Patio string lights

String lights are an incredibly versatile and cost-effective way to decorate your patio and add ambiance and festivity to outdoor gatherings. As the weather begins to warm up and you begin planning outdoor gatherings with family and friends, thoughtfully placed string lights will add sparkle, summer style and adequate lighting for outdoor dining to your patio. Read on to familiarize yourself with expert advice and safety tips for hanging string lights for your patio, plus a guide for what you need to buy. 

How to safely use outdoor string lights

Always carefully inspect the specifications of any lighting to ensure it’s safe for your intended use. Only use lights rated for outdoor use on your patio. These lights are approved for use outdoors because they can withstand exposure to elements like snow and rain without compromising their electrical connections or creating a safety hazard. 

Patio string lights: Features to consider

There are a variety of string light styles and features to choose from. Here’s a summary of the most important considerations when choosing string lights for your patio. 

Bulb size, shape and color 

When choosing what bulb style to use for patio string lights, consider choosing a standard bulb style and size will allow you to purchase replacement bulbs easily. Bulbs come in a range of sizes. Generally, the higher you intend to hang your lights, the larger the bulb you select should be. 

Solar String Lights

String light bulbs also come in a variety of shapes. We love the simplicity of these solar fairy string lights. To add a whimsical touch to your patio lighting, consider shapes like flowers, mini lanterns, pineapples and hearts. White bulbs create an elegant, understated look. 

Strand length 

Brightown Outdoor Patio String Lights-100Ft G40 Backyard Lights

A standard length for a strand of string lights is about 60 to 80 feet. If you’re covering a large area, you may want to opt for a more extended option, such as this 100-foot strand.  

The easiest way to select a strand length is to measure the area you wish for the strand to cover using string or twine. Be sure to account for your desired slackness or curve by draping the string to match the desired curvature of the strand of string lights. 

Power source

String lights are typically plug-in, battery-powered or solar-powered.

Brightech Ambience Pro - Waterproof Outdoor String Lights

For plug-in lights, you’ll likely want to purchase an outdoor-rated extension cord to stretch from your patio to an outlet in the garage, shed or house. Battery-operated lights are convenient because they don’t require a plug and can be used on a patio regardless of the availability of an outlet. Solar-powered lights are powered via a solar sensor and also don’t require an extension cord or outlet.


String lights are available in a range of prices. A single strand will cost $8-$85 depending on bulb type, strand length and power source. 

Patio string lights hanging kit

Belio String Light Hanging Kit

A simple option for hanging string lights on your patio is to wrap the lights around your patio’s railing or a post. To drape string lights, you’ll need a string light hanging kit. The kit includes hooks and a steel cord that support the weight of your string lights. 

It’s a good idea to sketch your desired string light pattern. You can hang your lights in zig-zag patterns, for example, or in equally spaced single strands to create a neat, symmetrical design. 

A step-by-step guide to hanging patio lights 

  1. First, hang your steel wire in the pattern in which you intend to hang your lights.
  2. Hang your first strand of lights. Be sure the male end of the string is closest to your power source if using plug-in lights.
  3. Attach the strand of lights to your wire as you go using the fasteners included in the string light hanging kit.
  4. If you’re hanging multiple strands, continue hanging the strings of lights and connect the male end of the following string to the female end of the previous string as you go. Be sure to keep in mind the maximum wattage of the outlet you’re using and switch outlets as necessary. 

Essential tips for patio string lights

  • Be sure to hang lights at least 8-10 inches off the ground to ensure walking clearance.
  • Always test string lights before you hang them to avoid the frustration of discovering burnt-out bulbs after going through the effort of hanging the strands. 

GFCI Outlet 20 Amp

Must-haves for patio and landscape lighting 

BN-LINK Outdoor 24-Hour Timer With Photocell Light Sensor 

BN-LINK Outdoor 24-Hour Timer With Photocell Light Sensor 

This waterproof, 24-hour timer will automatically turn your patio string lights on and off according to your chosen schedule, which will allow you to avoid accidentally leaving your string lights on for too long.

Sold by Amazon 

Outdoor String Light Pole with Mount Kit

Outdoor String Light Pole with Mount Kit

Use these poles to drape your lights above your patio in the pattern of your choice. Sturdy, easy to install, adjustable up to 10 feet and water-resistant. 

Sold by Amazon 


Evelyn Waugh is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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