Backyard spaces can be an opportunity to put your personal style on display outdoors. But in many developments, backyards are relatively basic and need a bit of help. When a homeowner asked This Old House master electrician, Heath Eastman, about dressing up her deck with some outdoor string lights, he knew just what to do to brighten that backyard space.
String Light Installation: Step-by-Step
- Start by checking the existing handrail posts for plumb (straight up and down) with the level. This will ensure that the light posts installed later are straight up and down rather than bowed out or crooked. Adjust the posts as necessary, or shim the light posts out during installation.
- Place the light post brackets against the outside of the deck’s corner post and mark the screw holes with a pencil. Place one bracket a few inches from the top of the corner post and one in the middle. Repeat on all corners that lights will hang from.
- Use a small drill bit to drill pilot holes at each bracket location. Make sure the brackets are lined up and plumb with each other to prevent the posts from being crooked.
- Measure the height of the gutters on the home, and then use this measurement to mark your light posts roughly 6 inches shorter. This will allow any water that collects on the support wire or lights to run away from the home.
- Slide the light posts into the brackets on the corner rails and place the end bracket on the bottom of the post. Slide two washers underneath the bracket and fasten it to the deck.
- Mark the locations of the hooks underneath the gutters on the fascia. Where to locate the hooks depends on the design. Use a drill and a bit slightly thinner than the hooks to drill holes in the fascia. Thread the hooks in and tighten, leaving the open part of the hook pointed upward.
- Install a loop at the end of the cable with the supplied hardware and hook the loop over the first hook against the fascia. Then run the cable from hook to hook, installing a loop on the other end to hang it. Don’t cut the cable to length yet.
- Attach the lights to the steel cable with the built-in loops, zip ties, or hooks that came in the kit. Keep the cable tight for straight runs of lights or loosen the hardware on the end of the cable to allow the lights to sag a bit. Tighten the hardware once satisfied and cut the cable with wire cutters.
- Plug in the smart plug and follow the manufacturer’s directions to set it up.
Heath uses exterior-rated string lights, which can be found at any home center and need to be rated for outdoor use.
Heath uses a universal mounting kit to hang the lights, which includes 4 powder-coated steel poles. Each pole extends to 10 feet tall. Heath uses a drill and exterior decking screws to secure the base of each pole to the 4 outer edges of the patio.
Heath mounts the smart switch inside by drilling two small holes to secure the bracket of the smart switch in place.
All supplies used for this project can be found at most home centers.
- Post hardware, including fasteners
- Heavy-duty hooks
- Steel support cable
- String lights
- Outdoor smart plug
- Exterior decking screws