No More Dim Deck

For the last three summers, I’ve been trying to convince Kim that we needed some auxiliary lighting out on the patio. Currently, we’ve only got one large security/flood lamp that we can’t control ourselves, since all of the exterior building lighting is set to a timer. I mentioned that some cheap cafe lights would be an easy way to obtain a nice overhead glow, without breaking the bank. While at Target last weekend, I reminded her for the 47,392nd time that we should give them a shot. She finally succumbed to my pressure and we chucked them in the basket, along with a simple 8 foot outdoor extension cord. Less than $20 later, and we were on our way home.

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In order to get the first bulb of the strand started at the ceiling joists, we needed to run the cord up the conduit that leads to aforementioned security light. We plugged the cord into the outlet, ensuring a bit of slack, then zip-tied it in place, tucking it neatly alongside the pipe.

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We then proceeded up the conduit, zip-tying about every 12 inches or so. We didn’t measure the gaps, but my lady helped spot while I was up on the ladder. After we were happy with a clean run of cable, we snipped off all of the excess zip-tie length and tested the plug once again. Simple successes are sometimes the most rewarding, huh?

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Once the extension cord was in place, we did a simple “dry-fit” pattern of the light strand on the patio floor to make sure we were happy with the length and shape of the strand. This helped to make sure the lights would begin and end where we wanted them to, rather than have a few extra bulbs-worth of lighting hanging from the ceiling after tacking everything in place.

Once we were happy with the pattern, we connected the cords and used a simple cable-guide staple to attach the sockets’ integrated hooks to the beams.

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We then strung the lights back and forth across the ceiling in a sort of “Z” pattern. We didn’t want the strands to drape too much (since it gets pretty windy out back), and we didn’t want shattered bulbs spewing broken glass all over the place.  We did, however manage to shatter one bulb against the side of the ladder during installation. Another bulb seemed a bit defective, so we swapped the bulbs so that the empty sockets landed at the end of the strand instead of the middle. I then covered the exposed sockets in electrical tape to keep out debris, then zip tied the slack and tacked it into the ceiling joists – out of sight.

Note: This kit is pretty inexpensive, therefore the bulbs are VERY fragile, and apparently hard to find. Please be careful!

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Here’s how things turned out the afternoon that we finished up. From start to finish, with a clean up of the deck interspersed, this project took around 30 minutes, and we’re really happy with the results. (Kim, too, who was initially worried they might look a bit, uh, cheap and tacky.)

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The lights cast a nice warm glow and seem to make the space seem much larger than it really is.  They really help achieve more of the “outdoor living room” vibe that we’ve been working on for the last month or so – perfect for moody dinners, late night drinks and extra-long evenings of Chicken Foot with our pals.

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Has anyone else used these lights around the home? They worked great on the patio, and we’ll see how well they last through a brutal Chicago winter (or two, fingers crossed). Reading the reviews on Target’s website after the facts have us a little concerned (again, these guys are fragile and were hardly a splurge), but we’ll just have to enjoy them as long as they last, yeah?

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  • Liz H. - June 29, 2011 - 8:59 AM

    We have the same lights strung between our detached garage and a tree above the patio in our backyard. When we first hung them, we just sort of draped them on the tree, and when a thunderstorm came, it blew them down, shattering several bulbs.

    After that, we used some wire to attach the one end to the tree, and haven’t had any trouble since. We left them up all winter, and they’re still good as new.

    I did end up buying another strand just for the bulbs. I replaced the shattered bulbs, and still have a dozen or so for future use.ReplyCancel

  • jodi - June 29, 2011 - 9:00 AM

    they look wonderful! i like how they warm up the space.ReplyCancel

  • Two Pitties in the City - June 29, 2011 - 9:26 AM

    They look so great! It looks just like the outdoor patios where everyone spends so much money just for the ambiance. We have some different patio lights that we picked up at Target. Ours were actually so bright that it was like the sun and our porch definitely stood out. We had to remove some of the bulbs to tone it down a bit, but they definitely withstood the Chicago winter. We just got all of our flowers planted and we were so excited because it has all come together. We all need to soak up the nice Chicago weather while we still can.ReplyCancel

  • Kim - June 29, 2011 - 9:33 AM

    I’m glad to hear that you’re string lights have withstood the winters!

    Two Pitties – summer has finally arrived in Chicago! You bet we’re soaking it all in!ReplyCancel

  • Kristin @ Ogo's Love Nest - June 29, 2011 - 10:03 AM

    Turned out lovely! We have two sets of Target lights that we have yet to put out on the deck. I hope they turn out as nice as yours!

    KristinReplyCancel

  • aleksandra - June 29, 2011 - 11:26 AM

    we live a bit south of you in DC, but we have had those exact same lights survive two winters now, and they are still doing great. we are nowhere near as meticulous as you guys about securing the lights, either, so i bet those will last you a long while to come! enjoy,
    aleksandraReplyCancel

  • Cait @ Hernando House - June 29, 2011 - 11:32 AM

    I love the way that turned out! And is it weird that I never realized your deck had a roof?

    I’ve been wanting globe lights for our backyard, but all the reviews on the inexpensive ones talk about shattered bulbs (go figure, I guess). Trying to save up for some commercial grade ones, because I really don’t want to take them down in bad weather.ReplyCancel

  • Liz M - June 29, 2011 - 11:41 AM

    I love the look- very cozy and welcoming! We used the same lights from Target on our back porch and they managed to last all the way through this past Boston winter (complete with over 140in of snow fall!) so I have high hopes for these lasting through your Chicago winters!ReplyCancel

  • justine @ you're so martha - June 29, 2011 - 1:02 PM

    i was just thinking of buying some lights like those for my new patio – keep us updated on how they hold up so i know if i should pick those up or not!ReplyCancel

  • Scott - June 29, 2011 - 1:31 PM

    Thanks for reassuring us regarding the durability of these lights, everyone! Now I don’t feel like we’ll be re-doing this project in 10 months once deck season is upon us again.ReplyCancel

  • Sarah @ SarahPlanet.com - June 29, 2011 - 1:47 PM

    Such a great turnout! Looks like a cozy little Italian place on your patio :)

    -Sarah
    http://www.sarahplanet.comReplyCancel

  • Ashley @ DesignBuildLove.co - June 29, 2011 - 2:54 PM

    LOVE it! Sooooo gorgeous!ReplyCancel

  • Kate - June 29, 2011 - 3:18 PM

    They look so good! After seeing so many recommendations for these lights I may have to put getting them on my “to do in the future” list as well!ReplyCancel

  • Rachel @ I'm Loving Today - June 29, 2011 - 4:55 PM

    I love the look of these lights on your patio! Very pretty. I bought some similar lights at Home Depot after reading all the negative reviews on Target.com. So I can’t attest to the Target version’s durability, but the ones from Home Depot have held up perfectly – even after last’s week’s INSANE rain and storms here in Milwaukee.ReplyCancel

  • Katie @ Making This Home - June 29, 2011 - 6:13 PM

    You know, sometimes it’s just about enjoying the beauty for while you have it. I have this vision of you guys out there with them on New Year’s for some reason. That would be too cool!ReplyCancel

  • Courtney - June 30, 2011 - 8:16 AM

    We’ve had these same lights up for five winters (in Indianapolis, so we have had some rough winterst too). Like Liz H. we bought an extra strand so that we’d have extra bulbs, but I think we’ve only used two for burn-out replacements.ReplyCancel

  • Kim - June 30, 2011 - 8:20 AM

    Good call, folks. We may need to pick up an extra strand for extra bulbs before Target discontinues them!

    And Katie, if it’s not below zero on the last day this year, maybe we WILL be out there with some champagne!ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer - June 30, 2011 - 1:09 PM

    I used this beauties at my wedding two summers ago. We strung multiple strands back and forth across my parent’s backyard and it looked absolutely beautiful! Now that we’ve moved into a house, I’ve asked my parents to bring said lights when they come out to visit so that we can hang them over our patio :)ReplyCancel

  • CourtneyOutLoud - June 30, 2011 - 3:32 PM

    I really like the way they look — I am looking at outdoor lighting myself right now. Unfortunately, I have nothing overhead to hang lighting from and the only existing outlet is right beside the only source of light so it’s a bit redundant. I am brainstorming and searching out to see if they have improved the solar lights to make them brighter…..ReplyCancel

  • Scott - June 30, 2011 - 4:07 PM

    Courtney,

    If you track down any affordable solar solutions, please be sure to share your findings! They were an option for us, now that the solar panels are “remote” and can be wired away from the light sources themselves, but we were still a bit nervous since we only get a few hours of direct sun per day.ReplyCancel

  • Kate - July 1, 2011 - 8:42 AM

    This looks great! I JUST went through the same thing; I’m hosting a party soon and wanted that look on our tiny covered deck but was almost scared away by the Target reviews. Finally I just thought, even if they only work for the party, it’s $12 well spent! I was SUPER careful putting them up, and they’re beautiful. Although in such a tiny space, it’s like daytime out there at 9pm! Oh well, at least everyone will be able to see their drinks! :)ReplyCancel

  • Kristen @ Popcorn on the Stove - July 1, 2011 - 3:39 PM

    I love the way the lights look. What a clever way to hide the wire!ReplyCancel

  • Ruthie K - May 28, 2012 - 7:37 PM

    Your deck looks great! I think I’ll do the same thing at my new house!
    I bought these lights and love them. Of course, I’ve shattered quite a few bulbs, but I replaced them with ceiling fan bulbs and it looks pretty good.ReplyCancel

  • Cheryl@auntiessweetlife - July 13, 2014 - 1:00 PM

    I really enjoyed reading your blog. The lights are a wonderful addition to your patio that add a fresh, modern look to a small space. I, too, purchased the same lights from Target for my small patio. Yes, they are fragile, 2 broke while hanging them from the ceiling. They are delicate, yet I do recommend them to other people! For the look and price, great deal!ReplyCancel

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