The Savvy Homeowners Guide To Hanging Your Outdoor Holiday Lights
It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas, at least across the street. If you are one of the many million procrastinators out there, here are some great tips on making your home the prettiest sight to see this holiday season.
Step 1- Plan Ahead
The first step to putting together a spectacular Christmas display is to make a plan. Head out to the sidewalk and take a look at your property. Make a quick sketch, or better yet, take a picture. Plot in where you want to place your 8 ft. Inflatable National Lampoons Christmas Vacation Station Wagon ($119 at Home Depot...just saying) or if you prefer, simply highlight the areas you want to hang lights. It’s up to you.
Not sure where to string those lights? We recommend the following popular spots:
- Along your eaves and roof-lines
- On bushes, hedges and trees
- Around deck railings, posts and pillars
- Highlight door frames, windows and other architectural features
- Outline sidewalks and driveways
- Inside window boxes and planters
Keep in mind that it’s best to start early, it may be a little too late this year but keep this in mind for next November. Even though its poor neighborhood etiquette to turn on your Christmas lights before Thanksgiving, it doesn’t mean you can’t lay the groundwork for a breathtaking light display.
Step 2- Take Measurements
To get an idea on how many strands of lights you need to make your holiday vision a reality, head outside and take some measurements. No need to get that ladder out yet, just measure the distance along your foundation for length of the eaves and ridge lines and then measure the height of your house. Add in the perimeters of your doors and windows as well as the height of any trees and shrubs you want to decorate.
Plan approximately 100 lights for every 1-1/2-ft of height you want to cover. Last but not least, don’t forget to measure the distance to your power source.
Step 3- Test
Before you move on to step four, shopping, you should take inventory of the lights you already own. Dig out those boxes get to work. While unraveling that tangled mess (just us?), check the cord for worn or defective wiring or any broken or missing bulbs.
If you discover faulty wires, replace the entire string of lights. No need to risk the fire danger. Plug each strand in and make sure all the lights are working. If you find any faulty bulbs, unplug the string and replace them and retest. If the string doesn’t work at all, check it for a blown fuse as per the manufacturer’s directions. If the fuse has blown, replace it; if it blows again, replace the entire light string.
4- Gather Supplies
It is time to head to the store, or if you are a Fancy-Plan-Ahead-er (which we totally recommend), sit down and order online. Your list should look a little like this:
- X number of light strands
- Plastic Light Clips (figure one clip for every 6 to 10 length of lights along the roof and one adhesive clip for every foot of vertical surface you want to decorate)
- Outdoor extension cords: medium- or heavy-duty
- Extension pole
- Plastic zip ties (perfect for attaching light strings to balconies and porch railings as they are strong, weather resistant, adjustable and easy to remove)
- Timer, made specifically for outdoor use
- Power stakes
5- Ready, Set, Decorate
Now for the fun stuff. Locate a working 120-volt electrical outlet protected by a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) and run heavy-duty extension cords from it to the closest corner of your eaves which will be your starting place. We recommend using a switch-controlled outlet if possible, or plugging the lights into an automatic timer. All of which must be rated to handle the amperes of all the light strings combined.
It’s time to put your extension ladder to good use. Make sure to place it firmly on flat ground, extend it well above the eaves and lean it at an angle that isn’t too steep or too flat. If you have to lean the ladder against the gutter, place a short piece of 2 X 4 inside the gutter for reinforcement.
Starting with the lights along the eaves, place the first bulb from the male end of your light strand on the corner of your eave that's closest to the outlet. Clamp the light strand into the mouth of the plastic clip and then slide the other end of the clip onto the roof line and or rain gutter. Continue to run the lights around the exterior of the house, keeping the string taut and securing the line with plastic clips as you go. Because most blown fuses are a result of moisture, you will want to seal each strand connection with electrical tape to keep everything dry.
Next, it is time to deck your trim. Adhesive string light clips work great for attaching lights to window trim and other upright areas. No matter how your dad did it, sorry Dad, you never want to use staples or nails to hang light strings—they can pierce or wear away the protective insulation, creating an electrical hazard.
Then use the plastic zip ties for attaching light strings to areas like balconies and porch railings.
6- Hold Onto Your Socks
Get ready to be filled with the Christmas Spirit. Plug in your extension cords and bask in the festive glow of a job well done! It IS beginning to look a lot like Christmas.