Backyard string lights are a simple and affordable way to create a cozy and inviting outdoor space. But how do you hang string lights in the backyard if you don’t have any trees or easy anchor points? Maybe you don’t want trees in your yard for easier maintenance! We understand.
Projects like this can seem very intimating especially if you’ve never done it before. You are not alone, and you’ve come to the right place.
With how quickly technology has advanced since the advent of the lightbulb, today’s string lights are cheaper, more durable than before, and some even have smart features. Understandably with so many options out there, you may have trouble deciding which string lights to use for your project.
Don’t worry, with a little bit of planning and a few simple tools, you can create a beautiful backyard oasis in no time. It doesn’t even have to cost you an arm and a leg, because in this article, we’ll walk you through everything we did for our backyard string light installation, from selecting the right lights to hanging them up safely and securely. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced DIY-er, we hope you will find this article useful in helping you create the backyard of your dreams.
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Getting Started – Must Haves
PLAN, PLAN, PLAN, PLAN, PLAN!
The most important thing to be aware of when it comes to adding backyard string lights is to plan out your design. Nothing matters until you’ve designed the layout of how you want your backyard to look. Here’s everything we used for our project. Yours might look different, and that’s OK!
The String Lights – Star of the Show!
When it comes to picking the right backyard string lights for your project, there are a few things to consider. Firstly, you’ll want to think about the type of bulbs you want. There are many different options available, from classic incandescent bulbs to more energy-efficient LED bulbs (we went with the LED ones because we want to be friendly to mother earth and live more efficiently, use the link to see the ones we use in this article). You’ll also want to consider the size of your space and how much lighting you need. It is always best to measure the area and draw out the layout pattern that will provide adequate coverage for your home. Another important factor to consider is the look you’re going for. Do you want a warm and inviting atmosphere, or something more modern and sleek? The way you design the layout as well as the color, shape and size of the bulbs will affect the overall look. Finally, weather-resistance is important as well, make sure the lights and power source can handle the outdoor condition. We will try to touch on these subjects as we go.
String Light Installation Kit – No Brainer!
Rather than trying to figure out all the little hardware pieces that you might need for backyard string light project, there are companies out there that have pre-made installation kits ready for you. From wire rope (this is where you’ll hang your string lights from) to various anchors (to mount onto the external wall of your home) to turnbuckles (this will provide tension adjustability) to wire clamps, hooks, carabiners and much much more, it takes all the guess-work out of the equation. We ended up using 2 of these installation kits for our project. You will need to properly measure out how much you need, and the design the layout on paper first before purchasing the kits.
Extremely Affordable Support Beams
This was one area where we struggled a bit to find something useable that didn’t break bank. Afterall, we already spent some good money on the LED lights as well as the install kit. We wanted to have something strong yet versatile, and even though curtain rods came to mind first, the vast majority of curtain rods we found were either too expensive, not strong enough, or wasn’t long enough. When we came across these HUGAD rods from IKEA, we tried to flex them pretty hard and they felt extremely strong. Plus, they were expandable up to 83″ which was much higher than we wanted our lights to go anyway. This might not be in your situation, so you may need to come up with something more clever, such as these metal crossbars or you can use dedicated string light poles. It just depends on your budget, and how crazy you’re willing to go on your project! Get creative!
What the Heck Is This?
Ok so we have a wrought-iron fence along the perimeter of backyard. The fence is made of square faced bars and we wanted to mount the HUGAD poles onto the bars to give the poles more support. We don’t want heavy rain and winds to knock over the poles or displace them. The problem is when you put something round against something squared, it is awkward to try to bind them together securely. That’s where these U-bolt clamps come in. They are squared off on one end, and rounded at the other, so it’s perfect for this application. One side will mount flush with the wrought iron fence, and the other side will wrap snuggly around the HUGAD pole. Voilà! Problem solved.
There is also additional hardware that we used to attach to the HUGAD poles in order to hand the string lights onto, but we thought we would bring special attention to this piece of hardware since it wasn’t as easy and straight forward to find. We’ll go over other hardware later in the article.
With regards to tools, we recommend just use what you already have. You don’t need a set of shiny new tools, though if you are looking for a reason to pick up new tools, then this is as good a reason as any. Here are some tools we think you’ll need for this project as well as good-to-haves in general:
- Power drill / screwdriver and drill bits (we use and recommend the Milwaukee Fuel line of power tools, but any major brand such as Makita, DeWalt, Ryobi, etc will work just fine)
- Handheld screwdriver set (sometimes power tools can be overkill, and you may need a nice set of screwdrivers for a delicate touch!)
- Hammer (more of a just in case, we didn’t end up using it but it’s good to have around, we recommend having both a normal and a rubber one)
- Pliers or Vice-grips (we recommend this Irwin tool set, very handy to have around the house)
- Socket wrench set (this really came in handy when we were trying to use tighten down the wire cable clamps from the installation kit. We recommend the Wera tools Zyklop rachet set)
The last piece of hardware that we used in this install was the hook bolt. This was used to threat through the HUGAD poles in order to run and secure the wire cable using tension hooks. We will go over that in more detail in the next section.
Have everything you need? Let’s get started…
DIY Walkthrough - String Lights In Backyard Without Trees
Step 1: Design, Layout, and Planning
Planning – Probably the MOST important step when trying to figure out how to hang string lights in backyard without trees as anchor points. Before you go buy any hardware, you should decide what patterns you are trying to make, where you want to anchor the lights, how high you want the lights to be, how long of a run do you need (which will determine how many string lights you need to buy, and also how many installation kits you’ll need as well. Quick tip: Always buy more than you think you’ll need since you can return any unused supplies. We started off with a rough sketch like this and we took measurements and estimated how much supplies we needed. At the end, we used about 100ft of LED lights and two installation kits (we did have extra stuff left from the 2nd install kit which was not returnable).
Step 2: Prepare the Mounting Poles
Here’s our secret weapon. A very cost effective way to hang your string lights in backyard without trees by creating our own unique anchor points. Using our U-bolts, HUGAD poles, and hook bolts, we brought them to the operating table (which was just a wooden table we use in the back patio for summer-time dining). Here we started by attaching the RAFFIG rubber end caps onto BOTH ends of each HUGAD pole.
These end caps give it a nice finishing touch, because the details definitely matter. We used them at both ends because the bottom side will be in contact with the floor, and the rubberized texture provides a non-slip surface and won’t be abrasive. Again, it’s a minor detail, but we think it was important (and cheap) enough to mention.
Once you have all the feet installed, it will look something like this. Notice that the HUGAD is expandable, and we intentionally designed our project to incorporate this feature. If you wanted to use fixed length rods, that’s fine too! Probably will be less hassle as well since you can drill the hole into either side.
Now we had to drill the hole for the bolt hook to pass through. Quick tip 1: Since the curtain rod is expandable (in case we want to adjust the height later) make sure you drill the hole into the thicker diameter segment of the rod. The smaller diameter segment we used at the bottom to clamp onto our wrought iron fence. This may seem counterintuitive, but we wanted the thicker portion to bear the weight of the string lights, since the thinner portion will be clamped onto the wrought iron fence. Quick tip 2: Please make to separate the two sections of the rods before you drill. We made the mistake of not doing this to one of the poles, and we ended up drilling both both segments of the rod (it’s not the end of the world, but for those of you who are perfectionists out there, you’re welcome!
As to the size of the hole we drilled, and the size of the drill bit we used, we are not going to cover the exact diameters since it may vary depending on the size of the bolt hook you are using. Just make sure the hole is big enough for the entire bolt hook to pass through. And the hole DOES NOT HAVE TO BE THREADED. The bolt hook will be secured with bolts on both sides of the entry point.
Once you’ve drilled your holes, you are ready to install the bolt hooks.
Nothing special about this part. Make sure you put one of the bolts on first, thread the bolt through the hole on the HUGAD pole, then tighten the ensure assembly with the 2nd bolt. Very straight forward.
Step 3: Secure Those Poles!
Now you just follow your design and clamp your custom poles onto the fence. Here’s where the U-bolt comes in. We used one towards the top of the fence, and one towards the bottom of the fence. This is where all your pliers and vise-grips come into play. The pictures below will give you an idea of what we’re talking about when it comes to clamping down the poles. Again, put the poles with the thinner section at the bottom, and the thicker section up top to give the top more strength when it needs to bear the weight of all the lights.
Once all the poles are secured, our setup should looked like this. We were very pleased, our fur baby, Pepper, agrees!
Step 4: Anchor and Run the Cable Wire
This part was the most tedious. It required a lot of trial and error to get the tension right. Quick tip: make sure the wire tension is tighter than you think it needs. The weight of the string lights will cause each run to hang lower than it looks when the wire is empty. Use the turnbuckle to make any final adjustments to the tension. Remember, the turnbuckle’s adjustability is limited so make sure the wire is taught first, before adjust tension further.
Next we anchored the the c-shaped eye strap to our exterior wall. Formed a loop in our cable wire using the figure-8 wire clamps then linked the eye strap to the wire loop using the included carabiner. As mentioned this may require some trial an error to get the length just right.
Step 5: Light It Up!
Finally you’re ready for the last step which is to hang up the lights, plug them in and light them up! The installation kit comes with twist wires, but we ended up using black zip ties for a faster install. Not mandatory so we didn’t include this as part of the supplies since it would be an extra expense and you would be fine using the twist ties in the installation kit.
We really hope you enjoyed reading this article and that it inspired you to create your own backyard paradise. Remember to plan everything out before you pull the trigger and start to make any purchases. The setup we created is just what suits our needs, so make sure your design fits your specific application, and that’s how you can make your backyard string light dream come true.
If you enjoyed this article, check out some of our other DIY writeups.