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What Is The Best Way To Hang Patio Lights?

Hanging lights around your patio or decking area is a great way to create a cozy space where you can unwind on those warm summer evenings.

As the sun is setting, it’s nice to have some extra gentle lights to add mood to your outdoor space, but how do you go about hanging them up?

Generally, you’re not surrounded by four walls when you’re on a patio, so your options may be a little more limited.

The best places to hang string lights outdoors are using trees, gutters, or an arbor or pergola you might have. If you don’t have any suitable high points to anchor your string lights, you can buy discreet poles that work really well.

There are a lot of different options, so let’s delve a little deeper as we explore:

  • Whether you need a guide wire for string lights outdoors
  • The best ways to hang your string lights
  • How you can hang string lights without using nails
  • Attaching string lights to your house

Do I Need A Guide Wire To Hang String Lights?

outdoor string lights hanging on a line in backyard

One of the first questions you’ll need to work out is whether you want to hang the lights up as they come or if you want to use a guidewire.

A guidewire is a thicker wire usually made out of stainless steel.

The metal wire will be significantly thicker than the electrical wires connecting the string lights, making it stronger.

The benefit to guide wires is that it adds extra support for your lights, mainly if you’re using string lights with heavier bulbs. In addition, because the wire is thicker, it can hold greater tension.

This allows you to create very striking straight lights with your patio lights, rather than having them sag or swaying in the breeze.

By clipping the string lights onto a thicker, sturdier cable that is tightly anchored, you’ll be able to create some attractive designs.

People often create a sharp box of lights around their patio, or they may neatly zig-zag back and forth.

Using a guide wire also adds longevity to your string lights.

Because they’re intermittently clipped to a steel wire instead of having anchor points quite a few feet apart, there’s less stress on the electrical wire of the string lights, so they won’t break as easily.

You don’t have to use support wire, and if you anchor your lights carefully, they will still last for a long time.

But bear in mind you can’t apply the same tension to string light wiring. Instead, you may need to have it dipping in the middle, which can also be attractive, providing you with a nice and even hang.

If you anchor the lights so that one length dips lower than another, it will look quite messy.

If you want the neatest-looking string lights or make sure they last as long as possible, then use a guidewire.

But it isn’t essential, and if you’re on a budget then don’t worry about it.

Best Ways To Hang Outdoor String Lights

Patio lights during colourful sunset

Here’s a simple guide to using existing parts of your garden to hang your outdoor string lights.

Utilize Trees

Trees are a great tool if you want to add string lights outdoors.

They give you natural height, they’re easy to drill or screw into, and they even look great when gently illuminated by a set of lights.

There are several ways you can attach string lights to a tree.

The simplest is to wrap the wire around the branches, although if you don’t secure them, they could slip loose.

Don’t be tempted to tie the string lights to a branch – putting a knot into the wire could wear away at the wire casing, over time exposing the inner wire to the elements.

Instead, a zip tie will be sufficient.

However, you can also easily screw a proper hook into the tree trunk and use this as your anchor point.

Using a hook will make it easier for you to create a taut line if you want your patio lights to have tension. In addition, they can easily support a stainless steel guidewire.

The only real downside to trees is their availability. If you don’t have one, it’s not exactly easy to plant a fully-grown one just to anchor your patio lights!

So if you do have one, consider how you can incorporate it into your string lights setup.

Use Gutters

string lights hanging on hooks under gutters

When you’re planning a beautiful lighting setup, it’s not likely that the gutter on your house will be the first thing that comes to mind as a place you can hang your lights.

But if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense since they’re an elevated location with some easy anchor points, similar to trees.

Just think of Christmas – many people use their gutter as an easy way of running festive lights, so why not do it year-round for your outdoor string lights?

You can either run the string lights along the length of the gutter or just use it as a point to add a hook and then run the lights across the patio to another elevated point opposite.

It’s made even easier if you buy gutter hooks (Amazon) that are specifically designed for the job.

These simple hooks will just clip onto your gutter and have a couple of small hooks you can choose from to hold the lights in place.

Of all the options, this is likely one of the best just because everyone’s home has drainage pipes and so it’s always available.

Hang Them Around Arbor

Garden romantic shelter with curtains, sofa, pillows and lights in the evening

Have an arbor or pergola in your garden?

Then you really do have the easiest option since they’ll provide multiple anchor points for your string lights.

With a larger enough pergola, you won’t need a guidewire. Instead, just use multiple hooks or zip ties around the outside edge.

The best thing about an arbor or pergola is how attractive they look when illuminated by string lights.

They really are the best option if you have one.

How To Hang Patio Lights Without Nails?

dinner under patio lights

Maybe you rent your home, and you know you can’t use nails to cause any permanent damage.

Or perhaps you just don’t feel comfortable using nails to hang the lights.

If that’s the case, there are a few options available. But, of course, some are better than others.

The first is to use command hooks (Amazon), but you need to make sure you buy ones designed for outdoor use and that will support the weight of your string lights.

It’s unlikely that command hooks will hold longer strings, so they’re only handy for short runs of a couple of meters, and not if you’re using heavy glass bulbs.

You also need a smooth flat surface to stick the hook to. Otherwise, it won’t hold in place.

Your section option is simple zip-ties.

These are really effective, with the only downside being that you need a surface they can be attached to.

If you’re using them for pipes or tree branches, that’s fine, but if your home has flat surfaces and no good anchor point, they won’t work.

If you plan to use zip-ties, make sure you get ones that match the color of the wire for your lights, and use scissors to cut away any excess once they’re tied in place.

That’ll help them blend in and give a seamless, clean look.

Finally, you could consider buying dedicated string light poles (Amazon). You can then bury these in soft ground or weigh them with rocks and gravel.

They can also be screwed into decking if you decide you were happy to use nails/screws after all.

They look great if you space them out nicely, and their slim design means they remain quite discreet.

How To Attach String Patio Lights To A House?

A house in woods with hanging patio lights at its front size

Attaching lights to a house without any other anchor point usually involves nails or screws, but it’ll depend on your plans.

If you’re not keen on damaging the property, or you rent, and if the installation is likely to be a temporary one just for a summer, then command hooks could be the way to go, depending on the material you have available.

You’ll want a smooth surface but bear in mind that some UPVC won’t adhere to the back of a command hook.

If your home has exposed brick, then you can use dedicated brick hooks (Amazon) without damaging the wall.

This clip onto the actual brick and can hold significant weight, up to 25lb per clip.

However, permanent installations are best done with a properly drilled hole and a screw-in hook.

If your home has a wooden frame, you can drill into that quite easily, but if you have a brick home, just use a masonry bit and drill into the brick rather than the mortar; it’ll be less likely to crumble.

Then, add a wall plug and screw in a hook – it’ll easily hold your lights for as long as you want to hang them.

Related: Can Patio Lights Stay Out In Winter?

Final Words

There are plenty of options for hanging string lights around your patio – it doesn’t have to cause you a headache.

Some of them are suitable for renters who can’t make permanent changes to their homes.

The guidewire is optional, but many people recommend it if you want a tight light of lines without putting pressure on the electrical wiring.

But maybe you prefer your string lights to drape down and dip in the middle?

And do you prefer to add them to the border of your patio or zig-zag across it?