String lights are one of the most popular ways to decorate a deck or patio. Their soft glow can transform any outdoor space into an inviting oasis for relaxing or entertaining. But with so many lighting options on the market, it can be tricky to choose the best string lights for your unique deck or patio.
We’ll cover choosing the perfect bulbs, cords and poles to highlight your deck’s best features. We’ll also share pro tips on hanging techniques as well as smart controls to enhance ambiance. By the end, you’ll have all the inspiration and know-how to create your own eye-catching string light display.
Choosing Your String Lights
The first step to decking out your patio with string lights is choosing the right set for your space. Here’s what you need to consider when buying:
The two main options for string light bulbs are incandescent and LED . Here’s how they compare:
- Lifespan: Incandescent bulbs last 1,000 hours or less, while LEDs can shine over 50 times longer – up to 50,000 hours.
- Energy use: LED string lights consume about 90% less electricity than incandescent.
- Light color: Incandescent casts a warm, yellowish glow. LED spans the color spectrum, from warm white to daylight tones.
For long-lasting performance and savings on your energy bill, LED is the best bet. Also consider shatterproof and weatherproof bulbs designed specifically for outdoor use.
Outdoor-rated string lights have cords made of plastic , fabric or rubber . Here’s how they stack up:
- Plastic cords are inexpensive and versatile.
- Cloth cords have a vintage look and muted glow.
- Rubber cords hold up well in cold weather and wet conditions.
Check the waterproof rating – look for lights rated IP65 or IP44. The higher the second digit, the better they’ll withstand weather exposure.
Cord length is measured by the total distance covered by the wire and bulbs together. Standard sizes are:
- 25 ft. – Accent smaller spaces like railings.
- 50 ft. – Outline medium areas like a patio table.
- 100 ft. Plus – Wrap larger expanses like pergolas.
Measure your deck to determine ideal length. Allow extra cord for swoops and sags. You can also link multiple strands or use extension cords to get desired coverage.
Set Up Your Lighting Infrastructure
To hang string lights on a deck, you need poles or anchors running horizontally to attach them to. Here are some popular options:
- Wood – 1×2 and 2×2 pine boards work well. You can paint them or use a natural wood look.
- Wrought iron or aluminum poles have an upscale appearance.
- Shepherd’s hooks provide a handy instant solution if you have open yard space.
There are several bracket types to securely attach poles and hooks to deck surfaces:
- Deck rail brackets offer versatile placement along balustrades.
- L-brackets mount poles with a low-profile deck attachment.
- Deck light clips situate poles and lights flush with railings.
- Heavy planters can also anchor poles if properly weighted.
Consider deck layout, foot traffic flows and seating areas when planning pole and light placement:
- Space poles for optimal swoops and illumination angles.
- Highlight steps, flower boxes, alcoves and other unique features.
- Mark separate ambiance zones for lounging, dining and mingling.
Hanging Your String Lights
Once your poles and hardware are installed securely, it’s time to attach the string lights.
Securing Lights to Poles
Use attachments like these to fix lights to horizontal supports:
- Cup hooks spaced evenly to catch wire.
- Eye bolts threaded into wood poles and anchored with S-hooks.
- Weatherproof linkers to connect multiple strands.
Making swoops with your string lights transforms flat poles into an elegant display. Follow this advice:
- Use varying heights for visual interest, between 8 and 14 feet high.
- Comply with codes for minimum deck light hanging heights.
- Balance overall spacing and symmetry.
Lighting Special Features
Use these clever techniques to spotlight special deck features:
- Wrap poles using gentle swirling or criss-crossed patterns.
- Outline stair railings allowing extra cord slack under steps.
- Frame headers and posts with lights for definition.
Enjoying Your Deck Lighting
Your string lights are ready to illuminate evenings of relaxation and fun on your deck. Here are some ways to enhance the experience.
Setting the Mood
Create distinct lighting zones to match the evening’s activity – whether chill, refined or festive:
- Lounging areas benefit from soft, dimmable cafe bulbs.
- Dining calls for bright, warm white light to see food and faces.
- Parties shine with strands of multi-colored bulbs, illuminating the fun.
Use smart controls like timers, motion detectors and sound-reactive modules to automatically shift lighting moods.
String lights lend any occasion a magical feel.Highlight seasons and holidays such as:
- Summer nights cooling off as bulbs flicker.
- Harvest and lunar celebration strands sparkling into autumn.
- Festive ribbons wrapping rails spiritedly for Christmas, New Years and Valentine’s Day.
- Patriotic red, white and blue blankets of light for the Fourth of July.
We’ve covered the full journey – from buying the perfect string lights to creatively displaying them to enjoying lively evenings under their glow. By following this guide and customizing for your unique space, you’re sure to create an eye-catching string light display over your deck.
The strategic use of varied cord lengths, sturdy mounting hardware and smart controls transforms string lights from a basic backyard staple into a show-stopping focal point. So don’t settle for dull deck decor this season. Let color-changing, sound reactive bulbs shine as you relax, dine and celebrate under the stars.