Bob Vila’s 8 Tips for Hanging Holiday Lights

A few simple guidelines and precautions to bear in mind when hanging holiday lights.

By LuAnn Brandsen | Updated Jun 11, 2020 9:37 AM

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How to Hang Christmas Lights

Photo: Flickr

Embellishing your yard with holiday lights is a cheery idea if you follow a few simple guidelines and precautions:

Create a master plan. Look at your house from the street or take a photograph to make an overall plan. First, consider adding lights along eaves, pillars, posts, windows, and doors to highlight architectural features. Next, look at bushes, trees, window boxes, planters, and paths. Finally, check out lighting for paths, as well as stand-alone figures.

Find balance. “Everyone gravitates toward the roofline and they forget to balance it with something below,” says Mike Marlow, of Holiday Bright Lights, a national chain that provides professional holiday lighting for homes and business. “It’s like interior design. You might have something on your room’s walls, but you need something on the shelves and the end tables too.”

Consider the backyard. Why should the front yard have all the fun? “We’re seeing people decorate behind the house,” Mike adds. “It makes sense because they see the backyard more than the front.”

Measure. Try to get a realistic measurement of how many lights you’ll use. One way to determine lighting for trees is to multiply the height times the width, then double that figure to get its square footage.

Assess. Check that lights and cords are in good repair and are rated for outdoor use. Read manufacturer recommendations to determine the number of lights you can safely string together. Never connect different types of lights on the same circuit or outlet.

Power up. Outdoor lights should be plugged into circuits protected by ground-fault-interrupters (GFCIs). To avoid running cords everywhere, try power stakes—portable devices that bring power where you need it.

Choose plastic. Trade hammer and nails for plastic clips that safely secure lighting to walls.

Stay safe. Work with a partner or hang a bucket with an S hook to the ladder to hold supplies. When possible, use an extension pole to keep your feet on the ground. Finally, don’t decorate trees that touch power lines.  In short, avoid the technique employed by Chevy Chase in this classic clip from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.