DIY: Stringing Patio Cafe Lights

We christened the brand new patio lights this weekend with some friends and family!

Let's get right to business and explain how we built the columns and strung the lights!

First, this is what we were working with:

About six months ago, I bought these two wrought iron columns at a flea market, hoping we could use them in our backyard. 

So we started with these two columns, but we still had to figure out to how to rig them so they could serve as two posts with which to attach our cafe lights. 

They needed to be a little bit taller, they needed to have a base and they needed to be securely attached to the ground so they wouldn't blow over in bad weather. 

We lucked into the base because we already had those two wooden crates laying around. If you have been following this blog for awhile, you know that we found 10 wooden crates at a local thrift store. We've been using most of them in our guest room, but we had two available for this project.

So, we had our base. Check that off the list!

The next question was, how do we add some height? And how do we secure the posts into the ground? 

This is where some steel rebar (reinforcing bar), bricks and concrete come into play.  

It turns out the three corners of the wrought iron posts were hollow and just the right size for a length of rebar. Scott drilled three holes into the bottom of the crate and sunk the three steel rebar pieces into the ground. Then the crate was placed over the rebar pieces so that each rebar poked up through each hole in the crate. Then the wrought iron posts were lowered onto the rebar. The rebar extends about four feet underground and six feet up each column. 

They still didn't feel perfectly solid and securely attached to the ground, so hubs decided to add some concrete in the bottom of each wooden crate to glue the rebar, wrought iron and wooden base together into one solid piece. 

Before he did that, he added some bricks to the bottom of the base to give us about 6 inches of extra height on each post. Then he added the concrete around and on top of the the bricks. Now the bases of the columns look like this:

Our plan is to make the rest of the base into a planter so we can possibly have some vines traveling up the columns. Wouldn't that look nice?

Ok, so the columns were in place. The next step was to string the wires from the house to each post so that we could hang the cafe lights. 

We really didn't know how we were going to do this, but where do we all go for inspiration? Pinterest, of course! I found this tutorial for using tension wire to hang curtains and thought we might be able to use this idea for our patio.


That's exactly what we did! (And by we, I mean Scott.) One trip to the hardware store produced all of the supplies we needed, and the husband got to work. 

Let me just say, I would never have the patience to accomplish something like this. The idea of perfect measurements and complicated cable systems just makes me want to throw my hands up in the air in frustration. Scott, however, has a personality that thrives off solving problems and figuring things out. He likes to tinker with technology and will try to repair his own watch and apply his own iPhone screen when he breaks it. That's just how he is! I'm extremely grateful because none of these cool house ideas would ever come to fruition without his analytical mind figuring out exactly how to do it.

Scott used that Pinterest tutorial to create our own system for the patio:

He used a masonry drill bit for the brick wall and a metal drill bit for the wrought iron posts. For the brick, he used a concrete anchor before inserting the eye hook. The wire rope was strung from post to post and a turnbuckle was used to increase the tension in the wire rope.

Once we had the wire in place around the patio, he strung the lights along the wire. We bought two 25-ct boxes of globe lights from partylights.com

Last step? Order takeout and eat it on the patio! Perfection. 

The lights make such a big difference in the patio atmosphere. They add just the right amount of lighting and have a way of turning each al fresco dining experience into a festive occasion. We love them so much already! Scott agrees that it was totally worth the hard work.

We couldn't get my brother to move off the patio that night! He was in heaven with the nice lights, cool weather and the March Madness games on his iPad. 

So what do the nuggets think about the patio lights?

Obviously, Rory is really excited about it. 

You may have noticed that we added a small garden fence around the plants closest to the house. Scott built that himself, and I'll be back later this week to explain that process. We're hoping to deter the dogs from digging holes in that area, which seems to be their absolute favorite activity these days!

* Preparing for rain! *

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