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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.)
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.
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?