I’ve wanted to add outdoor string lights to my deck for a long time. At the end of each school year we host an outdoor party for our kids and let them invite their friends. This year, we hosted a Luau for them.
I decided this was the perfect excuse/opportunity to add party lights. Honestly, I’ve put it off, thinking it was going to be a long difficult process. Once we started, I couldn’t believe how quick this project went.
DESIGN YOUR LAYOUT
The first thing we did was measure our deck, to determine how many strings of lights we would need. This forced me to come up with a layout before we ordered the lights. Our deck is 18′ by 20′. We started at the outlet and worked our way from there. You can see our layout in the image below. The numbers represent the direction we strung the lights.
Once we were done with the layout, we ordered the Edison Vintage String Lights with Bulbs from Amazon. The string lights were heavy duty and good quality. We also ordered Gutter Hanger Clips and Zip Ties.
Next, I headed over to a big box store and purchased 4″ decking screws, cedar or pressure treated 2X2‘s and screw eye hooks. We decided to use coat hooks instead of eye hooks. Keep in mind that the coat hooks are not weather resistant, so they will rust over time. I was OK with that because I liked the style/design of them.
STAIN OR PAINT 2×2’S
Sand the surface of the 2X2’s to remove the mill grain. This will help your stain absorb into the wood. Then wipe the dust from them. I used a cheap throw away brush from the dollar store. Then I applied the stain and lightly wiped it down with shop towels to make sure the stain was even with no drips. If you want to know what deck stain I use, I wrote an article about deck maintenance here.
I was originally going to paint the 2X2’s black, but decided to use the stain I had. If you want to paint pressure treated wood, you need to prime it with a good outdoor primer and then use an exterior paint. It would probably be easier to use a dark solid stain. Both of these options are prone to peeling over time.
Next, add your hook to one end of the 2X2. I inspected all the sides of the wood and had the nicest side face the deck.
Install the 2X2’s
Our deck has post caps on the 4X4’s, so I decided not to install the 2X2’s there. Here is a picture of our deck rail.
Since our hand rail sticks out from the rails, we added spacers. These are just extra pieces of pressure treated lumber to fill the gaps. I measured the combined thickness of the 2X2, spacer, and rail. For our project, a 4″ deck screw was the right length. Note: If your screw is too long, it will go through the face of your rail and show on the nice side.
You’ll need a second person for the next step.
Hold the spacer and 2X2 in place. Check the front and side of the 2X2 for level and drill a pilot hole for your deck screw. These are self driving screws, but I always start with a pilot hole to avoid splitting the wood. It’s just easier for me. Then drive your 4″ deck screw into the rail. I put two screws on the top and bottom rail for each 2X2. The end of the 2X2 rests on the deck platform. Here is a picture.
WARNING AND DISCLOSURE
Because I care about the well being of my readers, I would like to start this section with a quick warning. I am not a contractor or professional in this field.
We made a decision to attach our string lights to our gutter. We made this choice because I did not want to drill holes in my vinyl siding and it made the string lights a bit higher. My husband is 6′ 2″ and he can walk under the middle of them easily with extra clearance.
Our plan is to only have our lights up for the summer season. Gutters take a lot of pressure from water, snow and ice, so I won’t leave the party lights up during the winter. I would also use caution in extremely hot climates, like Arizona or Texas, as the zip ties could fail with extreme heat.
Consider how long your string of lights will be. The longer the string, the more pressure on the gutter. Our deck is sheltered from the wind on the northeast corner of our lot. We first inspected our gutter to make sure it was secure with no loose screws. Please be sure to check the integrity of your gutter and consider the different elements I mentioned above. If you would like to use a more industrial installation or permanent method, there is a good tutorial here.
We didn’t install the bulbs until we were done stringing the wires. We did test the strings with one bulb before beginning the process to make sure they were in working order.
HANGING THE STRING LIGHTS
Begin the string at an outlet. Our outlet was professionally installed by our builder and is located near a corner, just outside our door. We ran an extension cord up to the roof behind the inside corner trim of our vinyl siding. We kept the connection point under the overhang, so it was not exposed to the weather. We also wrapped it in electrical tape.
Using a zip tie, we secured the lighting to the gutter hanger. Use care not to over tighten the zip tie and pinch the wire. I will use two zip ties next year for added safety.
As an extra backup and to secure extra wire, we also used gutter hanger clips.
Then we strung it out to the first 2X2 and again secured the string to the hook on the 2X2 with another zip tie. Here is another picture of the layout we used.
Then, back to a middle gutter hanger and out to the corner of the deck. Next, out to the other 2X2 and back into the center of the gutter. Note: We did not attach it to the same gutter hanger on the way back. This spreads out the weight on the gutter.
The process of hanging the lights, including installing the 2X2’s only took about an hour and a half. This did not include planning the design, staining the wood or purchasing the supplies.
I will post a quick update at the end of the season, to let you know how they held up.
I also considered using the pot and Quikrete method for installing Bistro lights. Here is a picture of our neighbors patio.
If you are interested in this method, you can find a good tutorial here.
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I hope you found this article helpful. Let me know in the comments how you installed your outdoor string lights.