Festoon Lighting Buying Guide

Posted by Alex Wells on

If you ever enjoyed an evening in a beer garden or been to a music festival, the chances are you’re familiar with festoon lighting. Festoon lighting is the older sibling of fairy lights. Where fairy lights have small LEDs along a string, festoon lighting has small bulb sockets that can be fitted with a bulb of your choice to create your chosen look. In this article we’ll look at everything you need to know about festoon lighting.

Outdoor festoon lighting

What is festoon lighting?

As we’ve already mentioned above, festoon lights are like fairy lights but they use bulbs instead of small LEDs. The use of small sockets rather than LEDs allows you to fully customise your look, meaning you can easily refresh your décor. Virtually maintenance free, festoon lights focus on safety and IP rating to be weather resistant, making them the perfect choice for your outdoor setting.

Their versatility means that anyone can use them from DIYers to commercial properties. They can be simply plugged into an available wall socket with no need for an electrician, or hardwired in to endure harsh weather and create a permanent solution.

Festoon lighting is most commonly seen in breweries, pubs, cafes, music festivals and even suspended between city alleyways. However, it can also create the perfect atmosphere in your garden, on your balcony, or even indoors.

Different festoon lighting styles

Festoon lighting is available in many different styles, but the 2 most common ones are flush or hanging.

Flush

Diagram of flush festoon lighting

Flush festoon lights mean the bulb is sat flush against the cable. Wherever you hang the cable the lights will also be hanging, making it great for lining the edges of signs, billboards, or a deck roof.

Hanging

Diagram of hanging festoon lighting

Hanging festoon lighting has the bulbs connected to the main cable with smaller cables. They can create a great look against a fence or hanging across an open area.

Things to consider when shopping for festoon lights

To make the most of your new lighting solution there are some things you should consider. These will help to make your installation as smooth as possible and eliminate any hidden surprises!

How big is the area to be covered?

When deciding to install festoon lights, you should first plan how you want to hang them and then measure this area. There are several common layouts when installing festoon lights, so you should choose which one would best accentuate your space and then measure how much string you need. If you buy a string that is too long, it may cause overlaps and this can be dangerous if bulbs are placed too close together.

Do you want the lighting to drape?

If you want your lighting to drape in a u shape rather than be straight, you will need to add extra length to achieve this look.

Is your chosen spot for installation strong enough to hold your lights?

Festoon lights can be heavy, especially if they are very long between each anchor point. The area that you are planning to mount your festoon lights on should be able to take the weight of the string when it is suspended. This will help you to avoid your string falling down.

Can your festoon lights be powered safely?

While your festoon lights should have an IP rating that will protect it from the weather, your power source may not. It’s important to make sure you are powering your lights safely. For example, a common household extension lead should not be used outside. If possible, use an outdoor plug that has been professionally installed. Alternatively, you can run your lead through a window and use an indoor plug socket.

IP Rating

It’s important to choose the right IP rating for your festoon lights. The IP (Ingress Protection) rating indicated the level of protection your light has against solids like dust and liquids like water. The higher the number, the greater the protection. If you plan to use your festoon lights outside, they should have a minimum IP rating of IP44 which will protect them from splashing and forceful water contact, while also protecting them from all levels of physical contact from objects.

Festoon lighting layouts

The only limit on how you lay out your festoon lights is your imagination! You should lay them out however you think looks best in your space. However, here are some layout ideas for inspiration!

Wedge

Diagram of festoon lighting laid out in a wedge formation

A wedge layout utilises a central point, like a tree or pillar, to spread lights out in a wedge shape to a secure point, like a fence or a wall.

Parallel

Diagram showing festoon lighting in a parallel layout

This layout simply uses parallel rows of festoon lights across an open space. It’s a classic layout seen in cafes, breweries, and other outdoor spaces.

Criss-cross

Diagram showing festoon lighting in a criss-cross layout

The criss-cross layout is perfect for smaller areas like courtyards or outdoor cafes. It allows you to cover your space without needing a long festoon string.

Pathway

Diagram showing festoon lighting along a pathway

A popular choice for venue entryways, the pathway layout can be created using trees and lampposts. It may also need a simple row of tall fencing if you don’t have any suitable existing anchor points.

Choosing your bulbs

Once you’ve decided on your layout, you need to choose a style of bulb. The style you choose can have a big impact on the appearance of your lighting, so think carefully!

Filament

Festoon filament lighting

If you’re looking to create a warm, cosy atmosphere, look no further than a filament bulb. These stylish bulbs come in a variety of shapes and sizes to suit your desires. They can even have different shaped filaments for the ultimate customisation.

Plain white

Plain white festoon lighting

If you want simple spots of glowing light, plain white lights are ideal. They can look like stars if you use cold white light, or create the same cosy feel if you use warm white lights. The possibilities are endless.

Coloured

Coloured festoon lighting

If you’re installing lighting for a party, Christmas, or just to bring a bit of colour into your outdoor space, rainbow bulbs may be the perfect choice. What’s more, you can customise the colour sequence! Lay them out randomly, in a repeating pattern, or in the traditional rainbow order. The choice is yours.

Shapes

Festoon bulb shapes

If you thought your choices ended at what colour your bulbs are, hold on! You still need to pick their shape. Due to the limitations of festoon lighting, there are only 3 bulb shape choices, but they can have a dramatic impact on the look of your lighting set up.

Teardrop bulbs are narrow at their base and widen at the end to, you guessed it, look like a teardrop.

Round bulbs are designed to look the same as the classic lightbulb used in your home. These are the most common shaped bulb used for festoon lighting.

Small round bulbs are a stylish choice and have a minimal design. They can create soft, delicate lighting where you choose.