The Best Christmas Lights to Brighten the Holiday Season, Tested

Show your holiday spirit with sparkling string lights that are just right for your style and space—indoors or out.

Best Overall

The Yiqu 82-Foot 200 LED Christmas String Lights lit up while rolled up on a counter.

Yiqu 82-Foot 200 LED Christmas String Lights

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Best Bang for the Buck

The Twinkle Star 66-Foot 200 LED Christmas String Lights and its plug turned on and rolled up on a white background.

Twinkle Star 66-Foot 200 LED Christmas String Lights

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Best Large Bulb

Red, green, and blue bulbs from the Wintergreen Lighting C9 LED Christmas Lights Set.

Wintergreen Lighting C9 LED Christmas Lights Set

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Decorating with colorful lights is a fun, festive part of the holiday season, both indoors and outside the home. For decades, dealing with the same old incandescent bulbs made designing a truly original display challenging. Now, however, Christmas lights (also called string lights) come in different bulb shapes and a much wider array of colors, sizes, types, and even blinking patterns, from a simple on/off style to dancing motifs set to music.

With so many illuminating possibilities on the market, choosing perfect products that truly suit a particular style and space may not be easy. We spent 2 weeks doing hands-on testing of 10 top-rated light sets to provide experienced insight into the lights’ appearance, ease of use, and overall performance. Read on to learn more about the best Christmas lights available, and choose the merriest and brightest options for adding beauty and joy to your home this season.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Yiqu 82-Foot 200 LED Christmas String Lights
  2. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Twinkle Star 66-Foot 200 LED Christmas String Lights
  3. BEST LARGE BULB: Wintergreen Lighting C9 LED Christmas Lights Set
  4. BEST LARGE WHITE LIGHTS: Noma C6 LED Christmas String Lights
  5. BEST MINI WHITE LIGHTS: Yuletime Cool White LED Christmas Lights
  6. BEST UNIQUE LIGHTS: Twinkle Star Meteor Shower Rain Lights
  7. BEST SMART LIGHTS: Twinkly Strings Smart LED Christmas Lights
  8. ECO-FRIENDLY PICK: Joomer Solar Christmas String Lights
  9. BEST OUTDOOR NET LIGHTS: Twinkle Star 360 LED Christmas Net Lights
  10. BEST OUTDOOR LIGHTS: Wintergreen Lighting Wide Angle LED Mini Lights
Small white lights on a Christmas tree as part of testing for the best Christmas lights.
Photo: Stacey L. Nash for Bob Vila

How We Tested the Best Christmas Lights

To test Christmas lights for this list, we judged and scored their characteristics based on an established rubric. To begin, we looked at how to put lights on a Christmas tree, ranking the sets’ overall ease of installation. We considered each contender’s brightness, versatility, durability, and appearance. We also factored in features such as replaceable fuses or extra bulbs and how much the lights enhanced our holiday decor.

We tested the lights indoors and outdoors, if applicable, and evaluated their ability to withstand winter weather and their overall look from close up and far away. For safety reasons, we did not include any indoor-only lights among our selections. Note that many top picks are online-only options, making the web one of the best places to buy Christmas lights.

Testing Stats

  • Products tested: 10
  • Time spent testing: 2 weeks
  • Tests performed: 5
  • Average price: $31.79

Our Top Picks

We’ve narrowed the field to a selection of fan-favorite holiday lights for all kinds of displays, indoors or out. After a couple of weeks of testing, we got a good idea of how these lights perform under a variety of conditions.

Best Overall

Yiqu 82-Foot 200 LED Christmas String Lights

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Our Ratings: Setup 4/5; Brightness 4/5; Weather Resistance 5/5; Durability 4/5; Storage 5/5

Product Specs

  • Length: 82 feet
  • Connectivity: Up to 5 sets
  • Light source: LED


  • Lightweight, flexible cord easily wraps around holiday trees, along mantles, or along a roof
  • Fun lighting patterns for lighting scheme variety
  • Long string length options to reduce the number of strings it takes to get adequate coverage


  • Modes controlled only on the electrical plug

These lights from Yiqu offer versatile uses with a supple but strong cord and a variety of lighting patterns. They come in 12 colors/color patterns and four lengths, providing a wide range of lighting choices. From classic holiday color mixes like green and red or red and white to strings that can switch between warm white and multicolor, there are options to suit any theme. We liked these lights’ lightweight but strong and flexible cord. The cord’s flexibility allowed us to easily wrap it around objects and extend it across our mantle, on top of our cabinets, and along our roofline. The brightness level strikes a happy medium—bright enough for the outdoors but not blinding if used inside.

These lights have eight lighting modes controlled by a button on the electrical cord. Modes include options like slow fade, twinkle, and sequential. Each set can connect to up to five more strings of lights. With even longer lengths available than the 82-foot version we tested, creating a large outdoor display using the Yiqu lights would be simple. We tested these lights in a rainstorm and cold weather that hovered around 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The weather didn’t slow them down. We only wish they had some kind of remote to control the lighting pattern.

Get the Yiqu Christmas lights at Amazon.

Best Bang for the Buck

Twinkle Star 66-Foot 200 LED Christmas String Lights

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Our Ratings: Setup 5/5; Brightness 4/5; Weather Resistance: 2/5; Durability 5/5; Storage 5/5

Product Specs

  • Length: 66 feet
  • Connectivity: Up to 5 sets
  • Light source: LED


  • Sturdy strands with very lightweight bulbs make for easy installation
  • Easy to unpack and strings stretch out well without snagging
  • 8 lighting modes, including waves, sequential, flash, twinkle, and more


  • Lighting control isn’t waterproof; may not be suitable unless that part is protected from water

With this one set of warm white lights, users can achieve a host of different blinking modes to express the holiday spirit in sparkling style. There are eight settings: combination, waves, slow glow, sequential, chasing/flash, slow fade, twinkle/flash, and steady on. In testing, we found the rubber button easy to grasp and use—just take care not to get it wet, as it isn’t waterproof.

These strands proved to be a breeze to arrange neatly, straightening out to full length with ease for quick stringing around our tree. Though small enough to be considered “fairy lights,” the fairly close spacing of one bulb every 3.9 inches makes for a filled-out display. We were also impressed by the sturdiness of the strings, which seem likely to last for many years of holiday and special-occasion use.

Get the Twinkle Star 200 LED Christmas lights at Amazon or Walmart.

Best Large Bulb

Wintergreen Lighting C9 LED Christmas Lights Set

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Our Ratings: Setup 3/5; Brightness 5/5; Weather Resistance 5/5; Durability 5/5; Storage 3/5

Product Specs

  • Length: 17 feet
  • Connectivity: Up to 90 sets
  • Light source: LED


  • Very bright and sparkly; ideal for most homes and decor styles
  • Etched design on each bulb housing adds an extra layer of detail
  • Can connect up to 90 strings, more than enough for most homes


  • Large bulbs can be unsuitable for smaller trees
  • Difficult to remove from packaging
  • Quite heavy compared to similar options

With 3-inch C9 LED bulbs, these indoor/outdoor 17-foot strings really dazzle when used to frame the roof, highlight a tall Christmas tree, or jazz up the front porch. The multicolored bulbs boast an etched diamond design on the plastic shell for a little extra pizzazz. Up to 90 strings can be plugged together to wind around the entire house. These large showstopping bulbs from Wintergreen are a plus for a house that sits back a bit from the road, as they help create an eye-catching display.

However, because these strings are somewhat heavy, it took us considerable time to position them properly on trees and garlands during our tests. We also found them a bit tricky to remove from the packaging. Once arranged, the lights looked great, and the LED bulbs stayed cool to the touch hour after hour—no worries of accidental burns. They also come in nine color options.

Get the Wintergreen Lighting C9 Christmas lights at Amazon or Walmart.

Best Large White Lights

Noma C6 LED Christmas String Lights

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Our Ratings: Setup 3/5; Brightness 5/5; Weather Resistance 5/5; Durability 5/5; Storage 3/5

Product Specs

  • Length: 23.8 feet
  • Connectivity: Up to 45 sets
  • Light source: LED


  • Modern diamond-cut design adds sparkle and style to decor
  • Delicate, pure white light looks great in most homes—both traditional and modern
  • Available in multiple color combinations to fit a variety of decor styles


  • Plastic can be a bit sharp at the base; take care when installing

These diamond-cut Noma C6 LED bulbs are an ideal size for the front of the house—easy to spot on posts from the driveway yet small enough for door wreaths and staircase garlands. Their pure white light evokes a traditional Christmas look while imparting understated sophistication. Plus, white light won’t fight for attention on a tree full of different ornaments the way brightly colored bulbs can. Each 23.8-foot strand of 70 high-efficiency bulbs can be connected to up to 44 additional strings for ample decor options indoors and out.

Take care when working with them on faux foliage: We found the plastic at the base of each light liable to catch and pull at more delicate artificial trees. They’re better suited to a live tree or an artificial tree that’s sturdily made.

Get the Noma Christmas lights at Amazon.

Best Mini White Lights

Yuletime Cool White LED Christmas Lights

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Our Ratings: Setup 5/5; Brightness 4/5; Weather Resistance 5/5; Durability 3/5; Storage 5/5

Product Specs

  • Length: 66 feet
  • Connectivity: Up to 30 sets
  • Light source: LED


  • Style resembles traditional incandescent bulbs for a vintage holiday look
  • Very cool white color is great for a snowy Christmas feel; 9 other colors available
  • Lightweight and very simple to install; suitable for most uses


  • Might be too bright for indoor use

Set on a 66-foot-long strand, this string of cool white LED bulbs is versatile enough to complement a wide range of decorating schemes. Thanks to green strings that blend in well, they’re especially suited to trees and other foliage. And despite being long-running LEDs, they emit a glow that very much resembles traditional incandescent lights—a plus for those aiming for old-school holiday style.

In testing, we found these lightweight strands a breeze to loop around greenery and drape along rails. We were surprised to see how bright these little bulbs shine—an asset for outdoors but perhaps a bit too bright for close quarters inside. Connect up to 30 strands for a house full of seasonal twinkle!

Get the Yuletime Christmas lights at Amazon


Twinkle Star Meteor Shower Rain Lights

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Our Ratings: Setup 4/5; Brightness 5/5; Weather Resistance 5/5; Durability 4/5; Storage 4/5

Product Specs

  • Length: 26.2 feet
  • Connectivity: Up to 5 sets
  • Light source: LED


  • 16.4-foot lead wire gives enough distance to allow for vertical installation
  • Lightweight tubes are easy to handle and compact enough for storage in the original box
  • Work well for random installation pattern rather than lined up on a roofline


  • Only 8 “meteors” per string; several strings may be needed to achieve desired lighting density

Those who want something a bit beyond a standard string of lights can bring a magical touch to their holiday decorations with the Twinkle Star Meteor Shower lights. With 288 LED lights separated into eight watertight tubes, these lights bring the movement of a celestial event to the holidays. These meteor lights have a descending illumination pattern that alternates between the tubes at random. They come in five colors—blue, multicolor, purple, warm white, and cool white—to fully complement any color scheme. The lights are indoor/outdoor, but the 11.8-inch tubes require a lot of vertical space, which makes them somewhat cumbersome indoors.

Outside, they looked better hung on a tree than lined up along a roofline. When hung in a tree with the tubes at different levels, the lighting pattern creates the illusion of falling stars. The Twinkle Star lights have a long 16.4-foot lead wire with the option to connect up to five strings. A 14-inch space between each tube brings the total string length to 26.2 feet. Despite the length of the tubes, these lights are lightweight. Yet, they made it through several windy rainstorms, though securing the cord to the tree is a good idea to prevent them from getting blown down.

Get the Twinkle Star Meteor Shower Christmas lights at Amazon or Walmart.

Best Smart Lights

Twinkly Strings Smart LED Christmas Lights

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Our Ratings: Setup 4/5; Brightness 5/5; Weather Resistance 4/5; Durability 4/5; Storage 5/5

Product Specs

  • Length: 26 feet
  • Connectivity: None, but can sync with other light strings through Twinkly app
  • Light source: LED


  • Dimmable lights reach intense brightness for outdoor displays but also dim for an indoor mood
  • 16 million unique combinations of colors, patterns, and lighting options with downloadable options through the app
  • Timer control in the app eliminates the need for a separate light timer


  • Plug may not work with protected exterior outlet
  • Does not directly connect with other smart strings, but can sync with them through app

For those who like the ultimate versatility, control, and brightness, the Twinkly Strings smart LED Christmas lights check most boxes. With just over 3 inches between lights, these bright LEDs make an impact. The Twinkly Strings lights are smart, connecting to the Twinkly app where users have access to an expanding range of lighting displays. We tested light patterns that ranged from holiday themes to art-inspired lighting recreations. However, for the detailed light patterns, the lights need to be densely packed, which wasn’t easy with the short length of the string.

We liked that we could dim these lights because they’re blindingly bright. The app can map the lights once they’re hung on a mantle or tree. From there, users can adjust light colors, patterns, and brightness as well as put them on a timer. As much as we love these lights, there are a few things to consider. The electrical plug on the lights angles downward in a way that may make it impossible to plug them directly into some outdoor outlets, requiring us to use an extension cord. These lights also cannot connect to additional strings of lights. Instead, users wanting a longer strand of lights must sync each separate strand using the app. This is more complicated than connecting light strings together, but for those looking for the complex lighting displays that these smart lights offer, it might be worth it.

Get the Twinkly Strings Christmas lights (various sizes) at Amazon, The Home Depot, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, or Twinkly.

Eco-Friendly Pick

Joomer Solar Christmas String Lights

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Our Ratings: Setup 4/5; Brightness 3/5; Weather Resistance 4/5; Durability 3/5; Storage 4/5

Product Specs

  • Length: 72 feet
  • Connectivity: None
  • Light source: LED


  • Batteries are user replaceable, unusual for even the best solar Christmas lights
  • Environmentally friendly solar-charging battery saves on energy
  • No outlet necessary; limitless installation options


  • Takes 6 hours of sunlight to charge; some wintery environments may not provide enough sun
  • Tough to charge indoors

Those looking for a more sustainable way to light up the season—without the bother of plugs and cords—will want to check out the Joomer solar Christmas lights. These lights stay lit for up to 8 hours on a full charge, and their light-sensing technology allows them to automatically turn on at dusk and off during the day without draining the battery.

Simply place the solar panel in full sun with the included easy-to-install stakes, installing early enough in the day to ensure 6 hours of charging before the first use. The handy control on this light set has one button for powering on and another for choosing from the eight blinking modes. Though weatherproof and water-resistant, the control is not submersible, so take care to protect it during heavy downpours. The sturdy 72-foot strand of lights glows brightly even on a less-than-optimal charge, and the battery pack is user replaceable—a rarity among solar lights.

Get the Joomer Christmas lights at Amazon.

Best Outdoor Net Lights

Twinkle Star 360 LED Christmas Net Lights

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Our Ratings: Setup 5/5; Brightness 5/5; Weather Resistance: 4/5; Durability 3/5; Storage 3/5

Product Specs

  • Length: 12 feet long by 5 feet wide
  • Connectivity: Up to 3 sets
  • Light source: LED


  • Extremely lightweight with thin wires; installation is a breeze
  • Virtually instant setup; great for last-minute decorating
  • Available in multiple color options and can connect up to 3 sets


  • Lights are very tiny and can get lost when viewed from a distance

Lessen holiday stress with this super simple net light decorating solution. Just pop open this box of Twinkle Star lights, drape them over a bush or tree, and enjoy the lovely glow. A 16.5-foot lead cable even helps ensure the lights reach the desired shrubbery without an extension cord. In our tests, we appreciated the ultralightweight bulbs and thin wires, which won’t damage delicate plants. The tiny LED lights on this net have eight blinking modes: combination, waves, sequential, slow glow, chasing/flash, slow fade, twinkle/flash, and steady. Connect up to three sets for a spectacular display. Take note the control is not submersible, so ensure it remains protected from water.

Get the Twinkle Star 360 LED Christmas lights at Amazon or Walmart

Best Outdoor Lights

Wintergreen Lighting Wide Angle LED Mini Lights

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Our Ratings: Setup 4/5; Brightness 5/5; Weather Resistance 5/5; Durability 5/5; Storage 4/5

Product Specs

  • Length: 24 feet
  • Connectivity: Up to 44 sets
  • Light source: LED


  • Thick string offers excellent durability and stability, especially outdoors
  • Bright lights illuminate any environment and come in 15 colors and color patterns
  • 4 string lengths with the option of connecting 44 sets means users can cover ample real estate


  • Doesn’t have any lighting modes or effects
  • Stiff string can make rolling and storage difficult

What the Wintergreen Lighting mini lights lack in versatility they make up for in durability and brightness. These bright LED lights come in 15 colors and color patterns and four string lengths with the option to connect up to 44 sets. A thick, somewhat stiff wire gives these lights excellent durability. These mini lights can take on wet, cold weather without slowing down.

While they’re rated for both indoor and outdoor use, their stiff cord made them somewhat difficult to string on our tree and mantle. They worked better outside, where we could hang them in straight rows. That same stiffness also made them more challenging to store because getting them to a compact size wasn’t easy. The Wintergreen Lighting lights also feature a concave design that concentrates light for brighter illumination that’s easily visible outdoors but not overpowering inside. These lights stick to the basics with no extra light patterns or modes.

Get the Wintergreen Lighting mini Christmas lights at Amazon or The Home Depot.

Jump to Our Top Picks

What to Consider When Choosing Christmas Lights

When shoppers are selecting the best indoor Christmas lights or the best outdoor Christmas lights for their home, they’ll first want to think about whether they’ll be illuminating indoors, outdoors, or both. Then they can consider preferences for bulb type, shape, and color as well as how they’ll want the lights to be spaced and any bells and whistles they want.

The Twinkle Star Meteor Shower Rain Lights installed on an outdoor pine tree during testing.
Photo: Stacey L. Nash for Bob Vila

Indoor vs. Outdoor

There are three main options for string light placement: indoor only, indoor/outdoor, and outdoor. Always check the light set’s packaging or online description for its safety rating. While it’s generally fine to use outdoor lights inside the house, the opposite is not safe: Never use indoor-only lights outside, where moisture and weather exposure could cause them to short out and create a fire hazard. Indoor/outdoor lights are the most versatile option for those who enjoy changing up holiday decor each year or don’t want to be bothered by separating lights by type.

LED vs. Incandescent

Old-fashioned incandescent Christmas lights are becoming less available as LED lights have surpassed them in popularity for a number of reasons.

  • Incandescent lights give a warm glow and have retro appeal. They cost less upfront than LEDs but use more energy, costing more over time. Incandescent bulbs are typically made of glass, which is fragile, and they can become quite hot—likely to burn curious little fingers.
  • LED lights cost a little more than their incandescent counterparts, but they use less energy, and so are less expensive to run. Their appearance tends to be brighter than incandescents, and they also feature plastic shells that are less likely to shatter or have their coloring flake off. They remain cool to the touch, even when left on for hours.

Bulb Shape, Size, and Color

While the traditional teardrop light is still the most popular, closely followed by round or globe bulbs, a wide array of other options is available. Icicles and snowflakes are seasonal staples, while rope lights, which enclose their brilliance in a clear plastic tube, have a more modern look. Choose your favorite shape, or mix and match around your home.

There are several sizes of teardrop and globe lights, the most common being:

  • Mini lights, typically less than an inch long, are currently the most popular size. Their delicate appeal works well both on the Christmas tree and as small decorating accents indoors and out.
  • C6 bulbs are shaped like strawberries and are typically 1⅛ inches tall, making them great for an indoor tree.
  • C7 bulbs are a bit rounder and longer than C6 bulbs. At 1½ inches tall, they’re a good size for larger trees, wrapping around stairway railings, and various outdoor locations.
  • C9 bulbs are the traditional teardrop shape and a larger size (usually about 2½ inches long). They have a big impact on outdoor displays.
  • G12 bulbs are globe shaped and 1½ inches in diameter. They often have an etched design similar to the outside of a raspberry and are versatile enough for indoor and outdoor displays.

When it comes to colors, the spectrum is vast, and the choice is yours! Keep it traditional with red and green or cheery primary colors, aim for monochromatic elegance (pure white is popular for the holidays), or go for a rainbow of hues. These days, you’ll find string lights in colors unheard of in years past, such as pink, purple, and turquoise—even pastel bulbs.

String Length and Bulb Spacing

Obviously, the longer the string, the more area shoppers can cover with lights, but bulb number and spacing along the string also impact the overall look of the display. Check the packaging or online description for string length, bulb number, and distance between bulbs.

  • String length: While strings of specialty shapes are often less than 15 feet long, more traditional bulb shapes can run longer, up to 100 feet. Keep in mind that longer strings can be more difficult to wind neatly for storage after the holidays.
  • Bulb number and spacing: As a rough rule, mini lights are spaced 4 to 6 inches apart on the wire. Consumers will mostly find mini bulbs in 50-bulb/25-foot strings and 100-bulb/50-foot strings, although longer and shorter lengths are available. Larger bulbs are spaced farther apart: C9 bulbs are often one per foot and span between 25 and 50 feet long.

To determine which options best meet their needs, shoppers can use these rules of thumb for decorating indoors and out:

  • Measure the tree. Aim to string up 100 lights per foot of tree height.
  • Round up in length. Measure the length of the surface to be decorated. Then factor in the stretch of bare wire at the plug end (this length will be stated on the packaging) and go a bit extra in length. You don’t want to wind up with 2 feet left to cover and only 1 foot of lights remaining.
  • Combine string lights carefully. Typically, strings of lights can be plugged together to get the length needed, but heed package guidelines stating how many strings can safely be plugged together. When combining strings, always stick with the same type. Plugging strings of different lengths or with different bulb sizes together can overload the wire and create a fire hazard.
  • Use string light nets for outdoor foliage. Rather than wrapping separate strings around shrubbery, try net lights: sheets of mesh with bulbs interspersed throughout, which can easily be draped over foliage. Many nets come in 6-foot-long by 4-foot-wide sizes and contain 150 bulbs, but as with most Christmas lights, there are other size options as well.

Power Source

While most string lights plug into a standard electrical outlet, battery-powered strings and solar-powered options are available. These are ideal in areas with no socket nearby—no more running extension cords across the lawn!

Extra Special Features

Christmas lights can let you make a seasonal splash beyond just light and color. Some include control boxes for various light pattern settings, including blinking, slow or fast fade, sequential single colors, waves, and sequential on/off patterns. There are even string lights that play music and “dance” to the beat of the tune.

One bonus feature nearly everyone can get behind is a remote control. It is so convenient to operate string lights via remote from the comfort of the sofa rather than reaching for a toggle switch along the cord.


Those who still want more info on choosing and using Christmas lights may find what they need here among the answers to some commonly asked questions.

Q. What kind of Christmas lights are the brightest?

Though incandescent bulbs offer a warm glow, if you want the brightest house on the block, LED lights are the way to go.

Q. How many feet of Christmas lights do I need?

The rule of thumb is 100 lights per every foot of tree. Add more strands as necessary, but do not exceed the number of strings that can safely be connected together.

Q. Do LED lights save energy?

Yes, absolutely. In some cases, they use up to 90 percent less energy than incandescent lights do. And LEDs don’t generate heat either, which is an added bonus.

Q. What does the “C” mean as it pertains to Christmas lights?

The “C” stands for “cone,” which denotes the shape of the lights. The numeral after the C refers to the size of the bulb when dividing that number by eight. For instance, C6 bulbs are ¾ of an inch in diameter.

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Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.

Meet the Tester

Stacey L. Nash has written about home and garden products, home design and decor, and general indoor and outdoor home improvement for 5+ years. She’s passionate about research and hands-on testing to find the products that add true value to homeownership and daily life. She lives on 12 heavily wooded acres, where she and her family put home and outdoor products to the test while avoiding bears and cougars.

Additional research provided by Shannon Lee.