Fast And Cheap DIY Outdoor String lights!

{DIY}: Outdoor String Lights

This past labor day, we made posts to hang string lights to hang around our deck. I’m so thrilled with how they turned out!

So I thought I’d pass on the instructions so you can make them, too.
Café style string lights are something I’ve wanted for our deck since the day we built it. But I could never find the right structure for it. A pergola is too much, but flimsy poles wouldn’t cut it either. This summer, I found the solution: Electrical conduit! By chance on pinterest, I found this post about making curtain rods from inexpensive, sturdy electrical conduit from the hardware store. I thought it would be the perfect raw material for this project. The best part? Each 10 foot piece cost a mere $4. Amazing!
The poles are essentially three 10 foot pieces of electrical conduit with pipe straps attached as hooks and end caps attached at the top. To secure them into the ground, we buried pieces of plastic piping just large enough for the conduit to fit inside. We then inserted the poles into the buried pipes at varying depths (our deck is on a slant). The result is a secure set of supports for our lights that cost around $30!
Here is the step by step breakdown:

Step One: Using an awl, puncture the conduit about 3 inches from the top to make drilling easier. Of course, you could make the hooks higher or lower, but 3 inches looked about right.

Here’s a close up of the label on the tube we bought. Make sure you totally remove any stickers and residual goo before painting so your finish looks good.
Step 2: Spray paint! We used Rust-Oleum in Dark Bronze. We used all of one can and just a tiny bit of a second can. (For some reason I missed taking a picture of spray painting the conduit itself – but you get the idea). We painted the conduit, hooks, and caps separately. An old edging tie worked well to help me get all the sides of the hooks evenly painted. (As a bonus, you get a nice view of my favorite painting shirt!) Then after it was assembled, I gave it one final sweep to cover the head of the screw.
Step 3: Cut lengths of plastic electrical conduit to a length of a minimum of 18 inches, and ideally 24 inches. Our deck is on a slant, so its higher on one side than the other. So each piece of piping was a different length between those two measurements. The piece of pipe we bought was 1 inch in diameter. The conduit was 3/4 of an inch, so it was a perfect fit.
Step 4: Attach the pipe straps (hooks). You can use a screwdriver or a drill for this. Jeremy started the screws with a screwdriver and then drilled them in.
Step 5: Attach the Caps. We bought 1/2 inch “Knock Out Seals” for this. They are essentially flat caps with metal ribbing on the inside that securely seals it at the end of the pipe. I’m sure they have a precise and specific purpose which probably has nothing to do with what we used it for, but it worked perfectly! We just needed to use pliers to adjust the angle of the metal ribbing inside so it fit well.
Step 6: Bury the pipes. I wish I could say the process of burying the pipes in the ground was precise and exact, but that is so not our style (!). We completely lucked out with the depth of the pipe. We were quite shocked when the poles all measured the same height in the end (actually they are about 1/2 an inch off from each other, which is too small to detect with the eye – good enough for us!). Being that our deck is built on slanted ground, this was a major win. Also, I spray painted the part of the pipe that is visible above ground after the fact, but didn’t take a photo of it. Only one needed to be painted, as the other two are completely concealed by plants. About 6 inches of pipe sticks up out of the ground.
Step 7: Insert poles into their fittings and attach extra pipe straps to the exterior wall where the lights will hang.
{If you luck out with the heights of your poles, cheer!}
Step 8: Drape lights from your poles, and you are done!
This project was so rewarding. The lights cast a warm, flattering glow that will be perfect for entertaining. I also love that we can take them down easily by lifting the poles out of the ground and unhooking the lights. Easy!
You should do it.
Here’s the cost breakdown:
3 10 foot long pieces of electrical conduit, 3/4 inch in diameter: $3.98 each – $11.94
1 10 foot long piece of plastic piping (in the same aisle as the conduit, I’m assuming it also has an electrical function) – $2.92
2 Packages of single anchor pipe straps, 3/4 inch diameter – $.98 each, $1.96
1 Package of 1/2 inch Knock Out Seals – $1.30
2 Cans of Rust-Oleum Hammered Dark Bronze Spray Paint – $5.98 each – $11.96
Total: $30.08!
The String Lights are from Target and cost $12.95 for each 20 foot strand. Our deck is 10 feet x 20 feet, so we needed 2 strands.
This brings the final total for this project to $55.98! Not bad considering the many more expensive alternatives out there. I’m in love. Even though the weather is cooling down, I have a plan to make good use of the lights soon. Will keep you posted!

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