DIY String Lights for your Deck

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DIY Deck String Lights - Garies Girl

When we originally started our “Deck Update” we were only planning on adding shade sails and getting all the wood on the deck looking great again. But Pieter soon came up with the idea to add additional lighting in the form of string lights. He did the research and settled on an LED version.

Shade Sail Installation - GariesGirl
Shade Sail before LED String Lights

I’m skipping ahead a bit, but for this project, we fixed our string lights to the poles we originally added for our shade sails. If you do not have the added weight of shade sails, you can use a lighter duty pole or play around with other material for your supports. On our deck, the black metal poles matches the black metal in our railings and other metal accents we use here. Make sure you look at your deck style and find a solution that will match or compliment what you already have.

The Plan

We wanted our string lights to start against the house and zig zag between the house and railing. You might want yours to hang in a rectangular pattern or maybe just along the railing section of your deck. Again, this will be determined by the way your deck is built, keeping in mind the shape and so on.

Since our LED lights weren’t the solar version (yes, you can buy those) we also had to plan on where to get power for our lights. Our outside outlet was right by our backdoor and would have been a natural starting point for our string lights. But I was worried that when the lights were not plugged in (and on) they would be dangling right in our “foot traffic” path. And I didn’t like that there would be a string of lights starting at the outlet and running up the wall. A bit more research got us the best solution ever – I’ll call it our *** Secret Item *** for now. More on that later 😉

Deck String Lights - Electrical Outlet - Garies Girl
Electrical Outlet on Outside Wall

Our Supply List

  • 4x 8-foot Line Posts
  • 2x Eyebolts
  • 4x Screw Eyes
  • 8x Long Screws
  • Heavy Duty Cable Ties
  • String Lights (amount determined by your space)
  • *** Secret Item ****

Installation

Pieter started by installing the 2x eyebolts directly into the side of the house (into studs of course).  This will be the anchor points for the string lights on the house and where we would start hanging them. Now mark where your posts would go on the railing. Try and space them evenly, which would not only look the best, but would give you the same amount of lights hanging between posts.

Deck String Lights - Hooks - Garies Girl
Eyebolts for String Lights

To fix the posts to the deck, we drilled holes directly through our railing top plates.  This allows the post to fit through the top plate and sit right on the outside of the actual railing.  We added smaller pieces of two-by-fours (some leftovers actually) to act as a spacer between the deck and the bottom of the post.  This gives you vertically straight posts.

QUICK TIP #1: If you decided to use galvanized posts like we did, I would recommend painting them before installing them. I didn’t, and trust me. It was more difficult to paint them when they were already installed. You can just use spray paint and give them a couple of quick coats of paint.

You will need to pre-drill holes in both the spacers and the posts, as well as countersink holes in the spacers.  That way the bolts used to fix the spacer to the deck do not protrude and get in the way of the post screws. Lastly, add more holes at the top of your posts. These are for adding screw eyes. Now you have your other anchor points for the string lights.

Deck String Lights - Posts - Garies Girl
Galvanized Line Posts

Adding the String Lights using the “Secret Item

Our secret item is an outlet light socket! Pieter found them on Amazon (here is a link: outlet light sockets) that made it possible to simply plug the string lights into an existing light fixture. Who knew those existed? Use a light fixture as your starting point for the string lights. Remove the lightbulb, screw in the socket, and plug in your lights! Oh, and add the lightbulb back to the new light socket. The outlets are on the side of the socket, which meant we had to remove one of the glass panels from the side of our light fixture to accommodate the string light plug.

Outlet Light Socket

Added bonus of doing it this way: one light switch inside the house turns on all the lighting outside!

The rest is easy: Walk the lights over to the anchor points on your posts and hook them through the screw eyes. Fix them in place with the cable ties. Continue stringing your lights in whichever pattern you decided on until you reach your end point. Just plug your string lights into each other and keep on going. Go back around and tie up all the loose ends with more cable ties.

Deck String Lights - Garies Girl
Deck String Lights at Night

QUICK TIP #2: Switch out the lightbulbs in the main light fixtures to match the ones on your string lights. The strings included some spare bulbs and now we have consistent bulbs for all the deck lighting!

Use the Same Lightbulbs as your String Lights

And there you have it! You can add string lights to your outside deck with minimal effort and without breaking the bank! If you add the line posts to our cost for the Deck String Light project, we spent just about $225 in total. The most expensive part of this project was the lighting itself. We used four sets of 24 Ft. 12 Bulb Outdoor LED String Lights, that we bought at Harbor Freight for $29.99 each.

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