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Complete Guide to Hanging Outdoor Patio Lights

Friends gathered together having a good time

Everyone loves an attractive outdoor space, and nothing creates an ambiance like the right lighting. So whether you have a big backyard or a tiny balcony porch, learning how to hang outdoor patio lights will elevate and transform your space into an inviting, magical gathering spot.

While outdoor patio string lights are quite forgiving, it's still important to consider your plan for hanging them. There are many different patio light ideas and options, so it's essential to pick lights that fit the look and vibe you're seeking for your outdoor space.

Here’s how to hang outdoor patio lights to create a warm and welcoming spot—perfect for summer entertaining!

Where to Hang Outdoor Patio String Lights

A group of friends having a celebratory dinner with sparklers

Where should you hang your outdoor patio lights? Before you select the right lights for your outdoor space, consider where you plan to install the patio lights. Look at your porch, patio, or yard in the evening. Consider where you like to gather and which areas could use more lighting.

It's also important to consider how bright you'd like the lighting in your outdoor space. Soft outdoor string lights create a relaxing atmosphere for those summer night get-togethers. In addition, the placement of some outdoor lanterns can brighten up dark corners. Once you’ve determined your needs, start exploring your lighting options.

As you select lights, keep in mind where you plan to position them. Low-voltage lights should be lower to the ground—roughly two feet, ideally—for lighting paths and walkways. Standard-voltage lights look best when hung higher than seven feet. This guideline will offer functional and ambient lighting that adds character to your patio or porch.

You aren’t limited to hanging patio lights overhead or stringing lights across the backyard. You can also string lights around a railing, on a wall, around trees, or on porch posts. So, as you consider how to hang string lights on a balcony or covered porch, look at the railings and get creative!

Choosing from the Different Types of Patio Lights

Patio lights strung and turned on, close-up

Now that you have an idea of where you'd like to hang outdoor patio string lights, it's time to pick lights that fit your style. There are many varieties of string lights to choose from, fitting many different aesthetics, from rustic to vintage to modern. Below are a few of the different styles of patio string lights.

Lantern-Style Lights

Lantern-style lights are exactly as they sound. These porch lights look like small lanterns. Some lantern-style lights are stand-alone while others are available in groups or on a string. Many lantern-style lights are solar, meaning they automatically charge in the sun. You can also find battery-operated lantern-style lights.

Think of these lights as lamps for your porch. They are best for conversational furniture arrangements, tables, or lighting pathways. Lantern-style porch lights are often ideal for lighting spaces near the ground.

Edison-Style Lights

If you’re looking for style points, you can’t go wrong with Edison-style lights. These bulbs have a fun, vintage look. They’re often clear, tear-drop shaped, and show the inner workings and filament. Edison-style lights are bright in traditional and LED types.

If you select these vintage-style string lights for your space, hang them in areas that need bright overhead lights. These bulbs can really illuminate, and even a single string can go a long way.

Globe Lights

Globe lights offer a traditional look in your outdoor space. You can find globe-style garden stakes as well as globe-shaped string lights. Often these are available in white and clear light options.

White bulbs give off a softer, warmer light. Clear bulbs are typically brighter. You can find globe-style lights in many different sizes as well. These are perfect for the classic café-lighting look. You can also find globe-style lights in colored styles for a perfect party atmosphere.

Rope Lights

Another popular option for outdoor lighting is rope lights. These outdoor string lights are a nice option because the bulbs are encased in a protective, flexible covering. You can find solar-charging rope lights as well as electric light options.

Rope lights are ideal for lighting pathways and framing your porch, balcony, or other areas. They create a nice glow that’s fun and festive.

How to Hang Outdoor Patio Lights

Two friends outside hanging up patio lights

If you’ve selected your perfect outdoor patio light set and know where you'd like to install your lights, you're ready to get glowing! Hanging outdoor patio lights is a simple DIY job.

Materials for Hanging Outdoor Patio Lights:

Step 1: Gather Materials

Gather your materials, so you're ready to install your patio lights.

Step 2: Enlist a Friend

Installing patio lights is a job for two or more people, so find a friend before you start.

Step 3: Assess the Space and Pick a Pattern

Once you're ready, look around the space and consider the plan for your light hanging pattern. There are several pattern options:

  • V-pattern
  • Z-pattern
  • Criss-cross
  • Parallel

V-patterns and Z-patterns are easy. You make that letter shape with your lights across your space.

Crisscross patio lights use the V-pattern but double your lights. For example, you'll start your V-pattern on the left side of your patio, and once complete, you'll add a second layer of lights beginning on the right side. Both sides will be a mirror of each other and crisscross, hence the name.

Lastly, a parallel pattern is the most traditional and easiest to do. To hang outdoor string lights in parallel, you'll string your lights from one side to the other in straight lines parallel to each other. The width between each row depends on how bright you want the space to be.

Step 4: Climb the Ladder at Each Hanging Point

Once you've decided on a hanging pattern, one person should ascend the ladder while the other spots them by holding it in place. The spotter hands the climber the lights, and they then can affix the lights to the hanging point. You may want to use your tape measure to ensure that you hang the lights evenly across the space (for example, if you are hanging them along a roofline). Be sure to climb down and move the ladder between each hanging point (rather than reaching across).

Step 5: Affix the Lights with Hooks or Ties

Never use a staple gun to affix outdoor patio lights; this can puncture the cord and present a safety hazard. Instead, use hooks and cable ties to hold the outdoor string lights in place. Some people also like to use fishing line to secure the lights and keep them from sagging too low between hanging points.

If you’re wondering how to hang outdoor lights on a balcony or porch, the process is similar. Use your tape measure and affix hooks at set intervals. You can also wrap the lights around your porch posts and use fishing line to help hold them in place.

Step 6: Safely Power Your Lights and Assess

Once you've finished hanging outdoor patio lights, you'll want to plug them in to the power source and turn them on. You can use an outdoor timer, along with an outdoor extension cord and power stake, to ensure that your lights power on and off at the correct times.

Once the lights are hung and powered on, step back and assess. Make sure the lighting scheme works for your needs, and follow up with any necessary adjustments. When you're finished hanging your lights to your liking, you're ready for "enlightened" backyard entertaining.

How to Hang Patio Lights Safety

As with most outdoor projects, it's essential to consider safety first. Look for any potential fire hazards. While most bulbs are heat-safe (especially LED ones), you'll want to avoid putting a bulb next to very dry brush.

More importantly, look at your outlets and extension cords. There should be no signs of fraying, wear, or tear. Outdoor cables and cords are exposed to the elements (and outdoor critters that like to chew), so watch for any damage and replace or address the issue immediately.

Outdoor String Lights that Don’t Attract Bugs

Warm patio light, close-up

It’s true! Certain types of outdoor string lights can attract bugs. While it may not seem like a safety hazard, bugs can certainly be a nuisance and ruin your outdoor gathering quickly. Fortunately, there are some helpful tips to follow when deciding on patio lighting ideas to keep bugs at bay:

  • Opt for patio lights that are LED.
  • Try yellow, warm white, or ultra-warm white lights.
  • Avoid UV, incandescent, compact fluorescent (CFL), and halogen lights.

What are LED patio lights? These LED lights emit very little heat while burning and often very little UV light—both of which attract bugs. Most UV lights have a blue tint to the color, which also entices bugs and pests to join your party. Yellow or warm-hued lights are less visible to flying insects and help deter these unwanted guests.

DIY Patio String Lights: The Perfect Backyard Update

A group of friends together out to have lunch with patio light strung above them

If you’re longing for a welcoming, comfortable patio or backyard, outdoor string lights help to create a designated gathering space. They add to the ambiance and festive atmosphere of your outdoor get-togethers. Try this simple DIY backyard project to make your space extra cozy and enjoyable—the perfect spot to relax and appreciate warm weather.

At Do it Best, we have all the supplies you need to create a backyard gathering space that you’ll love. Explore our array of outdoor lighting options today and give your backyard a “glow up!”

While do-it-yourself projects can be fun and fulfilling, there is always a potential for personal injury or property damage. We strongly suggest that any project beyond your abilities be left to licensed professionals such as electricians, plumbers, and carpenters. Any action you take upon the information on this website is strictly at your own risk, and we assume no responsibility or liability for the contents of this article.


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