Tie / fastener system for hanging lights outdoors
September 26, 2019 9:10 AM   Subscribe

What's a good tie / fastener system for hanging lights outdoors? My attempt with zip ties didn't work because they're not UV-resistant. The fasteners have to be white.

I've got strings of lights hung outside under an aluminum pergola. The pergola has lots of little slats and beams, so we hung the lights underneath the beams and used cable ties to attach them. There's a picture here; the white straps that run perpendicular to the lights are the fasteners in question.

The problem is this area gets full direct sunlight every day and the zip ties get brittle under UV exposure. They're already breaking after a few months. I'd replace them with UV-resistant cable ties but from what I've read UV-resistance really requires the plastic be black because it's absorbing the UV as heat. We need white fasteners for it to look right.

My second thought was some kind of wire, like a twist-tie. But the obvious choice would be copper electrical wire and I'm worried if it corrodes it's going to drip green water on my patio and stain it. Also I can't imagine the wire insulation is UV-resistant, so it'll end up crumbling off leaving exposed metal. Is there some other wire that would be appropriate for this application?

A contractor I asked suggested drilling holes in the pergola and using some sort of bracket or hook to hold the wire up. I really don't like the idea of poking holes in the aluminum though, that seems like asking for trouble with moisture or insects.
posted by Nelson to Home & Garden (16 answers total)
Stainless steel wire. Locking wire type. Available from any hardware store or automotive store.

But really a small hole and a riveted bracket/hook is likely the best solution. There is no issues with moisture in an aluminium beam, especially if those holes are in the underside, but a small hook into the side would be fine.
posted by Brockles at 9:18 AM on September 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

What about rope or cord? There are enough outdoor applications for rope (eg. sailing & camping) that I’m sure water & uv resistant rope must be available in a variety of thicknesses.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 9:21 AM on September 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Maybe white colored hook and loop (some folks call it Velcro) straps around the beams?
posted by Dmenet at 9:21 AM on September 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

You can absolutely get white coated floral wire or even just electrical wire, but aluminum wire should avoid the green corrosion issue.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:44 AM on September 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Seconding stainless steel wire AKA "safety wire." I get mine from Aircraft Spruce. If you want to get fancy, there are special tools to twist the wire together in order to secure it - Harbor Freight has a serviceable version if you understandably don't want to spend a bunch on an "aviation grade" safety wire tool (and on preview, it looks like they sell the wire now too). This stuff has lots of uses around the house.
posted by exogenous at 9:49 AM on September 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

How about these: CABLE TIE MOUNTS
posted by tman99 at 9:53 AM on September 26, 2019

Thanks for all the suggestions, keep them coming! It's a weird problem. I asked this question in another forum and got one promising-looking answer: 3M Command Outdoor Rope Light Clips. I'm not sure if the pergola material is smooth enough to hold the glue. Also they're clear, not white, but that might be OK.
posted by Nelson at 9:58 AM on September 26, 2019

White single strand electrical wire would work for you. The insulation lasts a long time in the sunshine, although not forever. It is easy to pick up at a hardware store, cheap, and can be cut to length.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 10:11 AM on September 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

I think the 3M plastic clips would be as subject to UV degradation as the zip ties. The wire sounds easiest. Installing hooks would work, but when 2 types of metal are in contact, they can corrode, so check that out.
posted by theora55 at 10:17 AM on September 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

I've used those Command Clips before and was coming in here to recommend them. They were up on the outside of my old house for a few years and rarely had to be replaced. We used them to hold Christmas lights or solar lights all year round and never took them down (so they were up in all kinds of weather).
posted by possibilityleft at 10:17 AM on September 26, 2019

I was also thinking the cable tie mounts. Or thinish hook and loop but not around the beam, just cut a piece the width of the beam, glue one side to the beam, run the cord through it and use the other piece to hold the cord in place there. Each piece only has to be enough to support its little bit of bulb and cord. You might also be able to find white duck tape and cut it down to 1/2" and just just wrap it up the side a little bit.
posted by zengargoyle at 11:43 AM on September 26, 2019

Rope wouldn't work, unless it's black Dacron. Everything else crumbles to dust in under a year.
posted by scruss at 12:26 PM on September 26, 2019

Adhesive (read: like that on your command strips) will fail.

Stainless steel wire or screwed/bolted in fasteners and bob's your uncle.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:52 PM on September 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Amazon does offer what it describes as UV resistant white cable ties, but the peculiar thing about that page is that only the 8" length has "UV resistant" in the description, but the longer lengths are also characterized as indoor outdoor "garden" ties and are made by the same manufacturer, though some are clear as well as white.
posted by jamjam at 2:28 PM on September 26, 2019

The lightest duty chain link is easily bent with pliers, is available in white, and is designed to be exposed to UV long term. Any chain link installer or supplier should be bale to supply a few metres for cheap.

You can also order from Amazon (search for PVC coated galvanized wire).
posted by Mitheral at 4:08 PM on September 28, 2019

Thanks for all the suggestions! Just to summarize, the suggestions come down to:

Wire twisted around the beam. Stainless steel locking wire is most recommended.

A hook or cable tie glued under the beams. I'm trying a 3M Command Strip hook now and like it, but it's hard to know how long the glue will hold.

Hooks or other fasteners drilled and screwed directly in to the beams.
posted by Nelson at 2:25 PM on October 7, 2019

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