Learn how to string lights in your yard with step by step guide to hanging outdoor string lights from fences, poles, and roofs.
One of my most popular posts is my tutorial on how to hang outdoor string lights from our oak grove at the ranch. But our backyard at our home looks very different… and yours may, too!
How do you string globe lights in a backyard without trees? Today, I’m going to show you.
Considerations for Hanging Outdoor String Lights
Before I show you exactly how we hung our lights above our pool, I want to help you think through the outdoor lighting ideas and options for yard and patio lights.
First, though, let me remind you to use caution if you have a pool. This tutorial is intended to show you how to hang lights across a yard without convenient trees to hold your lights; it is not a comprehensive tutorial on electricity and water safety. Please check your local code and/or consult an electrician when working near water.
Overhead vs On the Side
I’m a sucker for twinkle lights, like Christmas lights, and the ambiance they provide when strung across a fence or through the trees is such a fun element in backyard lighting. However, if you want the lights to provide functional lighting, like for dining, then you will want larger lights strung overhead.
To string lights overhead, you need a fixed point at least 8-10 feet off the ground that can hold the tension of a wire or light strand. This can be a tree, the eaves of your home or gazebo or covered patio, a pergola, a fence, a wooden post, a second story deck railing, a metal pole, or any other sturdy support.
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Solar String Lights vs Plug In
Speaking of functional overhead light, I tried several different solar light strands, and I could not find one that actually provided enough light for our purposes. We wanted the space to be fully lit to enjoy dining, swimming, hot tubbing, and even an outdoor game night we hosted. The solar light strands seem fun for ambiance, but not sufficient for task lighting.
So if you are looking for task lighting, then you will need to consider your power source. Your design for stringing your lights will need to start at a plug and/or include an extension cord that can blend into your space.
Wire vs No wire
At the ranch in the oak grove, I used this kit and strung a guide wire for the lights (which proved to be helpful since squirrels like to eat the light cords – ugh – and that allows me to replace sections without losing the tension of the entire space). In our backyard, though, since I wasn’t sure I wanted the lights there permanently, I chose to hang the lights without a wire kit.
Permanent vs Removable
Technically all of these string lights are pretty removable, but there are certainly ways to make them easier to put up and take down if you want that flexibility. Especially if you have to add posts to hold the lights, you’ll want to consider how easy it will be to remove the posts if you ever choose to.
Glass Bulbs vs Plastic
We chose to use these commercial strands with glass bulbs at the ranch. They are beautiful, and since there is mulch beneath, we haven’t broken many… But if I had it to do over again, but I would probably choose plastic just to remove any concerns.
In our outdoor space at home, on the other hand, we have a huge concrete patio underneath the lights, so plastic bulbs were a must. We also chose a strand without the extra dangling cord for each light since we wanted to gain as much headroom clearance as possible.
How to Hang Outdoor String Lights Without Trees
With all those considerations in mind, we chose overhead plug-in lights with plastic bulbs, and I got creative to install them in a way that looked classy and built-in but could easily be removed if we chose to. Let me show you how!
Materials we used to hang our outdoor string lights:
- outdoor edison bulb light strands
- 1″ aluminum square tubing
- drop cloths + painter’s tape
- aluminum primer
- high-performance enamel paint
- trim roller + tray
- black cable ties
- heavy-duty screw hooks
1. Measure your space
Use a tape measure to plan the space and determine the number of light strands you need and the best configuration for them. You will also need to consider where you can attach the lights (see #2 below). Fortunately, you can see the length of each strand of lights before ordering, so you can make your choices accordingly.
We decided that a VVV formation which started at the outlet above our grill would be ideal. This means that the lights are completely unplugged most of the time. If you can, it helps to draw out the space from an aerial perspective.
2. Plan your supports
We knew we wanted the strands to come off the framing of the porch, so that gave us two of our points. We have a mountain laurel tree that is basically in line with the porch, so that provided point #3 on the house side of the yard.
For those points, we used heavy-duty screw hooks. The hook screws into the wood and holds the light strand.
On the other size, we had the light pole for the grill, but we still needed three more supports to complete our VVV formation. Did you know you can create your own supports?
We have a lovely wrought iron fence, but it is only about 4 feet tall, not nearly tall enough to support overhead lights. I considered buckets or planters with cement or gravel, but I didn’t want to trip over them or have to lug them in or out if we ever decided to take the lights down.
Instead, I bought 8-foot long 1″ aluminum square tubing and painted it black to match our fence using the products listed above and this method for painting outdoor furniture. I attached the poles with heavy-duty black zip ties (which you honestly don’t notice unless you’re staring at it up close): three at the top for security and one at the bottom for maximum stability.
Note: aluminum is very slightly flexible. You may see a little bend in the pole if the tension is high, but you shouldn’t have any problems with durabilty.
3. String your lights
It was so easy to hang the lights! We used zip ties around the sides of the posts and light pole to secure the light strands. The cup hooks didn’t need any securing since they hold the cord securely.
It has been almost 10 months since we installed these lights, and they still look good as new! I installed them for a party, but I was unsure if I would want to keep them up all year since our porch is raised and they are in your line of sight when standing on the porch… but I simply love them!
DIY Backyard and Patio Lighting
In short, you may have to get creative, but hanging your string lights can be done. I do think it is possible to hang beautiful, professional looking string lights even without trees or permanent poles.
One more friendly reminder: If you have a pool or other water features in your yard, please remember to use caution when using anything electrical near water! Our lights are completely unplugged when not in use, and we double check their security before plugging them in.
Consider attaching to roofs and porch beams with heavy duty screw in hooks. Try extending metal fences with aluminum poles painted to match or doing the same with a wooden pole against a wooden fence. Use zip ties to hold it all together and enjoy your new space!