DIY String Light Posts

Even before we purchased a home, we knew that we wanted string lights in our backyard. We were so excited to finally live in a home with a decent-sized backyard (for this area of California, at least) and just had to figure out the best way to hang string lights with our specific backyard design. While some people use string light poles that are inserted into the dirt or screwed into the concrete, others attach them to the fence or the exterior trim of their home. With our current backyard layout and our low 6′ – 7′ fences, we thought it would be best to DIY string light posts using a simple combination of planters, wood posts, and concrete mix.

To make these DIY string light posts, we used two 50 lb. bags of quick-setting concrete mix, two 2″ x 4″ wood posts, two planters, and a few C-hooks. We got Quikrete Fast-Setting Concrete Mix, a blend of cement, sand, and gravel that dries within 40 minutes, from Home Depot.

We started by mixing our concrete, using approximately half of our first 50 lb. bag for each planter. This is definitely where Vince and I differ in our DIY approaches. As a registered nurse, Vince follows written directions to the T (he even sets a timer according to the instructions on the box when cooking pasta). I, on the other hand, tend to “eyeball” things and make decisions based on their look, texture, and feel. Because mixing concrete seemed fairly straightforward, we ended up just “eyeballing” our proportions, adding more concrete mix or water until the concrete had a sludge-like consistency. We attempted to use a concrete mix attachment for our drill, but it didn’t work well with this Quikrete due to the rough texture of the added sand and gravel. We found it easier to mix the concrete by hand using a small garden shovel.

We mixed Quikrete with water.
Our concrete drill attachment did not work well.
It was easier to mix the concrete by hand.
The desired sludge-like consistency.

Then I held the 2″ x 4″ wood post in the planter while Vince poured the concrete mix into the planter. At this point, we only had one 50 lb. bag of concrete mix, which wasn’t enough to completely fill both planters. To prevent the posts from falling over from the tension of the string lights, we added a few pavers into the planters while the concrete was still wet for some extra weight.

Vince poured the concrete in while I held the posts in place.
We added some pavers to the concrete for additional weight.

Once the concrete was poured, I made sure that the wood post was level, and Vince taped the wood post in place with duct tape. I know, I know… We were aware that duct tape might damage the planter, but I also wanted to make sure that the tape I used to hold the wood posts in place was strong enough to keep the wood posts level and in place. I knew that I could easily paint over any damages the duct tape may create. I’m sure there are better ways to hold the posts in place, but this was quick and easy.

I made sure the posts were level while Vince used tape to hold them in place.

We repeated the same steps for the second planter.

We mixed the concrete.
We made sure the posts dried level.

I let the concrete sit for a day or two, and then used some black spray paint to darken the charcoal planters and to cover up any imperfections.

I spray painted the charcoal planters black.
I was able to cover damages from the duct tape.

Since we were only able to fill up each planter halfway with one bag of concrete mix, I started to worry that the weight of the planters wouldn’t be enough to handle the tension of the string lights. We decided to purchase a second bag of concrete mix to fill the planters for more stability. I mixed about 30 – 40 more lbs. of concrete and added approximately 15 – 20 lbs. of concrete mix to each planter. This definitely helped make the planters feel more sturdy, which also made them really hard to move later on! Haha…

I added more concrete to increase sturdiness.

Once the second batch of concrete was dry, we added C-hooks to the wood posts and to the exterior trim of our home.

We added C-hooks to the wood posts.
I drilled the holes, and Vince tightened the hooks.

Then we hung the string lights…

We got a few mosquito bites while doing this…

and positioned the planters around our outdoor seating area.

We love the progress that we’re making!
Please disregard the knocked-over planter in the background.

We haven’t been able to spend too much time outdoors due to the poor air quality from the California fires, but we are so glad to have finally made some more progress with our backyard!

It’s coming together!
We’re still loving our pavers and turf by System Pavers.
  • Backyard Phase 1: Pavers and turf… CHECK
  • Backyard Phase 2: Outdoor furniture… CHECK
  • Backyard Phase 3: Fence-painting… half-CHECK (we still have to add a second coat of paint)
  • Backyard Phase 4: Irrigation/drip system installation… CHECK
  • Backyard Phase 5: Trees, plants, garden, and bark/mulch… TO DO NEXT (when it’s not too hot outside)
  • Backyard Phase 6: String lights… CHECK

I seriously can’t wait until the weather cools down a bit to add some greenery and to complete the backyard!

Until next time,

Emily

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