Backyard DIY Series Part II
I’m so excited to share Part 2 in our Backyard series (see Part 1 here) with you today AND to have Ryan takeover for the day. Like I mentioned last week, our backyard was his project, and it would be cruel to not let him show it off. Plus, he did some seriously amazing DIYs that you need to try this summer!
Today we are starting with the Canopy String Light DIY! And have no fear… after reading this post you will know exactly what to do, because not only is Ryan handy, he’s also thorough! You can just go ahead and thank your lucky stars that I’m not the one writing this! Ha! So, let’s get started… Ryan, show us how it’s done!
Connect to Smart Home
We use the TP-Link smart switch which lets us turn the lights on and off with our phones or with Alexa.
The real litmus test to know if a home project (DIY or otherwise) is worth the investment is whether you get the feeling that you don’t know how you ever did life without it. I’m sure there is a relationship or marriage metaphor in there somewhere, but that’s exactly how we felt about the lights. They make such a huge statement with our backyard ambiance. Early morning, dusk, evening, during rainstorms. We turn them on almost every chance we get!
Putting up the lights came with a few unexpected challenges, but overall it was a fairly simple DIY that can be completed by anyone in just a few simple steps and definitely within a day. Here’s how to start.
1) Do a little dreaming and sketching
The first thing we did was take a good look at our backyard. We took measurements and sketched out some options for how the lights could be laid out. While there are a number of ways we could have strung these lights over our backyard, we could only choose one. This post will just cover what we did. As you start your DIY, you may need to modify this plan to fit your unique circumstances. There’s a little work involved, but it’s not rocket science. You can do it!
Here’s one of my very rough sketches. The circle in the top left is our tree. The dotted lines are the runs of lights we hoped to put up. The numbers scribbled there are the approximate distances…etc…
^^^ Clearly, my artistic talents are not quite up to Ashley’s level!
2) Get These Materials
– about 80, 4” Zip ties
– 150 feet of vinyl coated galvanized steel cable (buy it by the foot in store)
– 5 Stainless steel eyelets (National Hardware)
– 4 Ferrule & Stop sets (National Hardware)
– 5 Quick links (National Hardware)
***UPDATE 12/12/18*** The above materials are perfect for this project, but I just noticed that Amazon sells these Light Hanging Kits. I have looked into it and they are legitimate. They could save you a lot of time and work!
LED String Lights
– I used 4 sets of 24-foot canopy/string lights – I bought them on Amazon. The sets are $39.97 which I found to be the best value out there. A few of my bulbs went bad, but they have a lifetime warranty and Alpan’s customer service was very quick to send me replacements. I haven’t had another issue.
We chose LED lights because they don’t put out a lot of heat, and they use significantly less power. The bulbs also last longer so you don’t have to worry about replacing them every few months. LED anything is more expensive than traditional incandescent lighting, so we spent some time looking for affordable options. So far they’ve worked wonderfully, and we feel great about not running up the electricity bill.
– Power drill
– Metal cutting snips or bolt cutters
*NOTE – There are a few materials we don’t list above and here is why:
For our project, we had to do a little bit of electrical work to install a power outlet under my soffit and a switch inside my garage. The switch was really for convenience and is not required to have canopy lights. As for the wall outlet, our home is surprisingly lacking in outdoor power receptacles, so that was one challenge we were forced to overcome to make our string light dream a reality. All of that said, we’re not certified electricians and will not be advising or showing the electrical part of our project. Consult a professional electrician if you feel your situation requires any electrical work.
3) Place the Eyelets
Since we were connecting lights from our house to a central location at our lone backyard tree, that was my starting point (not pictured). We measured about 11.5 feet high so the lights would slope up from the house to the tree.
Next up, attaching the eyelets to the fascia on the house. Since we were running four lines from the house to the tree, we repeated this step four times. If you have a setup where you can drill into your house or a stud behind the wall, that’s an even better way to go. We’ll likely go back and reinforce these connections in the near future.
Here we used the power drill and easily screwed in the 2 5/8” Screw Eyelet from National Hardware.
4) Set the Steel Cable
The steel cable is not mandatory for some people, but it absolutely was for us. The biggest benefit is the cable will keep the string light cord from stretching out over time, prolonging the life of the lights.
We ran four separate cable segments – each from the house to the tree.
-Loop the cable and feed it through the ferrule. We used metal snips to both cut the cable and crimp the ferrules. Bolt cutters work well for this too. A crimping tool is the official tool for crimping ferrules, but because of the light load on the cable, we felt more than comfortable using the snips.
Connect the looped end to one of your Quick Links
Connect the Quick Link to the eyelet. Do this on both ends of the line. Here you want to make sure the line has a little give but not too much. You don’t want the lights drooping and swinging too wildly in storms or windy weather.
We used quick links for an easy takedown. We live in Central Florida where every few years we have an active hurricane season. I wanted to be able to take these lights down, if needed, at a moment’s notice. Using these quick links is one of a few ways to accomplish that, but it’s one of the easiest options. We got these from National Hardware, and you can also find them at Lowe’s.
5. Secure Lights to the Cable
Phew! The cable portion is probably the most labor intensive, but with that all done you’re 80% there!
We placed two zip ties on the first and last lights on each strand for added security. One zip tie was fine for all the rest.
As you do this, carry scissors along with you and cut off the hanging end of each zip tie. That will make them as visually unobtrusive as possible.
6. Screw in the bulbs
This is pretty self-explanatory, and when you’re finished, take a deep breath. You are DONE!
Hopefully, wherever you are the sun will be setting soon. Pour yourself some wine, plug in your string lights, sit back, and enjoy the scene for all it’s worth.
If you do attempt this or something similar in your backyard, we’d love to hear about it! If you have any questions, feel free to put them in the comments section and I’ll make sure to answer them as best that I can.
Planter Accent Hardware:
Lastly, many of you have asked about the accent corner braces we put on the planter. They came from our partners at National Hardware as well. We built the planter, and we thought it was great but still lacking something. National Hardware has a huge selection of hardware that can bring any part of your home to the next level. We found these braces which not only strengthen the box, but they are decorative as well. Sometimes it’s the simplest details that make the greatest difference, and we could not be more pleased!
P.S. There will be a DIY post about building the planter AND what’s inside, so stay tuned!
Don’t miss the full Backyard DIY Series!
Part 2 – How to hang String Lights
Part 5 – How We Installed the Pavers & Gravel
In Partnership with National Hardware
Photographed by Gregory Daniel