added security to run more strands.

solar lights hanging from a tree above an outdoor table
Beer Garden Sources HERE

Because solar string lights don’t need to be plugged in, you have more flexibility where you’d like to place them in trees.

However, solar lights add more of a soft glow than fully functional light, so it’s difficult to rely on as your only light source.

How to Hang Porch String Lights

back porch string lights
Back Porch Sources HERE

Supplies

Steps to Hang Cafe Lights on a Covered Porch

This porch string lights method is SO simple and there is really just one step. Place the Command hooks where you want around the soffit of the porch. Be sure to follow the directions on the Command package

I clean the porch soffit surface with rubbing alcohol, press the adhesive strip on the hook firmly for 30 seconds, and press the hook onto the soffit firmly for 30 seconds. Let the hook set up without any weight of string lights on it for an hour. Then, hang your porch string lights as you wish from the hooks.

porch string lights hanging from Command hooks

Use the extension cord if you need to connect the porch string lights to a power outlet. Set the timer, if you want the lights to turn on automatically at dusk each night.

porch string lights hanging on a covered deck

How to Hang Outdoor Patio Lights from Siding

patio string lights hanging from siding clips
Townhouse Patio Sources HERE

Supplies

Steps to Hang String Lights on Vinyl Siding

This method is really straight forward too thanks to the use of vinyl siding clips.

Step 1 – Place Siding Clips

Determine where you want to attach string lights to your siding and place the siding clips between siding slits.

string lights hanging from siding clips

Step 2 – Hang Patio Lights Looping Around Hooks

Hang the string lights as you wish from the hooks, looping the strand once around the bend in the hook.

We had these hooks on our vinyl siding for a couple of years and were able to remove them without any damage at all! Despite many thunderstorms, the light strands never fell off.

patio lights hanging from siding

How to Make Planter Posts for String Lights Around a Patio

We made these planter posts to hang string lights around our small outdoor patio at our old house. It worked perfectly!

string lights around a patio from siding clips and planter posts

Follow this tutorial to learn how to make planter posts for string lights as an alternative to digging posts into the ground (like in our fire pit string light tutorial).

Supplies and Steps to Make Planter Posts for String Lights

If you are a renter or can’t hang string lights permanently, making planter posts is a great solution.

You can also plant citronella, lemongrass, and lavender in the planters to help keep mosquitos at bay.

planter posts for outdoor lights with citronella and lemongrass to keep mosquitoes away

In our old house on our small patio, we combined the use of these planter posts with vinyl siding clips.

planter posts with string lights hanging around a patio

There you have it! Just about every way of hanging string lights you can think of.

If you’ve ever felt stumped on hanging outdoor lights, I hope these tutorials helped! Let me know in the comments if you end up using any of these yourself.

backyard lights around a pergola and swimming pool

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4 Comments

  1. Thanks for this great tutorial. I am curious the purpose of the pvc pipe? Is it so they are removable? We are debating on if we need it but don’t want to make a mistake. Thanks!

  2. Thank you for all the work you did putting this tutorial together. I would like to know how to attach lighting to our house which is stucco with rain gutters.

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