DIY: Hanging Outdoor String Lights

If you read my post “Who Cries At The Hardware Store” then you know we had a little backyard DIY Project we were working on.  The DIY project was hanging outdoor string lights.  This post might be better named ” An Anatomy Of A Project”, but I went with DIY: Hanging Outdoor String Lights for clarity.   I have been wanting to put some lights up in the yard for several years now but had never taken the plunge.  An occasion to help someone else and entertain came up that made it the right time to go for it.

DIY: Outdoor String Lights -Living With Color DesignsAll projects have an ebb and flow.  Sometimes they go in one direction and stay on that path.  Other times they require a few changes of direction along the way.  I ordered the lights first, purchasing the ones that said commercial “quality”.   When they arrived they were sturdy and heavy, I guess that was the commercial “quality” aspect.   The weight was something that definitely was a surprise to my husband.  He would be the one to have to actually figure out how we were going to support and hang them.  We knew the recommendation was for them to be strung on a wire and we knew we would not be attaching it to a permanent structure.  I have no engineering bones in my body so it was best to leave it to him to figure out.

I mentioned an idea I came across years ago.  I had read an article on Martha Stewart that suggested using French watering cans with a dowel and some concrete to make post to string lights from, you could move them around, use them again and again, easy peasy.  I was now certain this approach would not work for my heavy commercial lights, only for lighter weight twinkle lights or decorative lights you can pick up at Target.  Here is her more recent version of this kind of project, Garden Glow.  There was no way these small containers would resist the weight of our strings lights.  We needed another plan.  I guess you would call the solution we came up with a semi permanent structure.  We didn’t want to commit to it being there forever, but we can’t just take it apart in a snap either.

Stringing lights outdoors-

Via Martha Stewart

I was shocked and amazed that my husband did not need an exact plan from the internet to make it work.  That would have been my style.  No, his style was to look at various options on the internet and then make his own plan.  Such a trail blazer.  I love his little sketches.

Plans for DIY hanging Outdoor String Lights

The first thing we had to decide was how big an area we wanted to cover.  We wanted to be able to seat about 18 people at a long banquet type table that we would have to make or pull together in some fashion.  We started out thinking that we would use all the random outdoor chairs that we owned.  After lining them up, we realized we would have to make a really long table in sections and then need to have a place to store them.  Next approach, my husband located some great chairs with end-of-season-closeout-prices at Home Depot that we could buy, would all look alike, could be used with two existing folding tables that we already owned, and would store easily.  Below you can see our trial runs.  So funny, country fun in the South lining up chairs.

We ordered the lights and galvanized steel cable from  Tip: purchase lights at the end of a season for later projects.  The savings are big, we paid a third of the price you now see on their site.  Here is a great alternative from Lumens that is a middle of the road between the commercial lights and regular store bought string lights and you can plug four strings end to end. Probably what I should have bought.

Vintage String Light Kit by Bulbrite click photo to shop

We made several trips to the hardware store to scope out the materials we might use and determine cost before making final decisions.  On one trip we found these planters that had been greatly reduced.  They were a good size to hold a more substantial support post and not topple over.

Planters for concrete and posts for DIY String light project.-Living With Color Designs

We planned to insert post in the planters and add concrete.  The most economical route was to nail two boards together to make a post.  In addition we bought concrete blocks that little miss non-engineer spotted, yea me.  We felt they might help keep the boards/posts in place as we added the concrete.  Concrete was mixed in a 5 gallon pail and then shoveled into the planters.  This was not easy work.  Drink lots of water and have a strong man available.

The finished product looked like this after they dried.  Ideally we should have painted the post before we set them but we were on a bit of a time crunch and will have to paint them later.  The planters can later be topped off with mulch or even potting soil and plants for a finished look.

DIY: Hanging Outdoor String Lights- Living With color Designs Blog- Finished post in plantersIn preparation for stringing the lights, the posts were rolled out and positioned.  Spacing was determined by laying the boards out that we would mount at the top to create the frame and secure the post.

DIY: Hanging Outdoor String Lights- Living With Color Designs Blog- Laying out spacing of postAdditional help was recruited which saved me from using power tools on top of ladders.  Good plan.  Together my son-in-law and husband attached the boards down the outsides of the posts for support and creating a frame to attach the wire cables to.  Wires were hung then the string lights were placed and secured with plastic ties.  That’s me in the background of one of those pictures, scrubbing and washing the outdoor furniture that we would scatter around the yard for additional seating areas.

I got to take over the ladder to insert bulbs, clip the excess off the ties, and of course take pictures.  I like to take pictures of the creative clutter and tools of the trade, one of my quirks.  Here is my view from the top of the ladder.

Tools for setting up string lights- Living With Color DesignsDIY: Hanging Outdoor String Lights- Attaching string lights to galvanized cable - Living With Color Designs BlogTiming for finishing up was perfect.  It was just getting dark so we were able to get the total effects of our work.  Looks like all our  little helpers are sitting back admiring their work.

DIY: Hanging Outdoor String Lights- Almost finished - Living With Color DesignsThanks to our efforts, we have added a little magic to our yard and garden.  Lighting was just part of our plan so we will have plenty to do tomorrow to get the yard ready for entertaining. Time to rest.

DIY: Hanging Outdoor String LightsWe had a short turn around time of about two weeks from the time we were approached about hosting a party in our back yard and the party itself.  With a little more time and fore thought we would have done a few things differently but that’s the way it goes.  Every project is a learning experience. And what you learn makes you more prepared for the next one.  I am excited, with the approaching of Fall and cooler temperatures I know we will have lots of opportunities to bask in the glow of our lights.  And you know how I like basking in the glow.

Come back by tomorrow to check out how we styled the party and see our lights in action.  If you have your own DIY: for Hanging Outdoor String Lights then be sure to leave a comment below and share it with us.  All tips are appreciated.  Now go add a little glow to your back yard, then just start making memories.   –  Marianne


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