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How to Hang Pergola Lights

Lights are a great addition to any backyard, especially pergolas. These lights bring a sense of warmth and provide a dream-like setting perfect for any backyard get-together and endless entertaining. While lightweight and easy to maneuver, you’ll want to make sure to install the lights correctly to ensure they’re durable year-round. Below you will find a comprehensive guide of how to hang your pergola lights and tips and tricks for creating the best atmosphere possible.

First, Choose a Method

Now, when it comes to hanging your pergola lights, you have a few options and designs to follow. There is no right or wrong way to hang lights on a pergola, but there are certainly easier and more difficult methods. The three methods we will be covering today include:

  • Stapling
  • Nail and Drape
  • Pillars
  • Command Hooks

Before Hanging, Take These Steps

Though there are different methods to hanging your lights, there are a few things that will need to be completed universally. From testing your outdoor lights to recruiting a friend, these are the things to do beforehand: 

Step 1: Get High-quality, outdoor-safe light strands – Weatherproof is extremely important when incorporating an electric fixture into the outdoor elements. These lights should be LED rather than incandescent to avoid harming any vine plant around the pergola. Size, color, and overall design won’t matter in regard to hanging methods. You’ll just want to be sure you purchase enough lights to cover all pillars, slats, or the area you choose to cover in lights.

Step 2: Grab a Ladder – You’ll want to avoid metal ladders where possible to reduce your risk of electrocution further. However, as you’re stapling the light wires to the pergola, they should not be plugged in. Between a staple gun, hammer, nails, steel staples, a metal ladder, and the lights being plugged in, you run a major risk of injury and death!

Step 3: Test the Lights – Remove lights from packaging and measure to ensure you have enough for your needs. You won’t want to begin and stop the process or leave it half done when you discover mid-assembly that you’re missing significant coverage. Also, this is a good time to make sure they work before going through the process of mounting, only to discover they are defective.

Step 4: Grab a Friend – Though it can be a bit inconvenient relying on a friend to come help you, this is one of the cases when a buddy will be a major help. If you can, lure a friend or loved one to help you out with promises of cold drinks afterward. It will save tons of headaches, effort and adds a safety layer!

Method #1. Stapling Method

Gather Supplies

For the stapling method, you will only need a couple of other supplies in addition to the above-mentioned ones. 

Staple Gun & Staples – Find a cable-safe staple gun that is equipped with staples designed to fit snuggly over wires. If you’ve selected thicker wiring, this is especially important as regular staples simply won’t work on these wires. If you attempt to staple the wires with a regular, ill-fitting stapler, you run the risk of stapling your light’s wires and ruining them, or worse, posing a safety hazard.

Steps

Feed Wire & Staple. This step can be done either as you’re feeding yourself the wire from one end of the string that leads to piling on the ground or with a friend feeding you bits at a time. You’ll staple as you go, every 5 inches or so, securing the lights to the pergola.

Method #2. Nail and Drape Method

The nail and drape method is one that may not look quite as sleek as stapling, but it can be a bit more whimsical to have lights draped along your pergola with a sporadic nail to hold. It is also an easier method to follow without having to nail as often as you would need to staple to maintain the integrity of the hang.

Gather Supplies

In addition to the above listed general supplies, you will need: 

Hammer and Nails – Self-explanatory, but for this method, you will want to gather up enough nails to space out every half-foot along the pergola crown or where you wish to drape the wires. You may also use screws and a screwdriver to insert, though beware screws will leave a much bigger hole when removed and may be more prone to cause splitting.

Steps

Insert Nails. You can hammer all of your nails in before beginning to drape. In fact, it may make it easier to space the nails properly. If only going around the top perimeter or the crown, it should be relatively easy to drape the lights along the nails. However, if you’re planning to go in-between the pergola slants as well, you may find that it’s easiest to insert a couple of nails at each end of the slabs of wood and simply let the lights hang to the point of bowing in the middle.

Method #3. Pillars

The third method to hang lights on your pergola is to simply wrap them around the vertical pillars and even along with the horizontal slabs of wood. This method requires the least amount of effort, tools, and may be the look you’re going for!

Gather Supplies

In addition to the above mentioned general supplies to hang your breath-taking pergola lights via the pillar method, you will need:

A Staple Gun – Per the stapling section above, you will need a high-quality staple gun and staples intended for outdoor use and that is cable safe. Because the wire is rounded and varies in thickness, you will want to be sure you select staples that are u-shaped and will work with your wiring, not against it. 

Steps

Begin Wrapping. After you’ve assembled all of the tools and supplies requires, you can begin Wrapping

Starting at the bottom and wrapping around the pillar upward until you reach the top of the pillar, you’ll want to snuggly work your way upward. To keep the lights in place and from unraveling, you’ll still need to place staples as you go, but typically it is less often than the horizontal stapling method as the wire is relying on the pillar for most of its support.

Method #4. Command Hooks

This last method is the perfect option for those that want to hang lights or decor but do not want to permanently alter their pergola. If you’re renting, or if your pergola’s material is a hard metal rather than wood, this is a great alternative for hanging your lights! Simple, cost-effective, and temporary, command hooks may be the way to go even if you are able to mount lights the traditional way.

Gather Supplies

After you’ve gathered the general supplies and taken the pre-hanging steps, you’ll want together with the supplies for this method. Luckily, it’s one of the easier methods to hang your lights. All you will need is command hooks or an alternative adhesive hook brand. Be sure when selecting your hooks that they are designed for outdoor spaces and are sturdy enough to support the weight of your light strands. 

Steps

Space and Apply Hooks. This method is similar to the nailing method as you will simply be spacing the hooks across the wood slabs, around the crown of the pergola, and wherever you want the lights to be mounted. It is very important that you allow the hooks to bond to the surface before draping the lights or you run the risk of the weight pulling the hooks from the pergola. Like nails, the hooks should be spaced every half foot to a foot depending on the weight of the light strands. 

Feed Wire. After your hooks have been properly spaced the hooks and left to adhere to the surface, begin feeding the stands of lights through the hooks. If you’re noticing that the hooks are not properly supporting the lights, you will want to add more supporting hooks throughout to evenly distribute the weight. 

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