Extension cords are incredibly useful, but nobody wants them strewn about their backyard. Unfortunately, this is usually what happens when it comes time to hang outdoor string lights. This is sometimes acceptable when the problem is temporary — like around Christmas time.
However, if the extension cord is more of a permanent fixture in your yard, you should take steps to conceal and protect it. Hiding your extension cord isn’t a difficult process, but it can work wonders and actually make your backyard safer.
But how should you hide your outdoor extension cords?
Generally, you should hide your extension cords by installing them inside of some sort of barrier — this could be a conduit, a cord box, electrical tape, or even a pool noodle. However, you’ll want to ensure that you mitigate the heat that the cord will produce when active.
I’m going to dive into why you should hide extension cords, what cord covers are available, and how you can keep your outdoor space looking fantastic and safe.
Reasons to Conceal Electrical Cords
There are a lot of reasons to hide electrical cords, but they mostly fall into three categories:
- Improved appearance
- Better durability
- Safety concerns
The good news is that almost all methods to hide extension cords help you address all three concerns, especially when it comes to outdoor use and planning for foot traffic in your yard.
Here are a few more reasons with a little more detail, just in case you aren’t already convinced that you should hide electrical cords outside your house.
1. Prevents tangles
Covering your extension cords is one of the better ways to prevent them from getting tangled over time.
Since tangles can cause kinks in the wire and shorten the light of your extension cord, this is a pretty big issue. Especially since extension cords that run outdoors are exposed to a lot more hazards that can cause tangling, from foot traffic to animals, wind, and weather.
2. Reduces the chance of tripping
Probably most people have accidentally tripped over an extension cord in the past. Extension cords are tripping hazards in almost any space, but especially outside where the tripping hazard may be hidden by grass, yard debris, or other decorations.
If you can’t see a tripping hazard, you probably can’t avoid it.
Hiding electrical cords outside typically eliminates the tripping hazard by making the cords flat, or by providing a cover that’s easier to avoid and less likely to cause a fall.
3. Protects from moisture and animals
Even electrical cords that are designed for outdoor use are vulnerable to wear and tear if you use them outdoors for a long time.
Weather can prematurely age the cover on the outside of an extension cord, damage the plug, and fray any exposed wiring. Not only will that eventually destroy your extension cord, but it has also caused electrical fires and other hazards (especially when the cord is plugged in).
Animals are also notorious cord-chewers, and many rodents will specifically target extension cords because they want the copper wire inside. The plastic cord covers aren’t nearly enough to protect your extension cords from a determined squirrel.
When you hide extension cords, not only do you help protect the cable from the elements, but you also make it harder for animals to find and target your electrical cords.
It might seem obvious, but it’s worth pointing out that an unprotected outdoor extension cord is a dangerous thing. The Consumer Product Safety Commission publicly warns about overheating and overloading.
Extension cords are capable of carrying a large amount of electricity from point to point, which means that they’re a fairly big risk if they’re left exposed outside. Electrocution, electrical fires, and other problems are all possible if you leave your extension cord unprotected in the elements.
On the other hand, it’s also dangerous to keep an extension cord wrapped in an airtight container. If the container insulates the heat produced by the cord, this can also be a fire hazard. It’s up to you to be vigilant after concealing your cord to make sure that it has appropriate ventilation.
When in doubt, contact a professional!
How to Hide Outdoor Extension Cords
Here are some ideas for how to hide extension cords outside, whether you’re looking to preserve the beauty of your outdoor space or just want to keep your yard safe and clutter-free.
Buy a Cord Cover
You can get a purpose-made cord cover from your local hardware store. These covers often resemble siding or the molding along your baseboard, but they’re designed to be as flat as possible while still protecting an extension cord underneath.
Most of these covers are made of plastic, come in a range of different colors, and can look natural alongside your other yard decorations. They completely hide that there is an electrical cable underneath, and can be purchased in almost any length, or cut to the length you need.
Some versions will also have a plug on the other side or an access port like an indoor outlet. However, that isn’t standard, so you shouldn’t count on your cover coming with one unless it’s specifically listed as included.
Conduits are small tubes that allow you to thread an extension cord (or other electrical cords) through to the other side. They protect from the elements, are rigid, and are easily run alongside or inside garden borders, fencing, and other decorative elements to get to the right place.
Conduits can be expensive to get, but they’re also one of the most permanent and protective options, which makes them a good investment if you’re planning on staying in the same place for a long time.
Buy Cord Boxes
Cord boxes aren’t a protective element by themselves, but they’re a great way to keep multiple extension cords organized and concealed in your yard.
If you have a lot of electrical appliances or lights in your backyard, having a cord box is a good idea to help prevent tangles and keep the cords in good working condition.
Usually, a cord box isn’t necessary for a single extension cord, but it can be important once you’re dealing with two or more.
Remember, a cord box should be used in combination with other protective covers. Here’s an example of one on Amazon so you can get an idea of how you might use it.
Wrap The Cord In Electrical Tape
If other covers aren’t an option, this at least provides a little more protection from animals and the elements. Electrical tape is also easier to replace than the protective covering on the cord, so it’s also more repairable than the cord alone would be.
Remember, this only works with electrical tape. Duct tape and other alternatives aren’t safe and will degrade must faster outside than electrical tape will.
We’d recommend covering your cord with several layers of electrical tape if that’s the only protective measure you’re going to take. You can also use a single layer of electrical tape to provide additional protection and insulation under other covers or protective elements.
Electrical tape comes in different colors as you can see here, so doing this could help conceal your extension cord enough to get guests to ignore it.
Wrap a Plastic Bag Around the Cord
As a temporary cover, until you can get something more permanent, a plastic bag will provide some protection to the wires inside your cables. Use electrical tape and large garbage or landscaping bags for the best protection, and make sure the wrapping is relatively tight so the bag is less likely to trap water next to the cable.
Run it Through a Pool Noodle
Pool noodles are surprisingly adaptable tools for yard decorations, and they can be a good option to protect ground cords if you can’t get other covers. With a little mod podge and paint, you can even make a pool noodle look more natural in your yard and turn it into better protection for your outdoor electrical cords.
The pool noodle can be pinned, tied, or taped in place wherever you need it to go. These can still be tripping hazards, but they’re more obvious and a lot easier to avoid than an uncovered power cable.
Bury the Cord
Buried wiring is almost always safer than cords under a cover but otherwise unprotected. However, this can be the most expensive option since you need to dig a channel from your house to whatever outdoor appliance or structure needs the power cable.
As this image shows, you should put the cord inside of some sort of conduit to protect it from the elements and wild animals.
Run the Cord Along Walls & Siding
Another option if you only need power relatively close to your home is to run the cord along the walls or siding, just like any other wiring.
You can use eyehooks, staples (construction staples that are wide enough, not the staples from your office stapler), or even tape that matches the color of your house to attach the electrical cords.
Place the Cord Among Grass
We recommend this option the least. Grass can disguise the cord and does provide some protection, but you should at least tack the cord down to stop it from becoming a tripping hazard.
Also, grass doesn’t protect against animals, water damage, or even sun weathering, which can leave your cord a lot more vulnerable.
But, if you have no other options, running your electrical cords through unused sections of grass in your yard can work. We just recommend making sure this is a temporary measure, or that you don’t leave the extension cord out full time if you choose this option.
Waterproofing the Connections
If you live in a place that gets rain, you’ll want to consider waterproofing the cord connections to each other and to an exterior outlet. After all, as we’ve established above, water and electricity do not mix! Thankfully, there’s a very easy and inexpensive way to waterproof extension cord connections.
To waterproof an extension cord connection, you simply buy and install an adequate cord box or outlet cover. Boxes and covers advertised as waterproof stand up to the elements and keep your extension cord safe.
For a recommendation, here is a waterproof outlet cover to check out, and here is a highly acclaimed cord connection protector. You won’t regret adding the extra protection.