Spring is here and beautiful summer nights are just around the corner! Today, I wanted to share some really easy quick tips and layout ideas for hanging outdoor string lights. I’m also sharing my favorite sources for lights and things you’ll need to consider when purchasing outdoor string lights, bistro lights or cafe lights.
Over the years, I have designed outdoor lighting layouts for outdoor events, client spaces and in my own outdoor space and it can be very challenging. I have learned so much over the years what works and what doesn’t work and you’ll find all of my tips below.
Choosing the Right Outdoor Lights
When it comes to choosing the right outdoors, this is the most important thing to consider. There are so many varieties of outdoor string lighting out there that it can be so confusing.
1) Choose a staple brand of lights that are in stock all year.
I have tried pretty much all big brand lights out there but I now only buy my outdoor lights from Home Depot because they keep them in stock all year (year after year). If you buy off brand string lighting, you will run the risk of the lights not being available for replacement bulbs or if you want to add more strings over time. I also buy two extra boxes for replacement bulbs because at $12.00 a box, it’s cheaper for me to just buy more string lights than buy replacement bulbs.
2) Glass or Plastic?
As you choose string lights, be sure and double check to see if the lights are glass or plastic. I personally prefer glass bulbs because there is such a big difference in the way the lights look. While it’s hard to tell when they are in the box, I do think that plastic bulbs can look like plastic when they are hung and turned on. It’s just a personal preference for me but glass just illuminates beautifully!
3) Choosing Size and Style of Lights
If you’re going to buy staple string lights from Home Depot, Target and Walmart that are available all year, they are most likely going to be round blubs that are called bistro lights or cafe lights.
Again, this is personal preference but I just love the look of traditional bistro/cafe lights at night. I also think about what the space will look like in the daytime and I want the lights to sort of fade into the landscape and not stand out. The bistro/cafe lights from Home Depot that I use are not terribly large and they are on a brown cord.
Tips for Hanging Outdoor String Lights
I have also learned the hard way over the years how to hang outdoor lights and what works best for securing them, tips for draping the lights and securing the connections.
1) Remove glass bulbs before hanging!
If you are using glass bulbs, it’s much easier to remove all of the glass bulbs before starting to hang. If you’re just hanging one or two strands, you do not need to do this but if you are hanging multiple strings and criss-crossing, it is much easier to do this when you’re not having to be careful of breaking the bulbs as you connect, drape, etc..
Once you have all the strings hung and connectors secured, you just simply add the lights back in.
2) Coaxial Staples Work Best
Coaxial staples are the best things to use if you are securing lights to wood like the side of your home or trees.
As you can see above, the cord is secured by the staple opening.
You can buy Coaxial staples (for wood) at Home Depot, Lowes, etc.. in various sizes. Just check the size of your string light cord to get the right size.
3) Securing the connectors
Because of the way the string light drapes and the number of strings on one line, often times if you have more than two connected, the end connectors may not be as secure as it should be because of the weight. You will need to secure the connectors and we secure just by wrapping the connectors with electrical tape in the same color as the cord.
4) Tips for draping lights
I personally think outdoor lights look so much better when they are draped in the middle and sort of slack down some. The way to do this is make sure that your two hanging points (start and end) and exactly secured at the same level and give the string lights just a little slack.
Layout Designs for Outdoor Lights
Choosing a layout design for hanging outdoor lights can be challenging.
1) Start by identifying trees/side of home to secure lights
I always start by looking for trees and the side of homes as I start a layout plan to avoid having to install posts. Sometimes there is no other option but to have posts installed. It really helps to draw a quick sketch of your space on paper and make an “X” at trees and areas that you could secure the lights.
You’ll also need to factor in power sources. The lights that I use from Home Depot allow for up to five strings to be connected, which is 60 ft. So 60 ft. is a lot of length to begin and wrap around a tree and come back and usually enough for me to one need one power source.
2) To criss-cross or not
Next you will need to decide if you want your string lights to criss-cross or not. If you have a square or rectangular space, criss-crossing looks so pretty and you can quickly draw out your plan on paper for starting and ending points and be sure an factor in slight draping/slack.
3) Challenging Spaces
If you have a non-square/rectangular outdoor space, it works best from a design standpoint to keep the light layout basic. For example, my outdoor side patio is a wedge layout and when I identified and highlighted areas where I could secure the lights on a quick sketch on paper, I immediately was able to envision my string light layout plan. If the layout isn’t immediately clear, sketch lines for lights in pencil and try different combinations. Here is basically what my sketch looked like.
After you settle on a light layout plan, add the measurements between secure points to your sketch and then you will be able to determine how many string lights you’ll need. It’s that easy!
I hope this helps as you set out to create a beautiful outdoor space! I’m always here if you have any questions. By the way, if you haven’t seen our newly finished outdoor space/pool house, you can see the rest of it here.
Thanks for stopping by today friends!