Patio string lights illuminate the backyard and patio, transforming any outdoor space into a lively setting for entertaining, dining, and relaxing. With a bit of planning and a little thought placed into hanging patio lights, you can create an outdoor living space that you will enjoy year-round.
Make Sure To Measure Your Space
The first step to a flawless patio light design is making sure you know the dimensions of your space. We recommend drawing a rough sketch of the area where you plan to hang your lights and writing the measurements on your drawing for quick reference later. This sketch will come in handy when you pick your hanging pattern. Part of what makes patio lights so appealing is the natural curve created by the strings. To make sure you have enough length to account for the swag in your light strings, add an extra 2 – 6 feet of length to your measurements and purchase strings that will meet those with those final measurements.
Decide How You Will Hang Your Patio Lights
Take inspiration from the pros when designing your backyard patio lights! Event spaces, restaurant patios and public squares are all areas where patio lights are likely to be found in a variety of patterns and designs. Take a look at our list of the most popular patio light patterns and pick the one that best suits your taste and space!
The V Pattern – A versatile option for any space. The V pattern is fairly easy to achieve and does not require equal string lengths on both sides to look good. Keep in mind that the pinnacle point of the V, where each side connects bears the weight of the entire light string and should be anchored sufficiently to support the additional pressure.
Zig Zag or “W”- Zig Zag patterns are a fun choice when you want to add full coverage illumination across your space but desire a more interesting light design. This can be achieved with one long light string or through the use of multiple strings connected end to end.
X Pattern Patio Lights- X marks the spot! This design works especially well in wide spaces or areas that are square shaped. If you have multiple light strings, hang several X’s in a row to create a diamond pattern. The result is a light display that appears intricate but is actually incredibly easy to achieve!
Square or Grid- Hang patio lights in straight lines across the length and width of your space to create a grid, or keep it simple by outlining just the perimeter of your space in a square shape.
The Horizon Point- Similar to the V in that the light strings all anchor to one central point and fan out, however, this design requires more hanging locations opposite of the central horizon point. This technique for hanging patio lights is typically used in professional installations for events and restaurant patio seating. However, with some planning the horizon point can be easily achieved in residential outdoor spaces as well!
Tent or Maypole Design- The tent or maypole design features multiple light strings anchored in a spoke and wheel arrangement from one central point. This point, typically either a pole or beam needs to be sturdy enough to support the weight of multiple light strings and may require professional installation.
Scalloped Edge Design- Scalloped patio light design is a popular choice for wedding lighting and garden parties and can be achieved with a variety of lighting styles. Create scallops by making a swag in your light strings every 2-3 bulbs. Scallop lights along a fence, wall or other flat surface.
Where to Hang Patio Lights
Now that you’ve picked your hanging pattern, it’s time to revisit your sketch and measurements from earlier! Take some time to plan out where your patio lights will hang, how many anchor points you will need, and how you will attach your lights to those points. Some popular hanging locations for patio lights include:
- Across the backyard or deck
- Attached to Trees
- Hanging against deck railings
- Outlining a gazebo roof or other structure
If your yard does not have many readily available options for hanging patio lights, you may need to create your own. Attach poles to deck railings or cement poles into painted buckets or decorative planters to create anchor points throughout your yard without adding more clutter or unnecessary pieces to your backyard or patio.
How To Hang Patio Lights
The installation process can vary depending on where and how you decide to hang your patio lights, however we have provided a list of frequently asked questions, supplies you might need, and methods to use below. You may want to consider the use of a guy wire or galvanized steel cable to hang your patio light strings. Using a guy wire can prolong the life of your light strings by removing the tension that is created on the string as your patio lights hang over time.
Supplies You Might Need
- Hooks (these could be screw-in hooks or another variety)
- Zip ties
- Extension cords
- Staple gun
Patio Lights FAQ’s
How far apart should I space my lights?
If you hang your patio lights closer together, it will look more like a canopy of stars. If you only have one or two very long light strings and a long, narrow area, consider spacing each section of your pattern farther apart to cover greater distances with less strands.
What about LED lighting?
LED systems have revolutionized outdoor landscape lighting. LED offers vastly longer life, incredible energy savings, and sustainability through the use of new technology (see LED comparison page). Conventional landscape lighting systems have always been plagued by voltage drop, high temperatures, and burned out bulbs. But with LED systems, the nuisance of light bulb replacement is eliminated. The life of your landscape lights are now measured in years, not hours. Old, incandescent bulbs were rated for 2000-3000 hrs. LED fixtures are rated for 40,000 hours (which is 15-18 years of regular use!) These systems have truly become “no-fuss”; just install them and enjoy years and years of beautiful, inviting light in your landscape!
Can I keep my lights hung year-round?
This depends on what type of lights that you are using and also how they’re hung. If you are using LED lights, they will be durable enough to withstand harsher weather and cold temperature, meaning you should be able to keep them up year-round. If you are using strings that will hang, be wary that accumulating snow and ice can weigh your lights down and possibly bring them down.
How can I maximize my lights in the space I have?
For larger areas, use patio light strings with bigger bulb sizes and wider socket spacing. Smaller spaces will be well-balanced by smaller bulb sizes with shorter socket spacing between each bulb.
How do I know what type of lighting I want?
Whether indoors or outdoors, lighting is generally divided into three layers based on function:
- Overall: Overall light provides illumination for a whole room or space.
- Task: Task lighting is used for a specific purpose, such as to light a path.
- Accent: Accent lighting draws attention to an object or area.