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How to Hang Outdoor String Lights

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How to hang outdoor string lights the right way around a backyard deck using electrical supplies from the home improvement store.

Since we started working on the back yard this past spring, I’ve been dying to add some string lights on the deck.

The problem we have though, is that there’s no roof or overhead structure where we can attach them.

backyard deck with patio umbrella and string lights

I knew what I wanted to do but I wasn’t sure how to do it.

After some thought, some internet searching and several trips to Home Depot, I came up with a good-looking, easy to do and relatively inexpensive way to hang deck string lights.

Although this project was relatively inexpensive and easy to do, it did require us to perform some basic electrical tasks.

Including the 2 boxes of cafe lights, we were able to do this project for under $70.

Supplies for hanging deck lights


supplies to hang outdoor cafe lights including brackets to attach to a piece of conduit

Making the poles for hanging string lights

To start this project, I first removed the stickers from the conduit pipes. Then I wiped them down with paint thinner to get all the residue off.

I laid out all of the hole straps and knockout seals with the EMT and sprayed them with the spray paint.

spray painting conduit pipe

Once they were dry it was time to figure out the height of our poles.

We decided that we would put 1 piece of conduit on each of the outside corners of the deck.

We’d attach it to the railing post using the 3/4″ EMT hole straps

We were able to determine that 8 foot was the perfect height for our lights. We cut the pipes with a hack saw and used a file to remove the burrs from the conduit.

Using a self tapping screw we added a 3/8″ strap to the top of the pole to hold the wire rope up.

To finish it off, we capped it with a painted knockout seal that had to be modified.

We just bent the clips in just a little so it would fit into the top of the pole.

end of conduit pipe with cap on it

Our first light pole is ready to be attached to one of the corners of the deck using 3, 3/4″ straps.

screwing pipe to wood beam with drill

For the second light pole, we cut it the same length as the first one and filed the burrs.

The knockout seal had to be modified on this pole so that we could run an extension cord through it.

We drilled a 1/2″ hole for a rubber grommet to fit in so the extension cord could go through.

Then we attached the seal and the rubber grommet to the top of the pole.

collage showing how to drill a hole in an end cap for the conduit pipe

To put the outdoor extension cord through the conduit we had to first cut off the end of the cord that plugs into the wall.

Once the extension cord was threaded through the conduit pole, we attached a replacement plug to the cord.

conduit pipe with cord sticking out of end cap

We ended up not using a 3/8″ strap on this pole to hold the wire, like we did on the first pole, because the screw that we would need to use to attach the strap would go through the extension cord on the inside of the conduit and cause a short-circuit.

Now the second deck light pole was ready to be attached to the other corner of the deck using 3, 3/4″ hole straps.

Hanging the string lights

Once both poles were secured to the deck we ran the wire rope from pole to pole through a center point above our back door.

We attached a 3/8″ hole strap so that the lights would hang in a letter “V” formation.

attaching cafe light cord to house with a strap

It’s not safe to have the weight of the lights hanging from the metal poles so we used wire rope.

To attach the wire to one pole we looped it around the pole and used a wire rope crimp to secure it.

crimping wire rope to hang cafe lights

Next, we stretched the wire tight, without bending the conduit, running it to the house and over to the second pole.

We attached it to the second pole by threading the wire through the 3/8″ strap, around the pole and then crimping it to itself using another wire rope crimp.

After Roger crimped it we trimmed the excess wire.

It was finally time to put up the cafe lights.

We started at the pole that had the extension cord in it. We just plugged the lights into the extension cord and then clipped the lights onto the wire rope.

cafe lights hanging on wire rope

Then we ran the string of lights through the 3/8″ strap over the back door and started for the second pole.

We had to use 2 strands of string lights for this project but they were a bit too long. It was an easy fix though. We just used wire cutters to cut the wire to make it shorter.

Roger used a wire cutter to cut off the part of the string lights that we didn’t need.

Then we staggered the wires 3/8 of an inch so that the cut ends would not touch each other.

connecting cafe light wires

Next we wrapped the ends with electrical tape for safety and wrapped the wire around the pole. Touching up with some spray paint was the final step.

string lights and patio umbrella

Now the fun part…plugging in our new outdoor cafe lights and enjoying the ambience of our deck. 

Check out our other post for hanging string lights

collage of string lights hanging on a deck