DIY Projects | Outdoor Lighting | Outdoor Living | Uncategorized

How to Hang String Lights on a Deck

Learn how to hang string lights on a deck by attaching string light poles to the railing with this quick & easy tutorial.

Summer is coming, and that means it’s time to put string lights up over the deck or patio! There are many different methods for hanging string lights, and the one/s you choose will depend a lot on what you have to hang them from. Below is my comprehensive guide, whether you want to hang cafe lights from trees, a house, a fence, in-ground poles, etc.

How to Hang Outdoor String Lights: The Ultimate Guide

close-up of a hand screwing a lightbulb into a string light socket

We’ve made a couple different kinds of DIY string light poles over the years, and this year I wanted to buy and test several different store-bought poles. You can read my full reviews here: The Best String Light Poles- Tested and Reviewed.

In this tutorial we’ll be installing ready-made poles on the deck railing at my parents’ new house. This is a very quick and easy DIY, and you should be able to install each pole in 10 minutes or less. It’s also a renter-friendly option.

Tools & Materials

Deck String Light Pole Tools & Materials: collage of tools needed to install string light poles on a deck railing, including a level, zip ties, drill, and string lights
  1. string light poles & mounting hardware (this is the kit we’re using in this tutorial and we’re very happy with it! We also tested this kit, which is very similar in quality and ease of installation, and the poles are a few inches taller)
  2. level (ideally a magnetic one but any will work)
  3. long zip ties (1 per pole)
  4. cordless impact driver/drill (my boyfriend got me this fabulous set for Valentine’s Day and I love love love it!)
  5. screwdriver bits
  6. string lights (these are the best heavy duty lights I’ve found and they’ll hold up for many years.


String light poles need to be attached to the deck railing in at least two different places in order to stay upright and level. Ideally you’ll want to place one bracket toward the bottom of the post or baluster, and another as close as possible to the top.

1. Assemble the poles.

Most of the poles I’ve tested come in two pieces, which easily screw or twist together.

open box of deck string light pole components and mounting hardware
hands assembling a string light pole

2. Secure pole to post (optional).

Use a long zip-tie to attach the string light pole to the deck railing post. If your zip ties aren’t long enough, you can connect two together. This will be temporary, so don’t worry if it looks ugly!

This step is optional, but it’s very helpful if you’re doing this project alone. If you have a helper to hold the pole in place while you attach the brackets, it may not be necessary.

Once you have both brackets attached, you can cut the zip tie off with a knife or scissors.

close-up of a black powder-coated string light pole attached to a deck railing post with a long zip tie

3. Level

Hold a level up next to the string light pole to be sure it’s going straight up and down before attaching the first bracket. This handy level is magnetic so it was perfect for this project.

close-up of a string light pole with a magnetic level attached to the side of it

4. Attach the first bracket.

Use an impact driver (electric drill) to drill one screw into either side of the bracket, attaching it to the deck railing post.

string light pole being screwed to a deck post with a bracket

5. Level again.

upright string light pole with a magnetic level next to it

6. Attach the second bracket.

black pole being fastened to a deck post with a bracket to hang outdoor string lights

7. Hang string light cord.

It’s generally best to hang your light cord before screwing in the bulbs, and almost all string lights come packaged with the bulbs separate anyway. The bulbs are easy to break- especially the cheaper non-industrial ones.

hands draping string light cord over the top of a string light pole
close-up of the top of a string light pole  with light cord draped over it, but without lightbulbs

8. Screw bulbs into sockets.

box of string light bulbs
close-up of a hand screwing a string light bulb into its socket

And that’s it!

As you can see, these poles can easily handle the weight of the lights without leaning or bowing. So far we’re really happy with them. I’ll update this post next year to let you know how they hold up over time.

large deck with deck railing string light poles holding up string lights
glowing string lights over a deck


Since no project is ever quite as simple in real life as it is in my head before I get started, we ran into a couple of hitches along the way. If your deck is built on 90 degree angles and has actual railing posts, the instructions above should work great.

We main issue we had with my parents’ deck was that the railing doesn’t have actual posts, and the rail along the top stuck out about an inch further than the balusters.

Alternate Methods

It turns out that not all deck railings have posts in the corners. This was the case with my parents’ deck, which meant that we only had one point of contact to attach the string light poles to the railing, instead of two.

We came up with two different ways to solve this problem and tried them both.

In one spot we cut a piece of wood to beef up the post in the corner and give us a nice solid surface to screw the brackets into.

close-up of a hand holding a bracket on a string light pole and a red arrow pointing to an extra piece of wood that was added to beef up a railing post

In other spots, we used a paddle drill bit to drill a shallow hole in the deck boards, creating a niche for the pole to sit in. All of the poles we tested had rubber/plastic caps on the bottoms, and we removed these to help the pole fit into the hole.

close-up of a hand using a pencil to trace the bottom of a string light pole on the surface of a deck
electric drill with a paddle bit
hole being drilled in the surface of a deck using an electric drill and paddle bit
large hole in deck for string light pole to sit in
tall string light pole attached to a deck railing

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The Best String Lights: Tested & Reviewed for 2023

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The Easiest DIY Outdoor String Light Poles Tutorial

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