Simple Ways to Hang Outdoor String Lights on Deck Railings

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Many homeowners strive to make the most of their outdoor living space, which often includes decks.  One quick and affordable way to take your deck to the next level is to add outdoor string lights.  

String lights can add a soft magical glow to any environment.  This creates a warm and inviting space for you and your guests.

Knowing how to hang outdoor string lights on deck railings may seem daunting at first, but in reality, it’s a relatively simple process. While the methods vary, it is not much different than hanging lights on a concrete wall.

Figuring out where to start is the hardest part, considering all the different places and ways you can hang them. So, we’re here to show you how to transform your outdoor space from ordinary to magical!

Whether you’re a homeowner or a renter, we rounded up a handful of tips to hang outdoor string lights.

Let’s get started.

How to Hang Outdoor String Lights on Deck Railings

Hanging string lights from walls and ceilings is pretty basic. It gets trickier, however, when you’re hanging them from balcony or deck railings.

The trick isn’t which type of lights to use. Let’s face it, they all add a sense of magical charm and give your deck an inviting glow.

The trick is in the way you hang them. You can make them go up and down in a zigzag design. You can also hang them vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. You can even go with a maypole design where all the strings come down from a central pole.

The design you choose depends mostly on how much space is on the railing, as well as the surrounding area. The bigger the space, the more creative you can get with your lights!

For example, you can get PVC pipes or metal conduit and paint them the same color as your deck railing. Next, attach them to the corners of the deck. Then, hang the lights from the PVC or conduit and run them along the railing.

There are several ways you can go about affixing the lights, yet it mainly depends on the type of railing. It also depends on where the nearest power source or outlet is on your deck.

Below are three different types of deck railings and the best way to hang string lights from each one:

How to Hang String Lights on Metal Deck Railings

Metal deck railings are supported by posts that are evenly spaced apart. There are two standard sizes for these posts that ensure the top and bottom railings are adequately supported.

The first are 4×4 posts that should be placed no more than six feet apart. The second type is 6×6 posts that are placed around eight feet apart.

If you have a metal deck railing, then the most straightforward option would be to pass the lights through the gaps in between the beams. While this is the least invasive option, it requires a longer set of string lights than other types of deck railings.

To figure out how much you actually need is to measure the length of your railing. Then, buy string lights at least three times longer to compensate for all the wrapping you’ll be doing to secure the lights to the railing.

Alternatively, if you’d like to use less length of string lights, you can take a more direct approach of securing them to your metal railings.  Take advantage of adhesive hooks, S hooks or outdoor tape to provide easy mounting locations across the railings.  

How to Hang String Lights on Glass Deck Railings

Almost all glass deck railings are made from one-quarter-inch thick panels of shatter-resistant tempered glass. This ensures they can easily stand up to normal, everyday stressors.

Some have frames running around the perimeter of the glass railing with beams in between. Other types of glass deck railings have no top or bottom framing but are attached by metal clamps.

This type of railing is a popular choice because they’re safe and easy to maintain. Plus, the glass panels allow light to pass through more than other railing types and are customizable to match your outdoor space.

Another benefit of glass deck railings is that they’re easy to hang outdoor string lights on. All you need is a couple of dozen adhesive hooks and stick them to the underside of the top rail to keep them out of sight. If you can find clear hooks, then even better because they’ll be even less visible.

How to Hang String Lights on Wooden Deck Railings

Wood railings are commonly found on decks and patios rather than balconies and porches. Similar to the other two types of deck railings, wooden railings add beauty and charm to your outdoor space.

However, they’re not as durable in the face of weather conditions as metal railings. For one, wood expands and shrinks with the weather.

In other words, wood expands and contracts with temperature and humidity.  This means it needs constant maintenance and care to keep it from rotting and decaying.

One way to string outdoor lights on your wooden deck railing is to wrap them around openings between the horizontal beams or vertical posts, depending on your deck design. Just make sure you secure them well at each edge.

If you’d rather not wrap the lighting around the posts or spindles, you can use accessories to minimize the amount of length you need.  As we mentioned above, the three most common items you can use are adhesive hooks, S hooks, and tape.

Additionally, with wooden decks you can also use other hardware such as screws or staples.  This hardware is more secure than the adhesives, but keep in mind that they’ll leave small pin-sized holes in the surface of the railings.

Types of Outdoor Lighting

There are several basic types of outdoor string lightbulbs to choose from when deciding how to decorate your deck railings. The thing they all have in common is that they’re relatively inexpensive. Plus, hanging them up and taking them down is a pretty basic DIY job anyone can do!

If you’re still not sure what type of lighting works best for your outdoor deck, check out these picks.

Edison Bulbs

The idea behind the Edison Bulb is that they recreate the look of the original Thomas Edison lightbulb, from the shape of the transparent glass sphere to the inner filament. The best thing about them is that they bring an industrial look to any space.

Globe Bulbs

Globe bulbs are made from glass orbs and are available in several sizes. They’re a popular choice because they’re versatile and easy to set up and maintain.

They also work great in almost any type of outdoor deck styling, such as modern, bohemian, or transitional.

Incandescent Bulbs

Incandescent lights are fairly expensive upfront. Yet, they can be used in many outdoor settings, which makes them more cost-effective.

The downside to these bulbs is that they don’t last quite as long as LED bulbs. Plus, they come in many basic bulb color options, which may not give you the cozy feel you’re looking for.

LED Lights

LED bulbs are a popular choice because they last longer than other choices. Plus, they use less wattage than incandescent bulbs, making them more energy-efficient.

Another advantage is they stay cool to the touch. They also give off a brighter light in various color tones.

Solar-Powered Bulbs

Nowadays, more and more manufacturers are making their string lights using solar-powered bulbs in an effort to create more eco-friendly products. These are not just enviro-friendly, but they also look great and come in a wide array of trendy styles and color options.

Their main drawback is that they need to be set up in an area with ample sunlight. So, that might be limiting for some people. Also, sometimes they’re not as bright as other types of bulbs.

Lantern Lights

Lantern string lights are designed to look like hanging lanterns. The most traditional type features a paper cover for the bulbs. Yet, these can be considered a fire hazard and are more susceptible to getting damp from being outside for too long.

Other housings include plastic, which is more permanent and easier to maintain. Plastic housing also offers more protection to the bulbs themselves to reduce the risk of breakage when hanging or taking them down.

Other lighting materials include tarpaulin and nylon. They give the feeling of canvas for a more authentic feel. Plus, they’re weather-resistant, which makes them more long-lasting and highly durable.

Rope Lights

Rope lights are the most versatile and hard-wearing of all the outdoor string lights on our list. They’re basically made by linking together small bulbs in a PVC tube that coats them and keeps them protected from damage or exposure.

This tubing is clear to allow the bulbs o shine through. It’s also flexible and easy to bend, allowing for more lighting designs around your deck railing.

Final Takeaway

There’s nothing better than enjoying your deck space with friends and family. It’s even better when the sun sets and you’re able to bask in the glow of your outdoor lighting.

Since string lights are so versatile, they can easily be added to nearly all deck railings.  You’re only limited by the length of the string lights in how you arrange it on the railings.  

You can also easily hang string lights onto an aluminum patio awning without even drilling. This can help complete the ambience of your outdoor oasis!

Happy Decorating!

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